Written by: Denise Serafini on Friday, November 10, 2017
On my way to Sioux City, Iowa I stopped at a shrine in St. John, Indiana. The timing just happened to work out so that I could stop and still be on time for my arrival in Sioux City. I had seen a billboard advertising the Shrine of Christ’s Passion on the highway as we passed through on a few previous trips but never made the time to stop. As you can imagine, curiosity got the best of me and this time I simply had to make the 35-mile detour.
When I arrived I was disappointed because I couldn’t see anything but a huge gift shop. There didn't seem to be anything that looked like an entry way to a shrine. The one thing I could see was a 33-foot statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium off to the far right of the gift shop. I went into the store anyway and asked how to get to the shrine. I was directed through to the furthest end of the gift shop to an exit door that brings you on the path of Christ’s Passion.
The website for the Shrine of Christ's Passion describes their facility in the following words:
“When you step onto the Prayer Trail at The Shrine of Christ’s Passion it is as though you have been transported back 2000 years. The Shrine is a multimedia destination, located just 35 miles from Chicago and is set on 30 acres; it is the culmination of a 10 year project with a total cost of ten million dollars to create. 40 life size bronze figures are artfully placed in dramatically landscaped gardens that look and feel like the Holy Land.”
"Here you can sit with Jesus at the Last Supper, journey with Him along the path to His crucifixion, actually enter the empty tomb and finally witness His glorious Ascension into Heaven.”
At each station along the half-mile pathway there is a kiosk located nearby. Press the button and the short meditation you hear makes you feel as if you are among the crowd walking to Calvary with Jesus. The meditation includes a scriptural quote describing the scenario. What’s next is the critical element that makes a difference. The narrator asks you to consider how your sins contribute to the scene you are witnessing. So, for example, when Jesus Accepts His Cross, the quote is “Carrying the cross Himself, He went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” (Jn. 19:17). The narrator then challenges us about our sins, and the corresponding weight they added to the cross he bore.
Because the statuary is life-sized and so well done, you can assess the scene in a full 360 degree perspective. It allows you to see the pain in Jesus’ face, you can look at Our Lady and see the anguish in her eyes, you can even sit at the table with Jesus in the scene for the Last Supper and you can appreciate how abandoned Jesus must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemene as you pass the sleeping disciples before turning into an extended corner to find Jesus praying alone.
The creativity used to bring this all together allows you to be a participating element in the journey to Calvary that engages you in a true soul-searching experience. It’s like looking in the mirror to see our imperfections and the suffering our sin has caused.
I have to admit that I took this side trip to see what the similarities would be between the presentation they provide and what we do. We are very similar. Both focus on the Passion of Our Lord. Each has elements containing visuals, interlude music between scenes, and meditative materials. The goal for each ministry is identical, “To provide a prayerful environment where people can open their hearts to the journey of Christ’s Passion and draw closer to the Lord.” Each has something you take with you as an element of self reflection and a renewed perspective on the gift of salvation and the love of the Father in having given His Son.
When we take time for true reflection, some of what we see in the mirror is hard to accept. Some of it evokes in us a resolve to make changes for the better with sincere repentance, love of neighbor, charity, forgiveness and perhaps even in pursuit of holiness. Some of it simply touches our heart and fills us with awe because of just how much we are loved just for the sake of love, not because we deserve it in any way. Checking the mirror of our lives through the prism of Christ’s Passion is something that can truly change our hearts, our lives, our souls.