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.