FLAGSTAFF — Northern Arizona University students walking to
class turned their heads the afternoon of April 19 to see a gathering of nearly
100 Catholic students and community members singing solemnly, with two students
carrying a large wooden cross.
Stations of the Cross is an annual event sponsored by Holy
Trinity Newman Center on Good Friday. The stations take on a non-traditional
form with students and community members walking around the central part of NAU,
led by Newman Center director Fr. Matt Lowry, stopping at various locations
around the campus for each station.
The takeaway for many students was walking and suffering with
Jesus in His pain during the Passion. Senior John Bassler said he has been
entering into Jesus’ suffering since January when he made a 90-day commitment
titled Exodus 90 with 20 other men from the Newman Center. They entered into
Jesus’ suffering by fasting from the pleasures of the world such as Netflix,
desserts, hot showers and secular music. Bassler found that he was entering
into Jesus’ suffering even more during the stations than he realized was
“The stations allowed me to be a witness to Jesus’ sacrifice
and to be present in His suffering. It strengthened me in my faith,” Bassler
said. “The stations aren’t a requirement; nobody is forced to be here. To see
people commit to over an hour of walking and kneeling and praying shows how
faith can involve a community.”
Avila helped lead participants in song with her guitar as they walked
the road with Jesus. As the NAU junior used her talent to bring others close to
the Lord, she reflected on Jesus’ walk to Calvary and allowed herself to walk
that journey with Him.
“What stuck out to me during the stations was all the
suffering that Jesus endured for us. He knew exactly how the situation would
end, and yet, He still continued,” said Avila. “I was thinking of how hard it
sometimes feels to follow Christ. Going against the flow and the desires of the
world today is extremely hard. During the stations, I was reminded that Jesus
has called me to go against the flow so that I can fully experience His
goodness made in His sacrifice.”
Like Bassler and Avila, Thomas Holland shared that he also
had the opportunity to enter into Jesus’ suffering. A non-Catholic, Holland has been attending the Newman
Center to see what the Catholic faith is all about. He attended the
stations and carried the cross with another student for a stretch of time.
“I felt a tiny bit of pain while carrying the cross and pondered
on some small level of the pain that Jesus was actually feeling,” said Holland.
The stations weren’t only powerful for the participants; it
was powerful for the onlookers. Witnessing nearly 100 people kneeling before
the cross and processing through campus isn’t ordinary. Aaron Marquez, a 2017
NAU alumni who now teaches at San Francisco de Asís Catholic School, explained
that witnessing the stations had the power to change the hearts of onlookers.
“The unity of us together on campus and the reactions of
everyone around sparks curiosity in a lot of people,” Marquez said. “It might
be that little spark that can start something like a forest fire.”