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Backyard, Lenten pilgrimage

There's an old saying that I've always loved: "Nowhere is one closer to God than in a garden." Now, I know that statement might be debatable theologically. But it's clear to me God's beauty is abundantly evident within His creation.

This week, I'm scouring the diocese for beautiful, outdoor Stations of the Cross. While praying the Way of the Cross is always a powerful experience, to me it's even more special outdoors. Someone took the time to find a quiet, beautiful place within nature for the Stations. They constructed each post and created artwork for mediation. As you try to place yourself mentally with Christ on the way to Calvary, you are able to walk along physically too.

My love for outdoor Stations began with a pilgrimage to Lourdes while studying abroad in college. To me, Lourdes will always be a Catholic Disney World. The cathedral even looks like Cinderella's castle. Every type of devotion is at your fingertips - daily Mass, a candlelit Marian procession, visiting holy relics. But I especially loved the outdoor Stations.

Their Way of the Cross goes through wooded hills. Larger-than-life cast iron figures make up each station. My two friends and I took turns reading each devotional and walking in silence. I loved the sense of taking a journey with Christ. I loved how the artwork said just as much as the heartbreaking words in the prayers.

A few months later I went to another outdoor Stations of the Cross on a pilgrimage to Fatima. (Yes, I was unbelievably lucky to visit so many holy sites during my study abroad.) The stone path winded through a grove of trees. Each station was a relief carved into cream colored stone. At the end there was a small chapel with statues on top depicting the crucifixion scene.

Now stateside, I have an eye for outdoor Stations. Most are pretty simple, but to me they're all special. Someone else has found a picturesque spot in God's garden. Another artist has created something beautiful to glorify God. Another person will gain new insight about Christ's love for humanity.

In Lourdes, pilgrims from around the world were asked to bring things with them. Whole trees were draped with rosaries from one year. Another year, each group brought crosses from their country. Next to the rows of crosses, a sign read in different languages, "The world turns, the cross remains."

Do you have outdoors Stations you love to visit? Let me know: zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro .

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016