SASKATOON — Some 200 people braved rainy weather on Good Friday, April 14, to follow the cross through the streets of Saskatoon, singing, praying, and reflecting on the suffering and death of Jesus, while connecting his passion to suffering in our world today.
The annual outdoor Way of the Cross is co-ordinated by the Justice and Peace Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and involves people of many Christian denominations. At each station a faith or community group led prayers and provided reflections.
At the first station in front of the courthouse on Spadina Cres., a reflection prepared by the diocesan Office of Migration was presented in conjunction with Scripture about Jesus’ agony in the garden.
“Jesus withdrew to a secluded place to pray as was his custom. He knew a time of great testing was ahead of him. He seeks strength for what is to come,” the crowd heard. “Imagine the thousands of refugees who are at the moment of being displaced, that moment when they realize that fleeing means leaving behind everything they know, everything they have and love. They know they are facing a time of great testing and trial as they run to seek freedom, security and peace.”
The reflection ended with a prayer “for all those who see home and all it means disappear behind them; for all those who cannot see a home in the days ahead of them; for all those who dwell in daily insecurity; for all those who are weary and without a safe place to rest their heads; for all families in migration; help us to be generous, just, and welcoming.”
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was recalled at the second station, with a reflection by Nashi, a local non-profit group that raises awareness and funds to battle human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. There are 27 million men, women and children held as slaves throughout the world. Forms of human trafficking exist both locally and globally and include the sex trade and production of goods.”
Other reflections included prayers for victims of crime, for restorative justice, and for those oppressed by poverty and hurt by systemic inequities.
Reflecting on Peter’s denial of Jesus, the diocesan Hospital Chaplaincy office prayed for the sick, the elderly and the suffering. “Their hearts cry out, ‘take my hand, come be with me, I need your support, your comfort, will you pray with me?’ Like Peter, we are called to serve with courage, compassion and love those who are sick and elderly. We are called to open our eyes to see the face of Christ in those who are in need.”
Representatives of L’Arche led prayers at the sixth station, recalling Christ’s suffering endured out of love for each human being.
“Just as Jesus’ head was entangled in the crown of thorns, there are those in our communities who are entangled in other ways: in pain, sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, and fear. Through Jesus’ example of selfless suffering we too can find the strength to accompany the weary and broken-hearted in our communities,” said Wyndham Thiessen of L’Arche Saskatoon.
On behalf of the Meewasin Valley Authority, Brendan Bitz reflected on the life-giving need for clean water at the seventh station where Jesus takes up the cross. “Water is life. Without water, we die. Caring for water with reverence and respect calls us individually and collectively to be good stewards of this fundamental and increasingly fragile resource.”
At the eighth station, Bernice Daratha presented a reflection on behalf of Development and Peace (Caritas Canada) about the suffering of the people of South Sudan because of civil war and famine. She quoted her friend, a refugee from South Sudan who now lives in Regina: “I ask you to pray with me for our people in South Sudan as we become like Simon of Cyrene in carrying their cross with them.”
The pain of having children in foster care, and the profound need for foster parents was the focus of a reflection by Hands at Work at the ninth station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. “Every day in our city, province and country birth parents are separated from their children. But the number of foster parents with hearts ready to receive those children is shrinking. Vulnerable children have no home willing to take them, and new wounds grow.”
The plight of persecuted Christians around the world was the focus of prayer and reflection at the 10th station, Jesus is crucified.
“Today we enter into solidarity with the many innocent victims who have embraced the cost of clinging to the cross while paying the ultimate price,” prayed representatives of the diocesan Justice and Peace Office. “Let us pray for Christians in fragile areas of the world for whom this sacred week has become a dangerous time.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish led prayers and reflections at the 11th station, recalling Jesus’ promise to the good thief.
“Teach us to reach out to our neighbour. When we think there is nothing more we can do; when we are afraid of the ridicule we might face; give us the courage to reach out and forget about our own needs,” prayed parish life director Debbie Ledoux.
“Give us the courage to reach out to our indigenous brothers and sisters and understand the suffering they have endured. Help us to learn from them the sacredness of the land. Give us the courage to bring about change so that all of us will be strangers no more, but sisters and brothers living together as family in your kingdom here on earth, and with you in paradise.”
At the 12th station, recalling the words of Jesus from the cross to his mother and his beloved disciple, a representative of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre reflected on motherhood and the pressures facing pregnant women.
“It has been said that to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body. It is a sacrificial love, a vulnerable love. Is there any more God-like act than to participate in the creation of a human being?” she asked. “And yet society sees motherhood as a curse, a burden, an infringement. Women are told: you can be a mother or you can be educated. You can be a mom, but you will live in poverty. Is that the best we can do? Society offers women choice, and then leaves them to suffer the effects of their choice alone. Let us pray that we would act as guardians toward all mothers — those parenting, struggling and grieving.”
At the 13th station, a representative of the Knights of Columbus read a Scripture passage about the death of Jesus on the cross. The crowd stood in silence before moving to the final station on the steps of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral.
Diocesan ecumenical officer Nicholas Jesson, diocesan administrator Rev. Kevin McGee, and chair of Riverbend Presbytery, United Church of Canada, Rev. Kathleen James-Cavan, led the last reflection about Jesus being placed in the tomb.
“Jesus’ story does not end here, in the tomb of Good Friday. Our story does not end in tragedy and despair. We need not flee like the disciples in fear for the future, because we know as people of faith that Jesus will rise from this tomb, and so we live in faith and hope that we too will rise with Christ on the last day.”
Those assembled were invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer in their own languages, before McGee and James-Cavan gave a blessing. Soup was served in the parish hall to conclude the annual event.