Thursday, July 20, 2006

Roadside Spirituality

I'm still in the midst of my road trip which has not been without spiritual content, but today's event was definitely worth sharing.

We spent the day driving along I-44 and I-40 (which have usurped the infamous Route 66) through Oklahoma and Texas, not intending to stop and see anything in particular. Then, toward the end of the day, as we were appoaching Groom, Texas, I saw a sign that said "Biggest Cross in the Western Hemisphere". I just had to see that.

I could see the cross from the spot on the road where I saw the sign, and my first reaction was, "That's not so big." It was still four miles away. It turns out it's only the second biggest cross in the western hemisphere (having since been copied and slightly enlarged in Illinois), but it's a pretty impressive sight.

Driving toward it, I expected it to be basically roadside kitsch. To my suprise, I found it to be a place of prayer.

I don't mean that I saw people praying there. I don't think I did. Neither do I mean simply that it's intended for prayer, though it is. What I mean is, as I viewed the display, I was moved to prayer. I experienced this as a holy place. It caught me off guard.

Around the 190-foot cross are bronze sculptures of the stations of the cross -- nothing particularly original (the Pieta below should look familiar), but very well done. The cross in each station was wood, which is a nice touch, and they were all life-size. (Jesus was even a bit shorter than me, contrary to traditional embellishments.)

As you make the circle around the cross, you end up at a tomb, which is empty except for an angel. All of it is surprisingly tastefully done.

And just to put the icing on the cake, a building near the tomb contains a precise replica of the Shround of Turin and some related information. If you ever find yourself in the Texas panhandle, make your way to Groom and see this cross.