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Praying the Steps: A Good Friday Tradition
Susan Hines-Brigger
Source: St. Anthony Messenger magazine
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
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Pilgrims climb the steps to Holy Cross-Immaculata church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
At 12:01 A.M. each year on Good Friday in Cincinnati, Ohio, something extraordinary happens. People begin to gather at the base of the steps leading up to Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams, preparing to take part in the tradition known locally as "Praying the Steps."

But it's not just a Cincinnati tradition anymore. In fact, according to the parish's Web site (, it is the only pilgrimage of its kind in the world, and people from around the world are taking part in it.

Father Martin Moran, pastor of Holy Cross-Immaculata, told St. Anthony Messenger that, thanks to Cincinnati's international airport and international businesses, the parish is seeing visitors from as far away as Germany, Italy and China, among other international destinations.

By midnight on Good Friday, 8,000 to 10,000 people will have taken part in this ritual that recalls Christ's journey to Calvary. This year marks the 150th anniversary of both the parish and the tradition.

I took part in Praying the Steps for the first time last year with my father and two of my children—Maddie, age 11, and Alex, seven. My dad, who grew up not far from the parish, has climbed these steps for years as part of his Good Friday devotion. In fact, if you mention this trek to just about any Catholic in Cincinnati, he or she will have a story to tell. The tradition spans generations and age groups.

Last year was also Father Moran's first experience of the tradition. He was named pastor just days before Good Friday and decided to take part incognito so he could see what this Praying the Steps was all about.

He was amazed by the quietness and prayerfulness that surrounded him. He was also struck by the fact that "there were still 350-plus people at midnight on Good Friday."

Pointing out that it can take up to an hour and a half to make it up the steps, Father Moran believes that says a lot "in an age of no patience."

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