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Stations of the Cross in the garden at St. Francis, Gulf Breeze

Following Holy Eucharist and in Good Friday’s fading daylight, dozens of St. Francis of Assisi parishioners followed the torchbearer from the Atrium into the rain-soaked gardens surrounding the church. After several days of often torrential downpours, the rain abated just as Fr. Tim Backus finished explaining the group would seek to recreate and follow the steps of Christ during his crucifixion.

The Stations (or Way of the Cross) began in Jerusalem where pilgrims offered prayers as they re-traced Christ’s footsteps to his crucifixion. Originally, the route was Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa from Pontius Pilate’s home to Calvary. The first stations outside Palestine were built in Bologna in the fifth century. Today, the objective is to help Christians make a spiritual pilgrimage by contemplating Christ’s passion and death using pictorial representations of events on Jesus’ journey to Golgotha.

Of the fourteen stations, eight are based on events recorded in the gospels; the other six are inferred from gospel accounts or from pious legend. At St. Francis, the master of ceremonies led the group to each station where a torch was lit. A reader described the event being commemorated and the faithful sang hymns.

The readers represented every age group in the parish. There was hardly a dry eye when the youngest reader, only five years old, finished her well-practiced and excellently delivered reading at Station Two – “Jesus Takes up His Cross.” After readers concluded their reading, the St. Francis choir led the assembly in the Trisagion chant (Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us) before leaving the station.

As the procession wound its way through the mist-shrouded gardens, the chant of Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) could be clearly heard. Fr. Tim completed the readings at the final station and went directly to St. Clare’s outside altar for the concluding prayers. With the words “Go in Peace,” the modern-day pilgrims quietly and reverently left the garden.


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