Every year, Notre Dame Campus Ministry sponsors Campus-Wide Stations of the Cross, a Notre Dame tradition that goes back nearly 15 years. One of the campus’ most popular Holy Week devotions of Holy Week, it attracts nearly 700 students, who march across the campus – beginning at Bond Hall and ending at the Hesburgh Library.
The original devotion of the Stations of the Cross began in Jerusalem, with pilgrims visiting the actual sites where Christ suffered and died. Because it eventually grew impossible for most Christians to satisfy their desire to follow Christ on the way on which he originally died, the Church popularized the tradition of meditating upon those sacred places and moments without being physically present in the Holy Land.
Michael Urbaniak, an intern in campus ministry, reflected on his experience with the Stations.
“The Campus-Wide Stations are a wonderful opportunity for students and visitors alike to literally walk with one another, in prayer, with the passion of Christ,” he said. “This experience on our own campus can remind us that it is not only in this experience that we walk along with Christ, but we are always doing this. It has been great this year to work with all of the students putting together reflections on how the stations relate intimately with our lives.”
When asked if there were any small traditions within this tradition, he noted, “For the fifth station, which is ‘Simon Carries the Cross,’ people from the crowd are chosen at random and asked to carry the cross to the next station.”
Steven Warner, director of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, said that he and Fr. Thomas McDermott, CSC, originally conceived the idea “as a way to bring the entire campus into the devotional.”
According to Warner, Campus Ministry’s goal is to include as many members of the Notre Dame community in the Stations as possible.
“Our goal is to involve every residence hall and graduate community, and by and large we have been able to do that every year,” Warner said. “A team of people write the meditation for each station, supervised by the staff of Campus Ministry. Dozens of students carry the cross (when weather permits)… it actually takes about a dozen people to carefully lift and carry the cross, which is fashioned by four-by-fours and weighs more than a hundred pounds.”
He commented that the Notre Dame Folk Choir, Glee Club, and Chorale all participate in this devotion as well.
Warner shared an anecdote that reveals the station’s beauty. “Many years ago, I received correspondence from a businessman, who was flying into the South Bend airport just as the procession was making its way from the Law School to the Maestrovic Memorial in front of O’Shaughnessy Hall,” he said.
“He happened to look out the window of the plane, down onto the South Quad, and saw an immense, glowing wound on the campus,” Warner continued. “What he was actually looking at was hundreds and hundreds of red candles, all in a semicircle around the statue of Jesus and the Woman at the Well. The man wrote – because he was undone by the sight of what appeared to be a living wound on the campus, right in the midst of Holy Week.”
Students responded positively to the campus tradition as well. E.J. Sanchez, liturgical commissioner for Morrissey Manor, collaborated with Lyons liturgical commissioner Kathy Gray in composing one of the reflections.
“I thought the student-written meditations, along with the service as a whole, did a great job of bringing Christ’s way of the cross to life – not only in the simple yet beautiful way in which each station was presented, but also in the parallels that each meditation found between Christ’s passion and the everyday struggle for sanctity which every member of His Church experiences,” he told The Rover.
This year, due to inclement weather, the Stations were moved inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This devotion, however, is not “campus-wide” because the cross is physically borne throughout campus, but because the students from all different groups, colleges, and dorms come together to honor the suffering of Jesus. In that sense, the tradition of the Campus-Wide Stations of the Cross continued unbroken.
Dale Parker rules the Religion and Ethics section with an iron fist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org