A California parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is hosting a rendition of the Stations of the Cross which is led by a yoga instructor and features original paintings of the stations with Jesus in yoga-poses.
We were contacted by a concerned Catholic who reported that Holy Family Catholic Parish in South Pasadena, California has been hosting this bizarre presentation for several years. It will take place once again this year on Saturday, March 28.
The idea is the brainchild of Anne M. Kelley, an assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation in Seattle. Kelley, a former parishioner of Holy Family, describes herself as a cradle Catholic who took up yoga during a “challenging speed bump” in her life. Her inspiration to create the stations came from noticing that there were no Stations of the Cross in her church, St. Therese’s Parish of Seattle, Washington. Kelley decided to create her own and drew on the talents of Eric Armusik for the paintings, Cynthia Simon for yoga, Joseph Rojo for music, and Fr. Lawrence B. Murphy, her uncle and a Jesuit priest who reviewed the spoken meditations.
The result is a meditation on the stations which is guided by a yoga instructor who leads participants in yoga during the presentation. People who do not wish to do the yoga may also attend. During the presentation, Armusik’s paintings are shown which depict Jesus in the traditional stations but while posed in yoga asanas.
” . . .(T)he meditation engages as many of the senses as possible, starting with your very breath and movement,” Kelley writes on her website. “You will model the movements of a yoga instructor who will be at the front of the room. She will be assisted by another great instructor who will walk around the room to help people into safe and comfortable poses, as needed. Each Station is anchored by a short meditation I have written and will be accompanied by live choral music. You will see projected in front of you for each station a painted image which was specially created for this meditation . . .”
Kelley claims that the point of the exercise is “to center your whole body in Jesus’ Passion through a guided meditation on the Stations of the Cross – using yoga positions. . . . It is a prayerful and unusual way to connect with Christ and His Passion.”
For example, Jesus is depicted in the chair pose when assuming the cross, the bridge pose while being stripped, the half prayer twist when greeting his mother and the triangle pose when falling for the third time. All of these moves have spiritual meanings that have nothing to do with Christianity, such as the bridge pose, known as setu bandha sarvangasana which is designed to open up the throat chakra and establish balance between body and mind and “enabling us to live our truth”. Belief in chakras, which are thought to be energy centers for an alleged universal life force, is part of a pantheistic belief system that is not compatible with Christianity.
The person who communicated with our ministry, whose name is being withheld, was horrified by this presentation. “I can’t help but feel the wrongness in seeing Jesus Christ prostrated in yoga poses while carrying the cross to his crucifixion,” she wrote. “Would this be considered heresy?”
Whether or not it is an official heresy would be up to the Church to decide, but it is certainly a cause for scandal among the faithful, most of whom would view Jesus depicted in postures associated with a Hindu spiritual practice to be highly disturbing and inappropriate.
The only good news in this story is that Kelley has been giving this presentation for six years – but at the same two churches – her own parish in Seattle and her former parish in California – which means the idea is not exactly taking the Catholic world by storm (thank God).
You can view the paintings of the stations on Kelley’s website – I refuse to reproduce them here.