Diocesan News

Way of the Cross Good Friday Procession Shows the Flesh is Not Weak

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The Way of the Cross procession over the Brooklyn Bridge on Good Friday, April 7, gave several hundred participants that chance to walk with Jesus and offer profound gratitude for his sacrifice more than 2,000 years ago. 

Bishop Robert Brennan led the trek from the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Bridge and across to Lower Manhattan. It ended at St. Andrew’s Church on Cardinal Hayes Place. 

Bishop Robert Brennan participates in the Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday, April 7, on the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo: Bill Miller)

The Passion of Jesus is the intense anxiety and torture Jesus suffered before dying on the cross. All four Gospels recount the agony. 

Matthew 26:40-41 notes how lonely Jesus felt knowing one disciple, Judas, would betray him, and another, Peter, would deny knowing him, and others would fall asleep while he wanted their company. 

“When he returned to his disciples, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ ” (Matthew 26:40-41). 

“To make this spiritual journey with Jesus, we remember His passion,” Bishop Brennan said. “We walk with him along the way to Calvary. We recall how he took on our own sufferings. We look him in the face, we remember his sufferings. We remember that it was all done for love — the love that Jesus gave us.”

Friday was Patrick Martinez’s 25th Way of the Cross procession. 

“I feel like I’m in church,” said Martinez, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “So I stay quiet, praying and singing along the way. I feel a whole lot of connection.” 

Martinez recommended the procession to everyone. He invited his daughter and his sister, but they could not make it. 

“Well, each to his own,” he said. “The mind is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Patrick Martinez, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant, has participated in 25 Way of the Cross processions across the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo: Bill Miller)

Dana Demirer made the trek with her three children, ages 5, 3, and 1. The family belongs to St. Patrick’s Parish in Bay Ridge.

“This today, really brings it to me in terms of holy days, Easter, and Holy Week,” she said. “Here with my children — right now I’m just really excited, really blessed.

“I don’t know what it’s gonna be like, or how long we’ll be able to walk. But I’m really happy to be here and with an amazing group of people, and a lot of friends that we’ve made over the years. It’s a special day.”

The marchers observed the Stations of the Cross along the way. During one stop at City Hall Park, Bishop Brennan discussed how despite his disciples disappointing him, Jesus still forgave and restored them to the ministry of forming the early Church. 

“And we know the rest of the story,” he said. “Jesus’ first words to Peter, after the resurrection, were words of shalom — ‘Peace, my very good friend. Peace, my trusted friend.’ Once again, Jesus lifts him up.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan attended the brief service in the Cathedral Basilica before the procession started. He recalled the “bad company” of individuals Jesus encountered, including the men who tortured him, the legal experts, snickering bystanders, and a mocking thief on his left. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (right) joined Bishop Robert Brennan at the brief service prior to the Way of the Cross procession. (Photo: Bill Miller)

“And, of course, the choreographer of all this is Satan, who is tap dancing so vigorously, so energetically,” Cardinal Dolan said. “But I’m also confident we are in very good company as well, folks. Very good company.” 

He mentioned those who showed Jesus kindness on the road to Calvary — people like Veronica, who wiped his face with her veil, and Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry his cross. 

Joining them, Cardinal Dolan said, was “our sorrowful Mother Mary,” the disciple John, the good thief, and the centurion who would whisper, “Truly this man was the son of God.” Also, there was Joseph of Arimathea who would lend Jesus his tomb, but Jesus wasn’t “gonna need it for very long,” the cardinal said. 

“And then there is Jesus himself — goodness incarnate,” he said. “They tell us that people suffering are most afraid of being alone. But Jesus is not alone as we walk with him.” 

The Way of the Cross procession is sponsored by Communion and Liberation, a Catholic lay movement founded in the 1950s by Father Luigi Giussani near Milan, Italy. 

The first Way of the Cross procession over the Brooklyn Bridge was in 1996. The pandemic forced a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021. But it returned last year, with Bishop Brennan leading it for the first time. 

“I grew up not far from here … and I always saw this particular walk from afar as something very interesting,” he recalled. “I never dreamed that I’d be making the walk myself. So it’s very, very meaningful.”

Bishop Robert Brennan describes how the disciple, St. Peter, denied knowing Jesus, who, after the resurrection, forgave him and greeted him as a trusted friend to lead the early Church. (Photo: Bill Miller)