Saint Rocco, Cleveland, has a Good Friday procession each year. People gather in the church, before the carts are ready. Statues are taken from inside and then returned. Hymns, prayers and a sermon on the Sorrowful Mother take place, mostly in italian, and that's fine. The passion exerted is more freely and naturally expended than in english. There is a smoothness of exuberance, in italian, without forced histrionics.
I was taking photographs inside the church beforehand. A small, somewhat frail, lady stopped me. She wanted to know a little about me, and she had something to say. She asked me who was pictured in the window, she knew. I hesitated a second, "It's St. Francis there, you can see the stigmata.". The window had too many hints. Francis is very often with animals, he is sometimes with a crucifix, but generally not holding. The window was dedicated towards the remembrance of a particular 'Frank'. The monk is wearing a modern franciscan robe, across from this window, there is a window of the franciscan Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.
"This parish is not going to close. I have been here fifty-nine years. I'll tell you something," she crosses herself, "the bishop is an evil man." She tells of her kinswoman, whom belongs to St. Peter's and of the fine (italian) priest there, and the impending extinction. She asks me if I was italian. It was a rapid conversation. We exchanged several statements of fact, history and culture. I didn't come to interview, but to experience. She was curious about me and desired to talk.
This is a purely religious event. Good Friday is the most sorrowful and solemn day on our calendar. But, we know it was the portal to our salvation. People want to commemorate and relive the day. They enjoy participation. The different parish societies march. A small band plays. The carts, floats in parade speak, are those of passionate and deep sorrow. One is the Sorrowful Mother, the Mother of Jesus, who saw the awful and gruesome treatment of her Son, Our Saviour, brutalised and executed.
People walk the streets of the neighborhood and look forward to do so. To-day it was record warmth in the low 80s. It was an enjoyable walk for a most serious, traumatic and dramatic event--the crucifixion of Jesus. It was also witness to the people of the neighborhood.
One cart carried the Sorrowful Mother in a dark cape, another the Crucifixion with John and Mary, another the bier and Corpus, one with a Pieta (deposition), and one the stages of Jesus' Passion. The Passion that his Mother had to suffer as witness. This cart had Jesus at Gethsemani, Jesus scourged at the pillar, Ecce Homo (behold the Man), the carrying of the cross, the imaged veil held by Veronica, and the Crucifixion. Now the public could witness a presentation, and share the christian experience, the sorrow and the salvation.