By Philippa Hitchen
Are you looking for an original way of marking Lent this year? Do you struggle to fit your prayer life around your busy working schedule? Do you enjoy an outdoor adventure?
If you answered yes to all those questions, then the Extreme Way of the Cross could be just what you need.
Part pilgrimage, part physical and spiritual workout, part personal challenge, the initiative involves walking a 40 kilometres or more route, at night, accompanied only by prayer and meditations on the fourteen stations of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims in a dozen different countries, from Iceland to Antarctica, have taken up the challenge each year since the idea was conceived by Polish priest Fr Jacek Stryczek, a former student chaplain famous for his pioneering forms of evangelization.
Starting with an evening Mass, pilgrims pledge to walk in silence, alone or in small groups, often across challenging terrain, to a shrine or other religious destination. Carrying only what they need for the journey, they plan their route around the traditional Stations of the Cross, stopping to read contemporary prayers and reflections provided on a multilingual website.
The initiative has proved hugely successful in Poland, where young people view it as an authentic expression of resistance to a rampant consumer culture. The Polish site offers over 600 routes to choose from, some of them clocking up over 130 kilometres or 83 miles.
Rather than just giving up chocolate or coffee or Facebook for a few weeks, why not consider making this counter-cultural journey, offering a chance to deepen or discover a new relationship with God, just in time for the great Easter celebration?