We invite the entire parish to the Passion Play this Friday, March 22nd at 7PM in the school cafeteria to meditate on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his great love for us all.
When I was in the third grade at Little Flower School, my teacher, the late Mrs. Ruth Stewart, described the liturgies of the Holy Triduum by saying that these special rites “reenacted” the key moments from the final hours of the life of Jesus through his glorious Resurrection.
My eight-year-old mind took that to mean that there would be a theatrical reproduction of the life of Christ spanning Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday complete with actors and sets. I was very confused when I joined my parents at Holy Thursday Mass the first night.
Today, years of theological study and prayerful contemplation have made me more deeply appreciate how the Mass truly transports us to Calvary and the glorious presence of the Risen Christ.
Nonetheless, I still find tremendous spiritual value in meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries through art, film, music, and especially theater. From elementary to high school, I treasured the opportunity to play a role in the annual performance of the Living Stations of the Cross whether I was playing Joseph of Arimathea and Christ himself.
While attending Spring Hill College, I joined a student group known as the Troubadours who were carrying on a nearly thirty-year tradition of performing the Passion for communities throughout the Mobile area. During my freshman year, I was cast as the “evil” guard, set apart from the “repentant” Centurion who had a key conversion scene in the play. This was my first time performing the Living Stations as a villain–an unrepentant one at that.
Nonetheless, I soon discovered myself reflecting not only on how my own sins had driven Jesus to Calvary but also how God’s love and the power of the Resurrection have no limits. “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” are words addressed not only to the soldiers of two thousand years ago but also to me today.
Since I started working at Little Flower as the youth minister in 2011, I have made it a personal priority to bring the Troubadour’s play to our parish community each Lent. The performance is a one-hour prayer experience in which the teenagers of our parish reenact Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.
The basic structure of the play follows the outline of the traditional fourteen Stations of the Cross but also includes scenes such as the Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the Denial of Peter, and the Conversion of the Centurion.
Each vignette is accompanied by recorded music that includes instrumental pieces from the theatrical scores of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Passion of the Christ, hymns such as “Were You There?” and “Behold the Wood,” the Taize chant “Stay With Me,” and traditional liturgical tunes such as “Kyrie, eléison” and “Agnus Dei.”
Certain scenes, especially those depicting Jesus meeting Mary, are very moving not only for the audience but also for the actors. Current senior Luke Lonergan writes, “I found it to be incredibly engaging while allowing me to experience the Stations of the Cross in a new way compared to the standard fourteen stations.”
In addition to the actors and music, prayerful meditations are read between scenes. Jasmine Corpuz, who graduated last year, narrated the play throughout high school. She writes:
“I was moved by my passion play role through the portrayal of Jesus’ suffering. Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and service. The passion play has allowed me to experience the scenes through narrating the sacrifices Jesus has put forth for His beloved people. Just a little service of helping out in the play truly allows one to grow closer to God while experiencing moments of heartfelt emotions.”
This annual performance continues to have an immense effect on me. I am astounded by the dedication of the teenagers who take so much time out of their very busy schedules to ensure that the play goes on. Likewise, several adults have provided tremendous support and assistance throughout the years. Each year presents its own challenges, but the grace of God always sustains us.
Please join the high school youth group this Friday, March 22 at 7 PM in the school cafeteria to meditate on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his great love for us all.
To learn more about the youth group at our parish, I invite you to check out our page on the website here.