Christians for centuries have been performing the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday -- the day Jesus Christ was condemned to death and ordered to carry a cross upon which he was later crucified.
The devotionals are usually performed within the confines of a church -- and most always each of the 14 stations is portrayed in art that adorns the church walls.
But for about 30 years, members of Mision San Juan Diego and its predecessor, St. Teresita, have been performing living stations on the streets of Palatine and Arlington Heights.
On this Good Friday, parishioners who either played a role in the performance or walked alongside during the milelong procession said the live representation of Jesus' last hours strengthens their faith at the time of year most important to them as Christians.
"The way we see it, it's not an act. We're living it," said Jesus Segovia, 25, of Palatine, who portrayed a Roman soldier.
The nearly two-hour procession started on the front steps of St. Thomas of Villanova School in Palatine -- where actors, all speaking Spanish, re-enacted the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. A real crown of thorns is placed upon the head of the actor playing Jesus, Rubin Callajo, who takes a 100-pound wooden cross upon his back and drags it down the street. Those playing Roman soldiers strike him with whips throughout the ceremony. A red substance meant to represent blood appears on Callajo's white robe.
All throughout, priests wearing red vestments leads the procession east on Anderson Drive, as they and the crowd of 1,000 or so followers recites prayers and sings hymns.
Eventually, they reach Mision San Juan Diego at 2323 N. Wilke Road in Arlington Heights, where the actors playing Jesus and the two men who carried smaller crosses during the procession are "nailed" to their crosses in front of the church; in fact, their wrists are tied to the crosses by rope, but large nails were pounded into the crosses to provide the effect.
Mark Long, 22, a Palatine resident who came to watch with his mother, Babe, said it was his first time seeing the stations performed outdoors -- and it was the most realistic he says he's witnessed. For five years starting in eighth grade, Long acted out living stations with the VOICES youth group inside St. Thomas of Villanova.
"The emotions and faces everyone has -- it really shows how close people are to God," Long said. "You can tell there's a lot of passion in this production. It shows what Jesus had to go through. It's very powerful."
Some 200 people are involved in the production, from actors to those who direct traffic along the route.
"This is a very moving experience. You get not only to listen, but to see it. The result is you're moved to become a better person, ask for forgiveness, and have a place in the church," said the Rev. Claudio Diaz Jr., pastor of Mision San Juan Diego
"There's something about the living Stations of the Cross that triggers the memory. To know where we're going, we have to know where we came from. That's the basis of our faith."