Stations of the Cross at Ateneo de Manila University: Some observations and suggestions

I was able to attend the Ateneo de Manila University’s Stations of the Cross last Friday.  I attend this same procession two years ago and I feel it is not a good way to start the Lenten Season.

I   shall begin first with what I like about the Stations of the Cross.

  1. I get to see Jesuit priests and seminarians wear their black and white cassocks.  Instinctively, I would imagine a sword dangling on their belts as in Samurai X; but since Ignatius offered his sword to our Lady, then we should not expect Jesuits to wield swords.
  2. High school students carrying the statue of Mater Dolorosa, the statue of Our Lady wrapped in the darkness of sorrow.  Two years ago they sang the Latin version of “By her cross her vigil’s keeping stands the mournful mother weeping”.  Now we don’t hear it anymore, but at least they still sing the “Dakilang Pag-ibig” of Fr. Hontiveros, S.J.  I now its Ilonggo version by heart because we always sing it during our Lenten processions in the Parish of Villamonte, Bacolod City since I was a boy.   Dakilang Pag-ibig is in spirit of the Gregorian chant tradition.
  3. The readings are all scriptural.  Some of them are from Isaiah’s Songs of the Suffering Servant.

Now, what I don’t like are the following:

  1. The leading crucifix is an abstract figure of crowns and sticks.  Christianity is not an abstraction or an idea in Greek Philosophy.  God became man and made his dwelling with us.  His suffering and death is real.  Thus, we must draw Christ as he is, as real as possible, complete with gaping wounds and blood flows.
  2. What is the use of violet flags with white crosses hastily painted?  They look like the banners of leftist groups who hide their numbers by waving large flags.  I think the violet flags are meant to represent each station of the cross.  Maybe it is better to buy a float with statues depicting each station of the cross.  We can also put large pictures in tarpaulin per station.
  3. High school boys wear black shirts and they act out certain plays.  Sometimes they are silent while dancing, if dance it was, sometimes they shout–naming the calamities that beset our country.  They remind me of the ritual dance and shouts of the boys in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies after they killed the pig: “Kill the beast, cut his throat, spill his blood.”  This is jarring to the ears and I do my best not to look at them.  The stations of the cross became like a political rally.  I think it is better to make the boys make a separate play outside of the procession, which depicts the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.  This is an ancient Filipino tradition and there are old scripts on this.  It is called, the “Pasyon”.
  4. One person gives a reflection on the reading and I am one of them.  I think the reflection should be one paragraph long not four.  Also, the reflections tend to become too secular that we lose the sufferings of  Christ in the picture.  I prefer that we stick with age-old reflections on the stations of the cross for two reasons.  First, there is an imprimatur of the bishop on it, so you can be assured that the reflections have nothing contrary to faith and morals.  Second, everybody–in all time and space– can relate to the reflection and not just a few people.
  5. There is no prolonged kneeling at the Station, “Jesus Dies on the Cross.”  God is dead.  Are words enough?  This is the cross of Christ.  On it hung the savior of the world, as in the prayer for the Easter Vigil.
  6. There is no rosary.  What is a better way to meditate on the Passion of Christ than to pray the rosary?  St. Louis de Montfort says that group rosary is better than individual rosary, because demons cannot break the prayer of a group, since it is easier to break a single stick than a bundle of sticks.  Also in group prayer, each member benefits from the prayers of the whole group.  If an individual joins a group of 100 praying one Hail Mary, this is equivalent to individually praying 100 Hail Mary’s.

I really look forward to a more traditional Stations of the Cross at the Ateneo de Manila University.  You don’t have to improve on it to make it relevant by modern standards, which surprisingly turns off lots of youth.  If there are 7000 persons in the Ateneo de Manila University and only 100 showed up for the procession, that says something.  We have been doing these University Stations of the Cross for years and the turnout is still dismal.  After several years of failure, I think it is time to go back to the time-tested traditional Stations of the Cross.  If somebody likes to bet with me, I  shall bet 10: 1 that  the turnout will be ten times more.


Reflection for the 9th Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

Below is my letter to Fr. Lumbo, S.J. of Ateneo High School.  The High School is the organizer for tomorrow’s Stations of the Cross at the Ateneo de Manila University.  Ms. Marivi Cabason of the School of Science and Engineering (SOSE) Dean’s office asked me to write the reflection for the 9th station.


Dear Fr. Eli Rowdy Y. Lumbo, SJ

Sorry for the late reply.  I was requested to make the reflection for
the 9th station, “Sa ikatlong pagkakataon, nabuwal uli si Jesus.”
Below is my reflection:

O Hesus, sa bawat yapak mo’y bumibigat ang iyong krus.  Pasan mo sa
iyong balikat ang kasalanan ng mundo?ang kasalanan ng Israel, ng iyong
Simbahan, ng iyong bayang Pilipinas.  Pasan mo sa iyong balikat ang
karumaldumal na pagpaslang sa Maguindanao, ang walang hanggang
korupsiyon sa gobyerno, ang pagkawala ng puri ng mga kababaihan, ang
pagkawasak ng pamilya.  Subalit higit sa lahat, ang aking paulit-ulit
na pagkasala, pagkatapos ng maraming pangakong hindi na magkasala
muli, ang siyang nagpalugmok sa iyo.  Bigyan mo nawa ako ng lakas
bumangon muli at ikumpisal ng aking mga kasalanan, lalo na ang mga
kasalanang pilit kong binabaon sa limot at ang mga kasalanang
paulit-ulit kong ginawa.  At sa tulong at biyaya ng iyong Banal na
Sakramento, sisikapin ko ng buong lakas na talikuran ang kasalanan at
ang lahat na mag-uudyok sa akin sa kasalanan.

Please feel free to modify the reflection.

In Christ,

Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr.
Manila Observatory

Monk’s Hobbit: It is difficult to think in Tagalog, though I took my two Philosophy of Man classes in Tagalog.  I did my best to think in Tagalog and tried to be as socially relevant as asked of me.  The reflection  haven’t really passed through several editing stages.  I hope it is alright.  Here is my rough translation:

O Jesus, at each step your cross grows heavier.  On your shoulders you bear the sins of the world–the sins of Israel, of your Church, of your country the Philippines.  On your shoulders you bear the unspeakable massacre in Maguindanao, the endless corruption in the government, the loss of honor of virgins, and the destruction of families. But it is my repeated sins, after the many promises not to sin again, that made you fall again.  Grant me, I beseech you, the strength to rise up again and confess my sins, especially the sins I tried to bury in memory and the sins that I kept on repeating.  And with the help of your Holy Sacrament of Confession,  I shall do my best to turn away from sin and to all occasions that cause me to sin.

The connection of the third fall with repeated sins I got from my Baronius missal.