Participants in the Way of the Cross for Life make their way through downtown Boston. Photo courtesy Mike Marraffino
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BOSTON — On Good Friday morning, April 14, over 800 pro-life Catholics walked the streets of three Boston neighborhoods. Priests, nuns and families with small children gathered in downtown Boston, East Boston and Allston. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley met the downtown procession at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The processions stopped at churches or abortion clinics to pray in reparation for the sin of abortion. Speaking in English, Spanish and Italian, participants prayed the rosary, sang hymns and carried crosses, statues and banners.
The events focused on the Way of the Cross, a devotion consisting of meditations on 14 scenes, known as stations, surrounding the death of Jesus. The Way of the Cross for Life prayers connect each station to an aspect of the abortion issue, such as help for unwed mothers: “Simon the Cyrenean was forced to help Our Lord carry His cross… we wish to make reparation for the times we were unwilling to help mothers and fathers bear the burdens of a troubled pregnancy.”
When the processions first began, four abortion clinics were located along their routes. All four have since closed or relocated. “We credit the pro-life people who pray every day on the sidewalks in front of these places, and the power of the cross that we call down especially on Good Friday,” said event founder Colbe Mazzarella, a lawyer turned schoolteacher and mother of six.
The downtown Boston procession has also included prayers for the shut down of the adult entertainment businesses in the Combat Zone as they passed. It is now reduced to one last store on Washington Street.
Father David Mullen prayed to exorcise the last store, “Heavenly Father, we ask you to shut this store down. We pray that the business will go bankrupt, and that the owner will find another way to earn a living without helping Satan to drag people into pornography.” He then splashed Lourdes holy water across the storefront.
Father Mullen led the procession to six churches in downtown Boston, making two stations in each church. Passers-by kneeled as the statue of Our Lady was carried along the street. They walked past Boston City Hall, courthouses and the Statehouse, ending at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. There, Cardinal O’Malley led the group in the last two stations and in consecrating themselves to Our Lady. Speaking in English and Spanish, he called the procession “a pilgrimage for the Gospel of Life.”
Another procession stopped at Planned Parenthood in Allston, which accounts for many of Massachusetts’ yearly total of over 20,000 abortions. Sidewalk counselors offered support for women in crisis pregnancies, and at least one woman who arrived to have an abortion changed her mind. Father Michael MacNamara led prayers in English and Spanish as volunteers carried a full-size cross and a small casket containing a single rose.
The third procession wound through the streets of East Boston carrying banners, candles and 60 crosses. Cars stopped and drivers joined in the prayers as over 500 people prayed in English, Spanish and Italian. For four hours families with strollers and senior citizens slowly walked five miles uphill from Most Holy Redeemer Church near the waterfront to the hilltop shrine of Our Lady, Queen of the Universe. Organizer Sebastian Martelli said, “We walk in imitation of Christ’s walk up Calvary.” At the peak of Orient Heights they walked beneath the outstretched arms of New England’s tallest statue, a 35-foot Madonna. Martelli explained, “There is no sin that God cannot forgive. People involved in abortion may have a hard time forgiving themselves, but we hope to bring them to confession because it is the only escape from the trap of sin and fear.”
Participants in the three processions commented on the peaceful, spiritual quality of the event. In its 19-year history the Way of the Cross for Life has been unmarred by any arrests or violence. It is a “kitchen table operation.” Mazzarella said “We are making reparation to God for fifty-million abortions worldwide every year, and for all of us who participate in abortion or remain silent when we should speak out against it. Being ‘personally opposed’ to abortion is not enough. Not only the abortionist and parents are responsible, but as it says in Romans, ‘also they that consent to them.’ We must not consent by our silence.”
The Boston processions were inspired by a Walk for Life held in San Jose, California for decades. Its leader, Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, said, “On this Good Friday, when Christ laid down His life for mankind, let us resolve here and now to take every step, walk every mile to end this sickening tragedy.”
Mazzarella called on all Catholics to participate in the act of reparation. “This is a simple, powerful devotion. Take up your cross and follow Jesus down the streets of your own city. Whether you walk around your parish church, in front of abortion clinics, or to seven churches in the old Holy Week tradition, you will be blessed for your courageous public statement.” A booklet about this devotion is available from Way of the Cross for Life, email@example.com.