Saturday, April 7, 2012

‘Way of the Cross’ just not the same walking along Michigan Avenue

I don’t mean to bash the roughly 100 people whom I saw Friday morning partaking in the “Way of the Cross,” an attempt to replicate (sort of) the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for having the nerve to say that he was the Son of God.
Site of one of the 'Stations' of the cross

But there’s just something about the event that loses so much flavor when it basically becomes a walk along Michigan Avenue.

SOMEHOW, I DOUBT that Jesus in his final hours of life as a mere mortal was thinking anything close to what the typical “Magnificent Mile” marcher has running through his (or her) mind.

But that is what occurred when people attempted to replicate the events celebrated by Good Friday, one of the holiest days in the Christian faith. For those of you who are celebrating Passover this weekend, this may all sound like superstitious hooey.

Then again, I’m sure there are devout Christians who don’t get the whole thing about opening the door for Elijah. Perhaps if we tried to comprehend each other better (and that also includes Christians and Jewish people trying to understand Muslims), we’d all be better off.

Part of my problem with what happened in downtown Chicago is that my mind compares the event to the similar events that were staged in neighborhoods like Pilsen (or Spanish-speaking enclaves across the United States, for that matter).

SOMEHOW, LATINOS REALLY seem to get into the spirit of Good Friday more than what I saw Friday morning, although I'm sure the denizens of Michigan Avenue probably think what happened Friday afternoon in Pilsen is downright uncouth.

How else to explain the difference between a couple of people leading this particular procession (which had Chicago Catholic Archdiocese backing) being led by a couple of people bearing a cardboard cross, and a Latino-oriented production where the Jesus “impersonator” is literally lugging around the cross that he will be crucified on later in the day in Humboldt Park?

Add in a couple of portly Latinos (yes, I’ll admit to falling in that category myself) dressed as Roman soldiers who are flogging Jesus all the while, and it just makes the downtown version seem so tame.

In my case, I saw the procession as it made its way past the Thompson Center state government building. It had just started one block south at the Daley Plaza, where a cross was erected in the shadow of the Picasso statue and even after the crowd moved on, a woman was present handing out prayer cards to all passersby.

THE GROUP WAS was later to make stops at the Veterans’ memorial at State Street and Wacker Drive, the Tribune Tower, the Water Tower, then work its way west a couple of blocks to Holy Name Cathedral – the church that still has a couple of pock marks in the front steps from when gangster Dion O’Banion was shot to death after attending services there.

It may be somewhat sacrilegious to dismiss Holy Name’s significance to Chicago with the organized crime reference.

Then again, there is a part of me that is pleased they included a stop (meant to replicate the stops made along the route to Christ’s place of death) at Tribune tower.

Although I wonder what needed more of a blessing – the Chicago Tribune itself to use its still-ample resources to publish a better newspaper, or for some sort of miracle so that the nearby Marilyn Monroe statue quits showing off her undies to passers-by on Michigan Avenue!

WHILE I BELIEVE the people who participated were sincere, I couldn’t pick up any sense that they were gathering the attention of those people whom they passed by. Just another crazy day in the Second City!

I doubt the masses took to the event as literally as can occur in a Latino neighborhood, where the guy who gets to play Christ will literally go around showing off the scars (and, in some cases, nail holes in his palms) he received from playing the Son of God.

Although my favorite story resulting from a “Way of the Cross” celebration isn’t even from this country. It came out of a town in rural Mexico where police had to be called in to break up a bar fight.

For it seems the fight was between two men – one of who had played the part of Jesus Christ and the other filled the role of Judas Iscariot. When the other bar patrons figured out who the two were, they quickly sided with Christ.

“JUDAS” WOUND UP getting beaten severely by the other bar-goers. Then, when police arrived, he was the one who got hauled away and wound up facing criminal charges for starting a fight with “Jesus.”

The day that a downtown “Way of the Cross” celebration can inspire that kind of enthusiasm and energy will be the day I stop thinking of it as a superficial way of remembering our religious faith.

And for what it’s worth, they plan to be back out there on March 29, 2013. Just so you can get yourself ready.


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