"The Way of the Cross in the Company of Clowns"

That’s how it’s described in one parish in Albany, according to Fr. Z.  One of his readers picked up this description of the event — happening tonight, if you’re in the neighborhood — from the archives of the local paper:

While clowns are seen as symbols of humor, the Clown Ministry Associates take a page from Emmett Kelly. “It isn’t essentially a humorous thing,” said Rita Ablett, a founding member of the group. “It isn’t about clowns — it’s about people.”

The only humor in the clowns’ performance is at the beginning, when two happy clowns try to cheer up Marmeldook, and in some of the sad clown’s questions to the spirit. At one Station, for example, the spirit explains that Jesus told the women of Jerusalem, “Do not weep for me, but for yourselves and for your children.”

“How can you weep for your own sins when a lot of them are fun?” Marmeldook replies. Then the spirit reminds him that God understands that and can help him, one day at a time.

Instead of jokes and pratfalls, the plot invites the audience to struggle along with Marmeldook. At the 12th Station, “sacrificed,” where Jesus dies on the cross, Marmeldook says, “I would like to kneel down here.”

“Let the whole world kneel down here,” says the spirit, and the audience follows suit.

At the following Station, Marmeldook ponders what Mary must be thinking as she holds her son’s body as, in the background, the “Ave Maria” plays. During a recent presentation at St. Ambrose Church in Latham, the church was silent except for the sound of an elderly woman blowing her nose, moved to tears.

The idea for the clowns’ Way of the Cross is controversial, and the group has encountered some criticism over the years. A recent presentation at St. Paul’s Church in Rock City Falls (a mission of St. Joseph’s in Greenfield Center) was besieged by the media after a single protester asked Catholics to picket there.

However, the Abletts noted that those who come to the clowns’ presentation find they have nothing to protest. “If that gentleman [who protested] had come, he would have realized this is not a fun thing,” Mr. Ablett explained.

The group shrugs off any criticism. “I feel we’re doing the Lord’s work, and the Lord will protect us,” Mrs. Ablett declared.

As a matter of fact, the pair noted, one man leaving St. Paul’s after their “controversial” presentation was quoted as saying tearfully, “May God forgive me if I had not come tonight….I did not want to come.”

You can read much more at this link.

Evidently, this interpretation is not as uncommon as it sounds.  Here’s a report about a clown version of the Stations done a few years ago in Maryland:

“Jesus,” with a green hat and rainbow suspenders, pleaded his case in pantomime to a neon green wig-wearing Pontius Pilate, before being hauled off by two guards in bright tacky mismatched outfits.

To some, this may sound like a weird sacrilegious dream. To those at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fulton, the scene commemorated a pivotal biblical event in an artistic and emotionally compelling way. The church’s clown ministry performed scenes from the Stations of the Cross — a religious reflection on events preceding and following Jesus Christ’s death — for the season of Lent on March 6.

“It’s a great shock factor and it gets their attention,” said Rachel White, a Hammond High junior who played one of the clowns. “And the fact that there’s no talking makes it so powerful.”

You can get an idea of what this sort of thing looks like, from a high school staging in Ohio, below:

Meantime, for a nice palate-cleanser, here’s a look at how my wife and I do the stations at my parish in Queens.  If you’re in the nabe, stop by; we do them every Friday night during Lent at 7:30.

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7 responses to “"The Way of the Cross in the Company of Clowns"”

  1. I went to the link for your parish in Queens. Where can I get a copy of the stations with the narration from Mary’s point of view? Thanks for your blog, I’m not really a blogger but this one has been so helpful and inspirational.

  2. The Grade 5 cirriculum in Alberta and other provinces has the children invent a clown character, develop their character, and perform their character to learn about Advent.

    Very little is actually said about Jesus. As someone with a BA in Religion/Theology–if I don’t get it, kids proabbly will not either.

    Now we know how these things start….

  3. Complete blasphemy and sacriligious. I would love to see what Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary thinks depicting her with clown painted faces.

    If this is where the Catholic Church is heading thanks to Vatican II and the modernists, then God help us. Catholics have to think more about offering reparations and sacrifices then being worried about finding entertaining ways to blasphemously “practice” the faith. Let’s change be “creative” have no sense of humility in appreciating reverence and tradition and turn the faith into a circus show.

    Our Lady predicted this sort of apostacy, abuses in the faith in her Messages at LaSalette and Akita. At the end of the day the best recommendation is the offer sacrifices and pray the Rosary.

  4. By their fruits you will know them. The vatican two church is an abomination. God will not be mocked.

  5. I thought it very moving and powerful. I cried like a baby especially when Mary went to her son and when Jesus died.

    I hope to make a booking for our church. People forget that Jesus had a sense of humor too.

    The program itself was not way hystserically funny, to say the least. I totally enjoyed the presentation.

    I thank all the peole who were part of the presentation. God bless all of us.


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