by Olivia Martin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It is absurd for anyone to do the Way of the Cross — unless Christ really is who he claimed to be.
So, is Christ who he claimed to be and is he the best thing in the world or not?
This is the provocation that fuels the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation (CL) and gave rise to its Way of the Cross.
Founded in the 1950s near Milan by Msgr. Luigi Giussani, Communion and Liberation is, fundamentally, a friendship, a way of living reality together so intensely as to discover that it is in belonging to Christ and each other that true personality emerges.
For Father Larry Bowers, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Osage City, following CL has become the means by which he lives his life.
“For me, it’s a way of looking at life and our faith that helps me to live it every day,” said Father Bowers. “It takes seriously the incarnation, that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’”
And this is why the friends of CL walk the Way of the Cross in silence through downtown Kansas City, Missouri, on Good Friday, pausing to sing, listen and reflect on various readings.
Daniele Musso, of St. Benedict Parish in Atchison, grew up near Turin, Italy, where he began participating in CL’s Way of the Cross in the mountains as a university student. Then, in the early ’90s, he had the opportunity to walk the Way of the Cross led by Msgr. Giussani.
“I remember the intensity of those moments in which everything was compounding to a communal and personal experience of Jesus’ supreme act of love for us,” said Musso.
From the music to the readings to walking through green fields in the Alps, the experience took hold of Musso who continues to participate in the same devotion each year in Kansas City and with the Communion and Liberation University students in Atchison.
When attending CL’s Way of the Cross for the first time five years ago, Father Bowers was surprised by its unusual structure.
“The first thing that freaked me out was that there were only five Stations!” he said. “It’s different in that it’s not the Stations, but the Way of the Cross. . . . It’s a way of reflecting more deeply on less things, which I feel is the charism of CL.”
The stops have included familiar Kansas City landmarks, such as the Sprint Center and Bartle Hall, and are always accompanied by music from the CL choir and reflective readings.
“One of the things that strikes me is that it’s very public and reminds me that our faith is not meant to be just an internal dialogue,” said Father Bowers, “but is something that is meant for others, something that we want people to remember.
“It’s the gesture of remembering what Christ did and still does.”
Kirsten Millard, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, attended the Way of the Cross for the first time last year, prompted by a friend’s invitation to participate in the choir.
“What was striking for me about the Way of the Cross,” said Millard, “was proclaiming boldly, without actually going up and talking to someone face to face, that Christ has meaning for my life and he is in the midst of this contemporary world.”
Struck by the familiarity and mystery of the experience of silently following the large wooden cross and singing hymns, Millard explained CL’s Way of the Cross as an outward sign of the charism the movement follows.
“It symbolizes the way that the [CL] movement looks at Christ in the midst of our everyday lives, and that’s so central to how we live,” said Millard. “The fact of doing it together and having companionship in that walk is really what renewed my own faith life.”
For Musso, the most important aspect of the Way of the Cross is its capacity to help him remember his need for God.
“CL proposes gestures like the Way of the Cross to open ourselves up to what is not ourselves . . . to the event of God made man who makes us free by suffering and dying for us.”