So later in the week when my customer had to leave a bit early for a meeting, I decided to try it again. I have about an hour and a half total to drive there and see the whole thing before they close. Heavy traffic starts to make me feel that this just isn't meant to be.
When I finally arrive there is a large tour bus in the parking lot. As I enter the huge gift shop that leads you to the back door where you enter the grounds, I learn they just arrived. The Shrine is scheduled to close in 30 minutes. It is something like a half mile - mile loop so I assume that won't be happening. But, being the compliant person I am, I still try to finish as fast as I can without skipping anything.
As you walk the trail you view statues representing The Stations of the Cross.
Each station has a box like this one where you press the button and hear a person, who I am pretty sure was Bill Kurtis, telling the events of this part of the story.
For anyone who is a stickler about the stations, the captions I use below the images come directly from the book I picked up in the gift shop.
The Last Supper
Agony in the Garden
Jesus is Condemned to Death
(This was my favorite of the statues. I don't care what you believe...when you stand next to the life-size statue of Jesus - who was a real human if nothing else - watching him wait to accept what is to come, it is a powerful feeling.)
Jesus Accepts His Cross
Jesus Falls The First Time
Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother
Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Jesus Falls a Second Time
Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem
Jesus Falls a Third Time
At this point on the walk you stay to the right to make a loop. I guess all of these things were okay before but now that we are coming down to the critical moments, a little more respect is required?
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
(If you haven't noticed before, look at the amount of detail on these statues...the armour, the facial expressions...they are really amazing.)
Jesus Dies on the Cross
(I never got a closer look at these as there was a family up there praying and I didn't want to disturb them. There is a separate little walk that splits off to go closer or to stay on the main path. I also see now that it is possible to park at the church I went to yesterday and walk down but it wasn't obvious to me then and I couldn't see these from the parking lot. I think this is something you would just have to know by word-of-mouth or by having been here before.)
Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
(Ironic lighting was not intentional, it was unavoidable at the time of the day I am here.)
(This image is part of Jesus is Laid in the Tomb. You have to enter the tomb to see the angel and the empty shroud.)
Ascension into Heaven
At the beginning when I was in the Garden of Gethsemane I found the bulk of the people from the tour bus. To stop from being an interloper, I skipped a couple of the narrated portions (the text is the guide I have so I can read it for myself). Plus there is the time issue. However, I meet them on the way back.
I am on the return trip, they are on the 8th statue. They aren't even to the fork in the road yet. This time when I come up the man there in the white shirt is reading from the Bible so I don't feel I can pass them gracefully like I did in the garden. I wait here next to the priest whose elbow is in the photo on the right. I try not to let him see that I am even taking this picture. After the reading the whole group begins The Lord's Prayer in unison as they move on towards the next station. I get the feeling that they do this each time.
Soon, they will reach this rest area where you can get a water bottle for $1.50 on the honor system. There are bottles in there, I checked. No, I didn't take one.
You can also call for help from here which might be necessary at some point since it is in the upper 90's (like a some of people from the bus) and there is almost no shade.
Back at the gift shop - which you must enter and exit through - there are a lot of statues outside. Inside, there are all manner of things from jewelery, wall art, books, and much more. It is a huge gift shop. I buy a Saint Christopher/US Navy necklace for my son and two movies, The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones in her Oscar winning role as Saint Bernadette and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which feels sort of required. More on this in a moment.
I have to admit, I was a little bothered by this sign. The suggested donation is $5 and they ask that no matter what, you leave something. I know why it bothers me but I can't really easily express it in words. Maybe you will figure it out yourself. I left $10 so the first one of you that goes, it's on me.
I have seen movie Passion of the Christ once before. I watched it alone and was glad I did because from the moment they started whipping him until the movie ended I cried. A lot. Sobbing is probably a better description. I wondered if I would feel the same watching it all of these years later. Maybe I missed some things while hiding my eyes or dealing with the tears and snot last time.
Back at the hotel, I fire up my laptop and pop the movie in. Let me just say...NOTHING WAS DIFFERENT. I bawled from the same moment until the end and even a little after that. And ask my mother, I don't cry at movies, but I do at this one. I will NEVER watch that movie again. I am not sure how anyone could watch a human being tortured - and that is what is happening for the bulk of the film - and not be upset by it. I know it is a movie and that is makeup and special effects and all of that. I think maybe the problem is knowing that it is based on true events.
I have two suggestions for you after this day: If you are ever in the St. John, Indiana area, and you are Christian, interested in religion in general or interested in art, stop by and take the walk. If you haven't see Passion of the Christ and are at all unsure about watching it, skip it. Unless you need a really, really, really good cry or just a reminder about how awful mankind can be to one another, you aren't missing anything.