Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 5, 2002
A stunning Way of the Cross
Pilgrims, Trontonians could almost feel Christ's agony on the cross
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Toronto has seen many films, movies and plays staged in its midst. But probably nothing compares to the Hollywood-like staging of the Way of the Cross along University Avenue, July 26.
The story was familiar, so were the characters, setting and themes. On the fate of the main character, the element of surprise did not dwell.
What was surprising was the attendance of tens of thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims and Torontonians.
Braving an impending rain in the early evening, throngs of people flocked to Nathan Philips Square, University Avenue and Queen's Park to pray, sing, celebrate and simply witness the retelling of the story of Jesus' crucifixion.
From the point of view of artistry and technicality, the contemporary presentation from the script of Pope John Paul was a success. Toronto's curiosity was stirred and they went to see one of the highlights of World Youth Day.
"I have never seen something like this in Toronto," a local couple told the WCR.
Amazed Sheryl Tucker, 17, said, "It was good acting and I can almost feel the agony of Jesus on the cross."
"Everything about it was fantastic. We've never seen anything like that before. It wasn't what was I was expecting," said the teenager from St. Albert Parish.
She has seen the passion of Jesus presented before, but here she was stunned. "When it's done well that's what our faith is all about."
Assumption Parish's Renee Schmitz, 20, said, "It added a lot of spirituality to my participation to the WYD because otherwise with all that is happening, this wouldn't be a real pilgrimage."
Lynette Bastide, 25, agreed but complained about the length of the event. "It was very long especially that they expect us to stay up all night for the vigil and then celebrate Mass the next day."
At some stations it was noticeable how young people's partying stopped to make way for prayer.
One spectator at Stations 10 to 12 said, "I was wondering whether these young men in front of me would quit playing with their frisbee. But they did when they heard it was starting. I was impressed how respectful they were."
As early as 2 p.m., the Square began to swarm both with pilgrims and locals, while University Avenue was closed the night before, when the crew staged their final rehearsal.
To set the mood of the crowd, social justice presentations were staged on University Avenue hours before the Way of the Cross began.
Foiled was the producers' plan to have the audience stationary, when a huge number of people with camcorders and cameras followed the actors from one station to the next.
Others were content where they were positioned and participated in the prayer service through the wide screen, while still others, including the pope, stayed at home and watched the live broadcast on CBC Newsworld or VisionTV.
Led by the Pilgrim WYD Cross, carried by youth from different parts of the world, the service lasted for more than three hours beginning at 7 p.m.
Cardinals James Stafford, Aloysius Ambrozic and Jean-Claude Turcotte led the opening and closing prayers.
Organizers said, "The presentation would be simple and solemn." It was solemn yes, but it was not simple because the presence of TV crews, lighting people and others made it appear like a busy movie shooting.
Security was tight. Media people were restricted except for the host broadcaster and big news organizations.
Brampton, Ont.'s Joe Nonato signed up as a volunteer for the Way of the Cross but he did not know that there would be some acting requirements.
Nonato thought it was going to be like a high school play. Much to his surprise, there was much professionalism demanded for this presentation.
"When we talk of the resurrection of Christ, we cannot but connect it to the message of the suffering of Christ," the actor told the WCR.
"Being in the Way of the Cross you can actually see and almost take on an evangelical role in evangelizing others. Through your acting, you send the message Christ wants to impart to the people."
Nonato believes the Way of the Cross is not entertaining. However it has to catch people's attention. "We can use it as a hook to bring them into the faith."
Preparing for the scene allowed him to meditate on it more. He played the centurion who beats Jesus. It affected him in a way that he could take to his prayer and say, "Although I wasn't one of the soldiers back then hitting Jesus, I do the same thing to Christ every time I do something wrong, every time I sin."
The character makes him reflect that he must do penance and also pray for others that they may also realize the need to continually seek God's mercy.