Participants of the Lenten Art Recollection show their handiwork. Photo: Fr. Jason Antiquera
Gracious Lenten greetings to you! I hope that you find this season spiritually nourishing as we prepare during the coming weeks to celebrate our Risen Saviour at Easter.
Columban Fr. Jason Antiquera lives and works in South Korea. Thanks to Columban benefactors, after a two-year hiatus due to COVID, he was finally able to enrich the lives of his parishioners by hosting a face-to-face Lenten recollection. I am happy to be able to share with you his thoughts on this very unique and effective way to contemplate Jesus’ journey to the cross.
The entire Lenten recollection focused on the images and involved meditation on the passion, suffering and death of Jesus Christ through the Way (Stations) of the Cross. However, praying through this five-century-old Christian devotion was done in a method none had experienced previously – through colouring pages.
Instead of using traditional methods of prayer involving Scripture, recollection participants were asked to gaze upon the image of each station prayerfully. Then, they were asked to apply colours slowly in a contemplative manner. While some colours have cultural and religious meanings, participants were encouraged to choose colours that reflected their personal experiences and life. If needed, each person was guided on how to apply the colours. The goal for each participant was to create their own colour palette and apply it to a moment in Christ’s passion and death that resonated with their own feelings and thoughts. Each person worked at their own pace when colouring. While two individuals may have worked on the same image and used identical colours, the finished images were distinguishable by each person’s unique touch and stroke. The beautifully reflective sharing that followed the colouring exercise was rich and diverse.
Through contemplative colouring, people were able to immerse themselves in the suffering and death of Christ and better relate to their own personal life experiences. For many of the participants, this was a very emotional time. A few wept as they shared. Each person felt supported as their faith community listened and held them as they connected with figures like Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, the Women of Jerusalem, Mary mother of Jesus, the beloved disciple, and Joseph of Arimathea. Likewise, we also got in touch with the part of ourselves that is like that of Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees and the High Priests, the crowd and the soldiers. One of the most obvious aspects of the art recollection was a sense of relief from the heavy emotions people had kept inside. As I look back, I realised that our lives have their own colour palette as expressed in the colours applied to the images of Way of the Cross.
The idea of colouring pages turned out to be a meaningful way to respond to our need for a Lenten Recollection. Since the Catholic faithful are drawn to devotion, I decided to work on the Stations of the Cross. I asked myself, “How can we meditate on this using less words and still immerse ourselves in these powerful images and colours? Likewise, I was thinking about how individual people could pray the devotion in a safer space in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. Would this be a way where people could reflect on Christ’s suffering and relate it to their own? Would they ground themselves in these powerful images and would that sustain them in their vulnerability? I hoped and prayed for all of these things.
Photos: Fr. Jason Antiquera
Every part of the making of “Way of the Cross: Colouring and Contemplation” was driven by a pastoral response to God’s desire for humans to experience wholeness and renewal of life beyond the cross. The colour palette we choose to fill the Way of the Cross is the colour of our lives and our very selves are united with that of Jesus of Nazareth. Our passion and suffering have become one with that of Christ our Redeemer. In this sense, even in difficult times, hardship, and darkness we must find a way to the God who saves us. I have hope that more people will get to meditate the Way of the Cross using this colouring book and through other creative ways of recollection and prayer.
Columban Fr. Jason Antiquera has developed a new way to contemplate the Way of the Cross, connecting people to Jesus’ suffering through art and colour. I think St. John of the cross would be pleased!
We gratefully pray for you and your loved ones during this holy season. Without your continued and sacrificial support, the work of Columban missionaries like Fr. Jason would not happen. Thank you for your unwavering care, encouragement and assistance – and especially the Gospel joy that you help bring to others.
Columban Fr. Chris Saenz is the Director of the US Region.
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