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: Past 25 years remembered, next 25 anticipated at More Than You Realize conference

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“Be not afraid!”

This was the rallying cry at the Aug. 11 More Than You Realize conference, echoing the very same call St. John Paul II gave exactly 25 years ago when he visited Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Over 5,000 faithful from across the Archdiocese of Denver filled the seats of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland at what was the largest Catholic gathering in Colorado since WYD ’93. The all-day conference was presented in both English and Spanish tracks, featured a dynamic lineup of renowned Catholic speakers, and culminated in a powerful commissioning Mass.

The name More Than You Realize and consequently, the logo resembling an eyechart, stems from the idea that almost everything may appear a certain way at surface level, but upon closer inspection, it can be more than one realizes and seen in a different light. This is especially true when it comes to the Catholic Church.

Over 5,000 gathered at the Budweiser Events Center Aug. 11 for the More Than You Realize conference, which celebrated the last 25 years since World Youth Day in Denver and looked to the next 25. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

In planning for nearly two years, pastors from each parish of the archdiocese hand-picked those parishioners and members of their community who they wished to attend the conference, which revolved around the idea of discipleship. Through engaging videos and talks given by speakers such as Chris Stefanick, Luis Soto and Dr. Edward Sri, attendees were invited to join a new movement of discipleship within the archdiocese, echoing the one sparked 25 years ago at World Youth Day.

“[I] had a great rejuvenating time at the More Than You Realize Conference,” said Alex Martinez, a parishioner at St. Pius X Parish. “I am excited to see the MTYR movement take shape.”

Brenda Garrett, a parishioner of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception said, “It was an amazing event, so blessed my pastor Father Ron from the Cathedral Basilica sent me. I am so proud to be part of this movement.”

The key to evangelization

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford spoke before Mass began about the impact of World Youth Day 1993 and the challenges the Church faces today.

“What does the summer of ’93 teach us about our present circumstances in 2018?” the cardinal asked. “The Holy Spirit was sent out in a special mission to our Church in 1993. The power of that sending was unexpected and disorienting to me as archbishop and to most others.”

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford speaks during the More Than You Realize conference. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

But despite urban violence, threats of boycotts, organized protests and other issues prior to World Youth Day 1993, “a fundamental change took place in the Church of Denver,” said Cardinal Stafford, “but not only here — among the young people who came throughout the world, [and] even the Holy Father.

“Above all, our Church was transformed,” he said.

Cardinal Stafford said that to evangelize those who don’t know the Gospel, we first need “…a deep awareness of the delight of the Father taking in each of us as baptized men and women,” he said.

“I would urge you to think deeply and to pray deeply about realizing how delighted God is in you — each of you — because you are received by the Father as being [part of] the body of his Son, who is beloved.”

‘Jesus is much more than you realize’

In his homily given in both English and Spanish, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila also touched on what World Youth Day 1993 means for us today.

“The world likes to tell us many things about ourselves,” he said, “and not many of them today are good or uplifting. Just look at the distorted image of beauty that is prevalent today, let alone the distortions of what it means to be a human person…

“The devil is certainly having a field day in a world that has abandoned God, and even in some members of the Church who have a weak faith in Jesus,” he said.

But despite similar issues taking place in 1993, the pope brought to Denver a message of hope.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrates the commissioning Mass that closed out the conference. (photo by Andrew Wright)

“When St. John Paul II spoke to the youth gathered for the prayer vigil on Saturday night at Cherry Creek State Park, he reminded them that God and a much bigger role for them to play in history,” said Archbishop Aquila.

That message is just as important today, within an archdiocese and Church that stand at a crossroads, the archbishop said.

“We have an opportunity to make a major impact for Jesus Christ, even as the surrounding culture is becoming less Christian.”

The pope opened the doors for those who attended to become greater disciples of Christ — not just directly after World Youth Day, but forever.

“St. John Paul II believed in retrospect that a revolution had taken place in Denver,” said the archbishop. “We, today, are the inheritors of this spiritual revolution, and we must not be afraid to put out into the deep to let our nets down for a catch.

“Jesus is much more than you realize. The Church is more than you realize. And your role in the plan of God is much more than you realize or [can] even imagine,” he said.

“And so, I beg you as your shepherd today to open your hearts to Jesus and speak heart-to-heart with him who loves you most.”

Aaron Lambert, Moira Cullings and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.