Experiencing the Passion through Mary’s eyes

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PROVIDENCE — As Catholics this Holy Week call to mind the suffering Jesus endured on the streets of Jerusalem in the “Way of the Cross,” a local woman is using her talents as a dramatic artist to convey the agony that Mary, his mother, experienced on the dreaded walk to Golgotha, “the Place of the Skull,” where her beloved son would be crucified.

Liz Montigny, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Providence, staged her scripture based one-woman show about the life of Jesus through the eyes of the Blessed Mother at her church last week before the pastor, Father Joseph Santos, led those gathered in commemorating the Stations of the Cross.

Entering humbly from a side entrance with her head bowed and covered, Montigny made her way to the top of the main aisle which served as her stage, cloaked in garments of cloth similar to what one would have worn in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago.

There, in a 20-minute monologue she crafted with strong references to the scripture recounting Christ’s last day on earth, Montigny channeled the heart-wrenching emotion of a mother on the verge of losing the child she brought into the world much as if she were about to lose one of her own three young children.

“I wanted to hold him and shield him, but I knew this could not be,” she says in her role as Mary, creating in the mind’s eye the scene of Pilate sentencing Jesus to death after the crowd of onlookers calls for his crucifixion.

“I wanted to plead with them to stop torturing an innocent man, but I know this could not be,” she continued. “I could see the splintered wood sinking into my son’s wounds,” she said helplessly.

By the time Jesus is nailed to the cross and raised in crucifixion, Montigny is exasperated, with the raw emotion leaving those gathered for the performance in absolute silence.

“When I looked up at him my tears streamed with his blood. I had to watch him die,” she said. “As Jesus died, his earthly anguish was finished, but mine was not.”

At the end, she covers her head once again and processes slowly out of sight.

Later, in an interview about her performance, Montigny spoke about the inspiration she draws upon to produce the raw emotion of Mary’s loss.

“Having three boys of my own, I can only imagine what that experience must have been like for Mary,” she said of the three young children – Nicholas, 5; James, 4; and Stephen, 2; that she and her husband John are raising at home. “As a mother, I am with her in that sense.”

The production, one of two that Montigny has written and produced throughout the year across Southern New England through her Marian Theatre Project, is meant to help audiences to understand Our Lady’s role as a mother and her universal role as Mother of the Church. Her goal is to teach others about the life of Jesus through the eyes of the Blessed Mother.

Joyce Brayboy, directress of the Holy Name of Jesus Gospel Choir, said she appreciated viewing the traditional Passion scene from the perspective of Mary.

“It was very moving,” she said.

“Walking With Our Mother” is based on the Passion and performed February through May for Lent through Pentecost. “Our Mother’s Call” is based on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and offered October through January for Advent through Christmas.

“I keep it very simple, I wanted it to be scripture based,” Montigny says of her shows, which she stages for parishes, schools and other groups.

Father Santos said he is grateful to have such a wonderful family celebrate their faith in his parish, and applauds the work that Montigny does through the Marian Theatre Project to educate others about the special role of Mary in the Church.

“Her goal is to bring people a bit deeper into the suffering of Christ and what we owe him for the sacrifices he made for us. I think she succeeds very well in doing this,” Father Santos said.

The pastor also thinks the time frame of 20-25 minutes per performance lends itself very well to a supplementary education program for parishes or schools, and harkens back to a time when Catholics would gather to view Medieval Mystery Plays to experience the history of their faith in an interactive way.

“I think she brings a lot of herself to this,” Father Santos said. “She is a wife and a mother of three boys.”

“She allows herself to feel for her child. This was definitely a teaching moment.”

For more information on the Marian Theatre Project, Liz Montigny can be reached at 781-521-3677, or by email at liz@agoodremedy.com.