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By Brandon Briscoe, Attorney and Tour Guide at St. Louis Cathedral
In New Orleans, we have a unique tradition of procession and pilgrimage on Good Friday in the Nine Churches walk. At least fourteen Catholic churches from uptown down to the central business district and the French Quarter open their doors to pilgrims who spend the day prayerfully fasting and physically joining our Lord on the via crucis—the Way of the Cross, the walk to Calvary. The practice is reminiscent of the Lenten observance in Rome of attending Mass at the different station churches, and it is a wonderful opportunity to visit some of the beautiful, history-rich churches we are blessed with in New Orleans, including a few whose doors are opened now only for such special occasions.
Traditionally, pilgrims visit some combination of nine different churches whose proximity make it possible to visit all nine on foot. Some undertake the journey as individuals or families. Some process as parishes or through school groups or Scout troops. Families with young children sometimes drive the route or visit fewer churches. There’s no magic formula—it’s simply a gesture of joining Christ on His journey to the cross and in doing so, we pray, journeying closer to Him.
Many pilgrims time their visits to opened churches to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, participate in the stations of the cross, or attend the 3 p.m. Good Friday liturgy to continue the solemn observance of Christ’s passion and death. And in this jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, pilgrims visiting St. Louis Cathedral can enter the basilica through the central Holy Door to fulfill one of the requirements of the plenary indulgence announced by the Holy Father.
Anyone who would like to participate in the nine churches tradition this Lent is welcome to join the roughly 200 pilgrims who participate each year in the walk organized by Jesuit High School. The walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Good Friday at St. Stephen’s Church on Napoleon Avenue. At each of the nine churches, pilgrims will hear a short history of the church and pray a station of the cross with reflections written by Pope Benedict XVI. The day will conclude around 1:30 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church on Baronne Street. More information is available on the Jesuit High School website.
Whatever your observance of Good Friday entails this year, may it be a reminder that our struggles and sufferings in our journey through life were shared by Jesus on his on walk to the Cross, through which He ultimately gives us the hope of Easter—the hope that our hearts will, at the end of our journey, rest in God.
Brandon Briscoe is an attorney at Flanagan Partners LLP. He is a parishioner and tour guide at St. Louis Cathedral and serves on the board of Dumb Ox Ministries.