By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — St. Henry Catholic Church will present a powerful performance of the "Live Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary” at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, March 18. The bilingual re-enactment of the Passion of Christ will include a cast of 200 actors directed by Ricardo Ruvalcaba, Spanish Pastoral Assistant for the Diocese of Lake Charles. Admission is free.
Ruvalcaba said the production is aimed at the entire community and for the whole family.
“This performance is not only for our Diocese, not only for St. Henry or the Hispanic community. It is for our city of Lake Charles. We must always think big for our community,” said Ruvalcaba who is no stranger to theater.
Before moving to Jennings from Cancun, Mexico, with his wife and two daughters in 2021, Ruvalcaba founded and directed Via Crucis Viviente en la playa (Living Stations of the Cross on the beach). In its 10th year in 2019, Via Crucis had grown to one of the largest live Stations of the Cross in the world.
Ruvalcaba said he remembers Pope Saint John Paul II speaking about the “New Evangelization” and how important it is to find ways to evangelize.
It was with the help of Ruvalcaba’s parents and a Catholic group of youth and adults who were instrumental in starting the tradition of Via Crucis.
“I love the theater. For me, it is a great way to evangelize,” he said. “It is a great way to bring Jesus to the people. That first performance was my spark, and now I am trying to share our traditions of the Hispanic community.”
Mexico’s Holy Week traditions are mostly based on those from Spain, brought over with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.
The re-enactment at St. Henry will authentically bring to life the unjust and cruel condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It will add a prayerful dimension to your Lent that you do not want to miss.
The five Sorrowful Mysteries include: The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion. Additional biblical passages will include the Last Supper, Betrayal by Judas Iscariot, and the Sanhedrin.
According to Ruvalcaba, the life-like drama will feature men and women in period-attire, costumed Roman soldiers, a 16-foot-tall cross for the crucifixion scene, and two 14-foot-tall crosses for the thieves on either side of Jesus. The crosses were made by Miguel del Rosal. Zenaido Duque and Lazaro Morales are donating the sound system for the storyline and special effects.
Ruvalcaba said one thing that sets Catholic theater apart from other types of theater is the way the actors prepare for their roles.
“Prayer is very important. Before every rehearsal, we begin with a prayer and finish with a prayer,” he said, noting that for this performance he encourages everyone to read the Passion of Christ in the Bible.
Even during the performance, Ruvalcaba said it is important for the actors to pray and use the time to evangelize to the audience.
“Lord, make me an instrument,” he said. “When you ask God to help you understand what was happening 2,000 years ago, you can perform better at your role.”
In Cancun, Ruvalcaba played the role of Jesus seven times, a role he did not take lightly. He said his favorite scene was The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Jesus was really afraid. Once he accepts God’s will, of course he still suffered, but his stress was different. His life was not easy, but he was at peace.” said Ruvalcaba. “For me that is the most important part of this performance. We can learn that when we accept God’s will, we will be better off.”
Lazaro Morales will be playing the role of Jesus in this year’s performance.
“He immediately responded ‘yes’ when he was asked to play the lead role,” said Ruvalcaba. “Lazaro has a great heart, a servant’s heart. He is very enthusiastic.”
The live presentation is for families to both attend and participate.
“We have a lot of entire families as actors. It is so beautiful to watch,” said Ruvalcaba. “My wife and daughters will be part of the last scene, ‘Angels of Hope.’ Our faith is joy. We can all find hope in the final scene.”
This is the second year for Ruvalcaba to direct the performance at St. Henry, saying he plans to make it an annual tradition that grows bigger every year.
“There are no language barriers in theater. Visually, everyone can understand what is happening,” he said. “This is one of the beauties of this art. The visual experience for the audience helps them to understand the Gospel better the next time they are reading it or hearing it proclaimed.”
NOTE: For anyone making plans to attend, the performance will be at 1:00 p.m. March 18 and is expected to last 87 minutes. St. Henry Catholic Church is located at 1021 Eighth Avenue. The performance will take place outdoors behind the church. Seating will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own lawn chair.