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Alexandria church creates a Garden of Gethsemane

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The gymnasium of St. Louis School in Alexandria was filled with trees, flowering plants, glowing lanterns and widely spaced chairs. The altar of repose was surrounded by lit candles. Behind it, a moonlit sky above a garden was projected onto the back wall. A statue of Jesus in prayer sat on the stage near three lit candles representing Peter, James and John. Nearby, but mostly hidden by leaves, a small black statue of a rooster rested on a stand.


After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 13, Father Matthew H. Zuberbueler, pastor, and St. Louis parishioners processed from the church into their own Garden of Gethsemane. The church doesn’t have a dedicated space for an altar of repose, said sacristan Jim McCracken, so Father Zuberbueler came up with the idea of making one in the gym. “It's a labor of love to try to create an atmosphere, a proper place for the Blessed Sacrament,” said McCracken.  


For the past few years, McCracken, Theresa Kritcher, parish floral coordinator, and others have spent Holy Thursday afternoon transforming McClunn Hall into a garden. The greenery, the night sky, the tabernacle and the reverent environment helps recreate the scene of some 2,000 years ago.


“This is yet another way to come closer to God,” said parishioner Rob Huddleston. “It allows us think deeply about what He suffered the night before He died, all the agony of anticipation and sorrow. The garden makes it more real.” His wife, Helen Rangel, noted that praying in the homemade garden was a way to better accompany Christ.


In keeping with the Holy Thursday tradition of visiting several churches to pray, many come from other parishes to spend time in the garden.


“We’re creating something that puts people in the spirit of Easter,” said Kritcher. “That’s what it's all about.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017