CINCINNATI -- Hundreds of people visit Mount Adams every year to perform the same 158-year-old ritual: "Praying the steps" at Holy Cross Immaculata Church in Mount Adams. Father Robert Jack meets them at the top.
"Every person is unique, but the common thing is the stairs," he said.
Pilgrims come from all over the world to slowly climb the 96 steps leading up into the church every Good Friday, praying or reflecting silently on the meaning of the upcoming Easter holiday. At the top, if they wish, they can confess to a priest; if they don't, they can grab donuts, coffee or a fish sandwich to celebrate completing the steps.
The church itself is as old as Big Ben, On the Origin of Species and the modern state of Oregon, according to its website; the tradition of praying the steps is only a little younger, although the clergy sure how much.
According to one Patheos article, praying the steps began as a spontaneous ritual and became a codified one as more people participated.
Although participants can make the journey any time from the first minute of Good Friday to the last, Jack said Immaculata's priests haven't always been available that whole time.
"About 20 years ago they started hearing confessions during the day," he said. "I was thinking to myself, as I always think foolish things, ‘You know what would be a good idea, if someone would be there overnight.'"