What it’s like to play Jesus in the Way of the Cross play

Moisés Martin, a member of the young adults group at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora, will be personifying Jesus at the bilingual Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) play traditionally performed on Palm Sunday.

“[This role] helps me deepen in his passion and imagine his way to Calvary,” Martin told the Denver Catholic.

This is the first time Martin will play the role of Jesus, whereas in previous years he was involved in the logistics of the Via Crusis. Practice is twice a week, and Martin uses that time as a moment of prayer to Jesus, saying: “Lord, you have lived this [Via Crucis] for me, I am just acting.”

In the days leading up to Holy Week, while going through the 14 stations — from Jesus’ condemnation to death to the place of his body’s rest in the sepulcher — Moises’ experience helps him “to deepen what [Jesus] lived, to take it more into account, and to respect him more for what he did for us.”

Moises Martin, wearing white, portrays Jesus in a rehearsal for the Living Stations of the Cross at Queen of Peace Catholic Church on March 15, 2018, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photos by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

An encounter with God

Martin is originally from Jalisco, Mexico, and has lived in the U.S. for four years. Two years ago, he experienced a moment of conversion that led him to an encounter with God’s love that changed his life.

At the beginning of this process, Moises was very focused on his “fear” of God, and on his fear of hell, which he sees as something horrible. “I do not want to get there,” he said.

He began to learn about and come to a deeper understanding of the promises of God. “He wants us to be happy,” he affirmed. He took the most powerful spiritual tools, the rosary, and simple prayers and asked God to allow him to overcome the evil and sins within him.

“I felt peace and an immense happiness,” the young actor said. “I looked around and I felt that had God heard my prayers and freed me. [He] touched my heart.”

Thus, God with his grace “transformed my weakness into purity, many things changed, both in my heart and in my thoughts.” For this reason, he believes that “the Holy Spirit will be present and will lead me to the cross and to the sepulcher to be resurrected with Him.

I would like to feel at least some of the suffering he felt, so I can deepen more in this role [as him].”

A moment of prayer

For Moises, the days of Holy Week “are beautiful days” for which “we must prepare ourselves with prayer, penance and fasting.” He feels that the spiritual base to take advantage of these holy days consists of “deepening in prayer,” and he recommends “reading and contemplating passages of [the Lord’s] passion in the gospel,” which he said is an opportunity to delve into the mystery of “how Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem and then gave his life for us.”

After his conversion journey, Moises considers that his participation in the living Via Crucis at his parish goes beyond mere performance and becomes a moment of prayer.

“I know that Jesus suffered much more,” he said. “I would like to feel at least some of the suffering he felt, so I can deepen more in this role [as him].”

How to pray the Via Crucis

In addition to procession on Good Friday or any other day of Holy Week, the faithful are also welcome pray the Via Crucis in their home at any time of the year, meditating on the Stations of the Cross. For each station, the faithful should pray: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” Then, an Our Father, Hail Mary and a Glory Be should be prayed.

These are the 14 Vía Crucis stations:

FIRST STATION: Jesus is condemned to death.
SECOND STATION: Jesus takes up his Cross.
THIRD STATION: Jesus falls the first time.
FOURTH STATION: Jesus meets his Mother.
FIFTH STATION: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his Cross.
SIXTH STATION: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
SEVENTH STATION: Jesus falls the second time.
EIGHTH STATION: Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.
NINTH STATION: Jesus falls the third time.
TENTH STATION: Jesus is stripped and offered gall and vinegar to drink.
ELEVENTH STATION: Jesus is nailed to the Cross
TWELFTH STATION: Jesus dies on the Cross.
THIRTEENTH STATION: Jesus is taken down from the Cross and given to his Mother.
FOURTEENTH STATION: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

COMING UP: Carmelite lived the cloistered life ‘to the full’

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

In 1950, at the ripe age of 18, Sister Mona Claire of Our Lady entered religious life as a Carmelite of the Holy Spirit. For the next 67 years, she went on to live a cloistered life away from the world in deep prayer.

It would seem it was no coincidence, then, that she passed away on May 20 — the feast of Pentecost.

“For her to die on the feast of Pentecost — it’s our biggest solemnity next to Christmas because we’re the Carmel of the Holy Spirit,” said Mother Mary of Jesus, prioress of the discalced Carmelite nuns of Littleton. “Our blessed Lord really favored her, I think.”

Over 20 of Sister Mona’s 67 years as a Carmelite were spent as a secretary answering phone calls and responding to requests for prayers and Mass offerings. Sister Mona was also a talented seamstress and spent much of her time making clothes for the Sisters and altar linens.

Sister Mona’s most unique job was perhaps taking care of sheep, which the monastery had up until the 1980s, and her most beautiful work was likely her profound prayer life.

“She always prayed,” said Mother Mary. “Even in her last few days, if she said anything, it was a prayer.”

Mother Mary recalled that the doctor who attended to Sister Mona at the hospital after she experienced a fall shortly before she passed asked her to open her eyes, and she was unable to follow his commands.

“But I would say a prayer, and she’d finish it for me,” said Mother Mary. “I would say, ‘Praise be Jesus Christ,’ and she would say, ‘Now and forever.’ I think her last words were ‘Now and forever.’”

Mother Mary admired Sister Mona for her patience and efforts to please God, as well as her positive attitude in all circumstances.

“I noticed that even in the pain she was in when she was dying, she never moaned or anything,” said Mother Mary. “She never complained one little bit.”

Mother Mary believes it was a blessing that Sister Mona was able to remain so close to God even during her final days — a grace that likely stemmed from the consistent efforts she made to be close to him throughout her life.

“If you’re constantly corresponding with grace and praying, it’s going to come to you in those last moments,” said Mother Mary. “It will strengthen you for the journey. I think that’s what happened.”

Mother Mary witnessed graces showering down during on Sister Mona even during her funeral, particularly when Bishop Jorge Rodriguez blessed her coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

“There were turtle doves. You could hear turtle doves cooing,” not back and forth, but in unison, Mother Mary said. It reminded those in attendance of Song of Solomon 2, which mentions the voice of a turtledove in a chapter about the love of a bride groom.

The beauty of the moment didn’t go unnoticed, much like Sister Mona’s life of service.

“She was the loving and praying heart of the Church and the Carmel [community] here for almost 68 years,” said Mother Mary. “Everything she did was for souls and for our dear Lord’s greater glory and honor,” she said.

Mother Mary believes Sister Mona had a profound impact on the world, even though she had little contact with it.

“Having been in the convent as long as she was, she really impacted the diocese and the world with her ever-flowing prayers,” said Mother Mary. “It’s just the nature of cloistered life — and she lived it to the full.”