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preserves a
Spanish tradition

Deceased Knights remembered with a cross at Fremont's
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placeholder April 30, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Hooded penitents prepare to carry the body of Jesus in procession, with a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows at rear.
JosÉ luis aguirre photos

St. Jarlath preserves a Spanish tradition

St. Jarlath parishioners dressed as women of Jerusalem.

For three years, St. Jarlath Parish in Oakland has celebrated a Good Friday tradition that dates to 13th Century Spain — a silent procession that moves into the streets around the church after the Liturgy of the Passion the Lord and veneration of the cross.

Raul Esquivel and Guadalupe Calderon, choir members, lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, explained that this ritual recreates bringing the dead body of Jesus in a procession with the image of Our Lady of Sorrows, with parishioners dressed in black as a sign of mourning.

The tradition of the silent procession dates to 13th Century Spain, when Franciscan priests would begin their processions by recreating scenes of the Passion of Christ.

For many, this procession is considered the funeral procession of Christ. The image of Jesus crucified, accompanied by hooded penitents in black, carrying chains, with pointed headgear, others carrying the symbols of the Passion: the crown of thorns, the nails, the sponge of vinegar, the divine face printed on canvas. Other participants sound a death drum, rattle rattles, torches and candles are lit, women mourn, incense is burnt and all are silent until the body is in the Holy Sepulchre.

By the 16th Century, the ritual had spread to Mexico thanks to the order of the Discalced Carmelites, who took the tradition of a Holy Week procession styled on one from Seville.

This ritual became strongly developed in San Luis Potosi, to the point where it has become one of the more important Mexican Catholic traditions, attracting thousands each year.

Father Francisco Figueroa, parish administrator at St. Jarlath, lived for seven years in San Luis Potosi: "The impact it had on my life of faith — this procession — motivated me to promote it here."

The center of this devotion, he said, is to "join the passion and the Lord's death by giving condolences to our Holy Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, while carrying Jesus through the streets."

Paula Peña, one of the participants, dressed in traditional mourning clothes of Seville, black in color, with a black head scarf held by a comb. "We represent the women of Jerusalem," Peña says.

Gladira Montes is a volunteer in charge of the sewing workshop at the parish. The volunteers must embroider lace in the Sevillian style for the participants. The sewing workshop began last year, and, in addition to sewing costumes for this celebration, makes tablecloths for the church and creates other fabrics to be used during the year in the parish, such as the liturgical vestments.

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