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: Banned books: Pushing back against the new ideology

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How would you know if you were being brainwashed? When something plainly false — contrary to common sense and right reason — is so constantly forced on you and you are not allowed to question it, it’s a good indication. This is the nature of ideology: imposing a position without truly establishing it or allowing it to be criticized. We have seen that something clearly opposed to the basics of scientific fact, such as the nature of sex as male and female, can be forced quickly upon American society through the influence of media and public education. And, perhaps not too surprisingly, even something as clear as 2+2=4 has been called into question by progressive educators, such as Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez, turning it into a sign of alleged oppression.  

In our time, dystopian novels have become reality. George Orwell best described the use of ideology in modern political regimes through doublethink, newspeak, and thoughtcrime. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston Smith, is coerced to accept that 2+2=5, showing his allegiance to ideology over reality. Orwell speaks of the way ideology gains power over the mind: “The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.” This domination does not broker any opposition: “It is intolerable . . .  that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.” If the truth can circulate freely, then ideology will fail.  

You might ask how the acceptance of ideology differs from accepting the mystery of faith, which requires our obedience to God. A key difference is that God’s revelation makes sense even while beyond reason. God does not shut down our thinking but wants us to ask questions and continue to come to know him and his creation throughout our lives. Faith cannot contradict reason because they both come from God, from his gifts of revelation and creation. You know you are facing ideology, however, when it refuses any discussion of contrary views. Catholics have been accused of hate for refusing to go along with the new ideology of human sexuality. This ideology claims to speak truly of the reality of human life, although it doesn’t add up, contradicting itself and the clear facts of science. The fight for the future focuses on speaking the truth. Without the ability to think, discuss, and read freely, it will be hard to respond to the ideological wave overwhelming us. 

Throughout the country, however, great books and humanities programs are being shut down for their emphasis on the Western tradition. Cornell West, an African American philosopher at Harvard, writing with Jeremy Tate, speaks of the spiritual tragedy of one American university closing down its classics department: “Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired [Frederick] Douglass, [Martin Luther] King and countless other freedom fighters. . . . Academia’s continual campaign to disregard or neglect the classics is a sign of spiritual decay, moral decline and a deep intellectual narrowness running amok in American culture.” For West and Tate, cancelling the Western canon shuts down the central conversation of the pursuit of wisdom that touches every culture.  

Canceling the pursuit of wisdom hits at the integrity of our culture itself, as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, another dystopian novel, focused on saving books from the fire set on wiping them out, explains: “If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.” Books proved hostile in this all-too-real futuristic American society portrayed by Bradbury, undermining the state of contended distraction provided by an omnipresent virtual reality. The fight for truth necessarily entails the books we read and teach.  

In our current cancel culture, Catholics too are being silenced for speaking about reality. Amazon recently cancelled Ryan T. Anderson, who studied at Princeton and Notre Dame and now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center, blocking the sale of its book on its platform for questioning transgender ideology. The book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (Encounter Books, 2018), provides a well-researched and thought-out response to the movement overturning common sense and millennia of acquired wisdom. Even more than that, Anderson shows how we are experimenting on our children, subjecting them to practices of hormone therapy and surgery that have not been proven safe or effective. Anderson provides evidence of ideology at work, through its coercive attempt to force us to accept what contradicts clear scientific evidence: “At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person — in particular, that people are what they claim to be regardless of contrary evidence” (29).  

Anderson does not deny the need to help those who suffer from gender dysphoria, although the heart of the books focuses on whether or not we are willing to accept reality and to help others to do so. As Anderson explains, “determining reality is the heart of the matter, and here too we find contradictions … Is our gender biologically determined and immutable or self-created and changeable? … At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests; they disparage alternative practices; and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down disagreement. The movement has to keep patching and shoring up its beliefs, policing the faithful, coercing the heretics and punishing apostates, because as soon as its furious efforts flag for a moment or someone successfully stands up to it, the whole charade is exposed. That’s what happens when your dogmas are so contrary to obvious, basic, everyday truths” (47-48). Not only philosophers like Anderson, but many educators, doctors, scientists, and politicians have been cancelled for standing up to the blatant falsehoods of this ideology. 

Does 2+2=5? Is a man a man and a woman a woman? No matter the effect of hormones and surgeries, every cell in the body points to the biological reality of sex, along with a myriad of other physical and emotional traits. Shutting down study and debate does not get to the heart of the matter, the truth of reality and the way to help those who suffer. The ideology does not truly focus on tolerance of others or creating reasonable accommodations, as it seeks to impose itself and coerce us. The reinterpretation of Title IX manifests an “Orwellian fiat” by which sex discrimination, meant to protect women, now becomes a means to discriminate against them: “The Women’s Liberation Front highlights the strange transformation of Title IX into a means to deny privacy, safety, education opportunity, and equality to women” (190). Anderson’s book provides an essential overview of the goals of the transgender movement and how to respond to it from a philosophical and scientific perspective. We should not allow the book to be cancelled! 

The goal of this new ideology is not simply to accept and tolerate a particular position, but, as Orwell recognized, to change us. It constitutes an attempt to redefine what it means to be a human being and to change the way we think about reality. Anything standing in the way will be cancelled or even burned. The quick success of this movement, and other ideologies as well, should make us pause. Do we want our children to think freely and wisely or simply to conform to what is imposed on them without question?  

As Catholics, we are called to think in conformity with faith and reason, upholding the truth, even when inconvenient. We are called to continue to form our own minds and accept the reality of how God made us and how he calls us into relationship with him, as the true source of overcoming suffering and difficulty. If you are uninformed and unable to judge rightly and logically, you are more likely to become prey to the new ideology, especially as enforced by government control and big business. We need Catholic freedom fighters, those willing, with charity, to stop the burning of the great ideas and the cancelling of our own faith.  


Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash