The Western Way of the Cross

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

7/29/1999

 

 

The Western Way of the Cross

 

            Go south from Denver, past Pueblo. Then turn right, off I-25, at Walsenburg. At Fort Garland go left and a few miles further on you will arrive at the town of San Luis.  It is hardly a town.  Really it is nothing more than a crossroads.  It has a post office, a general store, a gas station, coffee shop, a handful of houses, and a Catholic church.   

But people come from miles around to this little crossroads town to do something they could do anywhere, but may not have done in years.   They come to pray the Stations of the Cross.  

The setting is so spectacular you can almost hear the voice of God contemplating His creation and saying, "It is very, very good."

On a high hill where the two roads join, the local Knights of Columbus have constructed a steeply sloping "way of the cross".  The view from the path looks out across the valley to the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains.  The desert air is clear.  The peaks of the mountains are colorful, snow capped even in summer,  blue by day and blood red at sunset.

A steep path begins at the roadside and climbs the hill to an isolated and breathtaking spot where there is a little adobe chapel of Todos los Santos (All the Saints).  Along the path are nearly life size statues of each of the 14 stations, plus a 15th one of the  Resurrection.   These wonderful bronze figures are the work of a local sculptor, Huberto Maestas.  You might expect to find a works of this quality in a gallery in New York or Washington, but not on a wind swept hillside in a semi-desert, crossroads town.

But there they are.   And the combination of natural beauty and the man made artistic creation has a compelling effect.

            People come from all over the U.S. to walk the way of Jesus and to contemplate his sacrifice.  At the same time they can contemplate the work and the generosity of the Father in giving us this earth.

My stop there on my  vacation did what a vacation should do.  It was true "recreation."  Making me anew and renewing me in the faith.

I thought it would be just to have a quick look and then back in the car.  But at the first station I was intrigued.  A curious Pilate, leaned in to take testimony from an agitated high priest, while a resigned Jesus looked on.  I was hooked.  I reached out to touch Jesus.  There were no signs saying stop.  Only the sound of the wind.  Solitude.  Contemplation.

            A tourist visit became prayer.  I moved on up the mountain, past the fallen Jesus, past Simon of Cyrene, past a kindly Veronica, and past the distraught and hysterical women of Jerusalem.  Each station pulled me to the next.  Finally at the top, I was up lifted by the resurrection,  that great event that leads to the life of the church  In this case the resurrection station leads directly to the chapel of all the saints, just as Jesus' actual resurrection led to the community of all the saints in His church.

            Of all the Catholic devotions, I think the stations of the cross are my favorite.  They literally stand at the cross, the crux, of the faith.  The events that mark Jesus as not just another teacher or guru or spiritual leader, but as the divine presence entered into the created order.

            When I came down the hill from the stations a family from Georgia was just starting up.  I told them it was a great experience. 

            The father of the family, an evangelical Christian, asked me a little defensively, "Is this a Catholic thing?"  "Yes," I said, "it is an experience for everybody."

I got in my car strangely renewed.  It was the highlight of my summer vacation.  A solitary walk on a hillside.  A way of the cross at the crossroads.  A combination of human and divine creativity that does what good prayer should always do, lift the heart and mind, body and soul, into the presence of God.

A town that can do that is worth a little detour off the Interstate.