Students portray walk to Calvary in Lenten ritual

St. Casimir eighth-grade students depict the stations

April 09, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Portraying the Living Stations of the Cross is an annual Lenten ritual that the 13 eighth-grade students at St. Casimir Catholic School in Canton anticipate with as much fervor as the other crowning events that define their last months of grammar school.

"I remember seeing this when I was in kindergarten," said Leonard Rulka, who portrayed the Apostle John. "I could not wait until it was my turn to be in it."

Prayers at the 14 stations, which are typically sculptures adorning the side walls of the sanctuary, are a customary Lenten observance for Catholics. Usually a priest moves from one sculpture to another, asking worshipers to contemplate the images while he intones petitions.

Bringing the stations to life carries more meaning, said the children, who reverently presented each scene, imbuing each with appropriate expressions.

"It all seems so real, like we were really there," said Taylor Petty, who played Martha.

Leonard said, "It takes you back to the times when it happened. It felt more spiritual."

They chose their roles weeks ago and practiced for the montages.

"I wanted to be Mary Magdalene," said Nyah McDonald. "She was one of Jesus' most dedicated disciples."

They donned period costumes — veils and long robes — for two presentations Friday, one for their schoolmates and the other for the parents and parish. The moderator opened the solemn portrayal with a promise to guide worshipers along a walk to Calvary — "the same path that Jesus walked more than 2,000 years ago."

A chorus of six seventh-grade students sang "Were You There," followed by verses that matched the changing scenes. The moderator added messages befitting each depiction. When Jesus meets his mother, for example, the moderator says, "Watching the pain of those we love is harder to bear than our own."

The tableaus began with Pilate condemning Jesus and moved gracefully from scene to scene.

"These were harsh times, when you could be imprisoned or sentenced to death for your opinion," said Christopher Fieden, who portrayed Jesus.

Christopher had to act so burdened by the weight of the cross that he would fall three times. He feared he would lose count.

"You are so afraid that you might make a mistake, but Kaylah helped me," he said.

Kaylah Thompson, who played the Roman soldier, looked far from helpful. She projected a fierce image and brandished a sword.

"I had to act angry like the soldier would have," she said.

As the chorus sang, "Were you there, when they nailed him to the tree," the sounds of a hammer pounding the cross echoed through the silent church. The participants made the scene appear more jarring by holding their ears and simulating weeping.

"It is so moving and beautiful that I cry every year," said Jackie Griffith, sixth-grade teacher. "These kids can be so funny in class and so solemn for this."

The last scene dramatizes the death of Christ. He is taken down from the cross and wrapped in burial cloths. Christopher lay so still that one kindergartener asked, "Is he OK?"

Most of the class are practicing Catholics, but a few, like Nyah, are members of other denominations.

"The story really is not that different," she said. "The message is the same no matter what your religion."

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