Good Friday on 42nd Street

[caption id="attachment_18347" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Stations of the Cross on Good Friday near the armed forces recruiting station in Times Square."]Stations of the Cross on Good Friday near the recruiting station in Times Square.[/caption]Pax Christi has now held a Good Friday Way of the Cross across 42nd Street and through Times Square for 30 years in a row.One of this year's more striking meditations came from students at the Christo Rey High School in East Harlem who spoke at the fifth station - Simon of Cyrene is forced to help carry the cross -- about bullying. "Like Simon, we are called to help carry the cross of those who are bullied," as one student said. But as the students pointed out, bullying is too often condoned by inaction - and then those who condone it are surprised when the victim does not want to become a Facebook "friend."In many ways, bullying was the theme of all the meditations on that ultimate act of bullying that is recalled on Good Friday. For many of the issues raised during the morning walk involved misuse of power - racial profiling of law-abiding minority youths stopped by police and frisked; human trafficking; abusive treatment of immigrants. Bullying.

[caption id="attachment_18349" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="High school students reflected on bullying in annual Stations of the Cross on 42nd Street."]High school students speak on 42nd Street, reflecting on the Passion of Christ and bullying.[/caption]Near Grand Central Terminal, the next station brought an interesting take on Veronica and her veil. Will we, like Veronica, step forward with the healing veil? Will we help to heal those who don't have the means (such as health insurance)?A moving meditation on the 10th station - Jesus is stripped of His garments - used a pointed father-and-daughter exchange to show how prejudice strips away human dignity from lebsian, gay and transgender people. In a brief skit, an overbearing father pulled a rainbow of strips of cloth from his daughter's chest as he denigrated her and she asked for his love.A group called Occupy Catholics delivered the meditation at the 13th station, Jesus is taken down from the cross. According to its Web site, this is a new group looking to establish a Catholic voice in the Occupy movement. I was interested to see how the meditation would connect the Stations of the Cross with Catholic social teachings on economic justice and poverty, but was disappointed that the group focused on itself, recounting how Occupy Wall Street was driven from its "Zion," Zuccotti Park, last fall.I don't know if my dispatch has done justice to the experience of seeing hundreds of people trek with a deliberate slowness through the sensory overload of the new 42nd Street, past Madame Tussaud's, Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not ("Largest Collection of Shrunken Heads") and the evermore sophisticated graphics in Times Square, chanting the Ubi Caritas or Salvator Mundi, following the cross. My thanks go to those who continue to make this journey possible.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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