Capturing the emotion of Christ’s final hours

(CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Photos and story by Barbara J. Fraser

HUARAZ, Peru — How does an artist depict the tension, emotion and drama of the Passion when crafting images of the Stations of the Cross?

To fashion the statues ordered by Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Las Vegas, Peruvian stone carver Antonio Tafur began with prayer.

He put himself in the place of the people in each scene — the scowling Pilate, who knew he was condemning an innocent man; the heartsick Veronica easing Jesus’ pain; the irate soldier driving nails into the cross as if Jesus were a criminal. Then he chose the precise moment that he wanted to capture, “the way a photographer does.”

“I want people to understand what Jesus was like,” he said. “And I want them to understand that there is a group of young people (the Don Bosco artisans) living in community, in peace and tranquility. (By following Jesus) you’re going to live differently.”

Station 1 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

First station: “Pilate is judging Jesus, and the moment when he says, ‘Take him and do what you want with him,’ is the moment I wanted to show,” Tafur said. “Jesus says nothing — he accepts.” Pilate, his brow furrowed, grimly stares straight ahead. “He doesn’t want to be responsible for Jesus’ death.”

Stations 2 and 3 (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

Second and third stations, carrying the cross and first fall: “His father doesn’t answer — he feels alone.”

Station 4 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Fourth station, Jesus meets his mother: “I put Mary behind him, because Jesus has made his decision. ‘This is the path I must follow.’ She puts his hand on his arm (as if to say) ‘Don’t do it,’ but with his gaze and with his hand he says, ‘I must go.'”

Station 5 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Fifth station, with Simon of Cyrene: “Their eyes meet, as if to give him a bit of respite.”

Station 6 (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

Sixth station: “Veronica has the courage to step up and wash his face. Nothing matters to her except him.”

Station 7 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Seventh station, second fall: “The soldiers are there, and they’re aggressive. (The soldier is saying to Jesus) ‘It’s your fault that I’m doing this.’ I wonder what I would have been like if I had been a soldier.”

Station 8 (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

Eighth station, Jesus meets the women: “I couldn’t put all the women (in the sculpture), so I put one woman and her child. ‘Don’t weep for me; weep for your children.’ She is a follower of Jesus. She considers him a prophet. (She asks) ‘Why do you let them do this to you, Lord, if you have worked so many miracles?’ He tells her, ‘Weep for your child; be concerned about him.'”

Station 9 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Ninth station, third fall: “Jesus is crushed by the cross. He can go no farther.”

Station 10 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Tenth station, stripped of garment: “I saw him as the Lamb — like a lamb being sheared. The Lamb accepted it. He doesn’t resist.”

Station 11 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Eleventh station, Jesus is nailed to the cross: “This is the moment when (the soldier) nails him, with fury and with mockery. He doesn’t care about anything — he only wants to finish the job. (Jesus) is always looking up (asking his Father) ‘Where are you?'”

Station 12 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Twelfth station, Jesus dies: “(At this moment) he is alive, he is not dead. He feels abandonment, the absence of a Father.”

Station 13 (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

Thirteenth station, pieta: “This is a mother who has lost her only son. Jesus has died in her arms.” One white tear seems to glisten in Mary’s eye and another on her cheek. “Just as I reached that point, a white mark appeared (in the stone),” Tafur said. “If you work the stone with care, it will help you.”

Station 14 (CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser)

Fourteenth station, Jesus is laid in the tomb: “You see almost nothing. Jesus is consumed by death.”

Antonio Tafur works on the carving of the Resurrection April 6 in Jangas, Peru. (CNS photo/Barbara Fraser)

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5 Responses to Capturing the emotion of Christ’s final hours

  1. Mary Job says:

    This is beautiful. Yes, Salesians are awesome people.

  2. Beautiful work. Am struck by the training you received to be able to create such beautiful work. Who are your teachers?

  3. Fr. Joe Annese says:

    In viewing each statue, I could hear the prayer of the sculptor, Antonio Tafur.

  4. Pamela Leptich says:

    I was very moved by your art and your sensitivity to the players in each scene.

  5. Barbara Fraser says:

    I am a parishioner of Holy Spirit and enjoyed reading your article and seeing pictures of our beautiful stations. Father Bill pointed out that we share a name-Barbara Fraser! I am not sure what J. Stands for, but my confirmation name is Jean. Too funny!
    Thank you for writing such a descriptive article about our stations! I really enjoyed reading about the designer-his personal story. That makes the sculptures even more beautiful and meaningful!Happy Easter!

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