As the ever-growing leniency towards obeying the teachings of the Church has failed to attract hardly anyone with serious intentions to follow Christ, a Polish priest named Fr Jacek Stryczek proposed approaching the issue from the other end of the spectrum and, together with a group of his co-workers, invented the Extreme Way of the Cross.
The idea to walk against the current culture of comfort and easy achievements, and to really make one feel at least part of the ordeal of the Passion, gave rise to this extraordinary method of experiencing the Way of the Cross just over a decade ago, but it quickly caught on, especially with the young. Its form is simple and straightforward: attend a Mass on Friday evening – usually one week before Good Friday, and march towards a place of worship over night, stopping to meditate on the fourteen stations. The texts are pre-prepared by the organizers, available for download in several languages from: https://www.edk.org.pl/contemplations.html
Sounds easy enough? It could be, but the march has to be at least 40 kilometres long and may only be shortened to 30 if the terrain is especially hilly and rough. March and April nights in Poland are rather chilly and often rainy, so do not expect a cheerful night stroll with your friends. Actually, as far as friends go, you are expected to go either alone or in groups up to ten people, but in complete silence, with only your texts for the meditations, read by the light from your headlamp. If this is not extreme enough, remember that those 40 km are just the minimum option and there are routes organized in Poland that go well over a hundred kilometres, like the one from Cracow to Zakopane.
The Extreme Way of the Cross has tens of thousands participants each year, and the number grows. It has received a letter of support from Vatican Secretary of State and has now been recognized abroad, where it is being organized mostly by Polish expats. Such form of prayer forces one to leave one’s comfort zone, see what they are made of, look for their limits, and maybe there find something of real, eternal value amidst the devalued everyday ups and downs of the XXI Century. This might make the EWC the solid answer and the light in the age of confusion, especially for millenials and whoever is going to succeed.