When was the last time you went to the Stations of the Cross at your parish? Sadly, attendance is often weak at these Lenten devotions. This is understandable. We live in a busy world and may not be able to get to church for the scheduled time. Yet this beautiful, ancient tradition should not be overlooked.
The Stations of the Cross, as we know them today, have been practiced by Catholics for nearly 1,000 years. They began as outside shrines, scattered along roadsides in the Holy Land and throughout Europe. In 1731, Pope Clement XII gave Catholics permission to display the stations in their churches. Since that time, especially during Lent, the faithful have gathered at church to pray and reflect upon the Stations of the Cross.
Yet we don’t have to visit a church to experience the stations. We can contemplate them around our kitchen table or sitting in our living room. The best way for a family or individual to benefit from the stations might be reflecting on just one station each day during Lent — especially if all 14 are beyond the attention span of small children. If we begin with the first station on Ash Wednesday and then visit one station each day, we can complete all 14 stations three times and end on Tuesday of Holy Week. The daily reading of one station at a time could be done at dinner, morning prayer or as a bedtime prayer. As we embrace this great Lenten practice, let us hear Our Lord’s voice whispering in our hearts, “This is the way; walk in it” (Is 30:21).
The First Station: Jesus is condemned to death — Judgment
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I am so sorry you were falsely accused and had to suffer. I am sorry for all the times my own bad judgement caused someone to suffer. Please help me to make good decisions. Help me remember that when I am judging or criticizing someone else, I am judging you alive in them.
The Second Station: Jesus carries the cross — Responsibility
Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to be better at carrying the responsibilities and crosses that you have assigned to me. When I am tempted to complain, remind me of the terrible cross you carried for me. Help me also be sensitive to the responsibilities that those around me must carry.
The Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time — Pride
Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me not to fall into bad habits or sin. When I do something that is wrong, help me to admit my mistake. Help me to learn how to say I am sorry. Please don’t let me be so proud that I think I am perfect and everything I do is good.
The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother — Love
Prayer: Dear Mary, you loved Jesus so much. How it must have hurt you to see him suffer and die. Thank you for loving me just like I was your own child. Help me to remember to come to you when I am sad or lonely or scared. I know you will always be there for me.
The Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus carry his cross — Humility
Prayer: Dear Jesus, sometimes I want to get all the credit. Or I want to be in charge. I do not want anyone else to help me. I think I can do it all by myself. But you made us to live and work together in families and communities. Help me be better at accepting help and also offering to help others.
The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus — Kindness
Prayer: Dear Jesus, please help me to become kinder and more compassionate to all those I meet today both in and outside my family. Help me to see your face in those who need a helping hand or a simple smile. Just as Veronica’s veil was marked, let my heart be marked by the good things I do.
The Seventh Station: Jesus falls a second time — Courage
Prayer: Dear Lord, please give me courage when I am afraid. Help me to step up and do the right things. Help me to know that you are always walking with me. Please take my hand, even when I fall, and show me how to be brave.
The Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem — Grief
Prayer: Dear Jesus, sometimes I do not know what to do when a person is upset or grieving. So I just turn away. But you did not turn away from the crying women. Please help me know what to say and how to help the people in my life who are sad right now.
The Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time — Commitment
Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for the times when I just get tired of my duties and responsibilities at home, school or work. Forgive me for the times I want to lay down and do nothing. Please give me strength to get up and do what you are calling me to do, just like you got up with that heavy cross on your shoulders.
The Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments — Gratitude
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the warm clothes and good things I have. Help me to realize that everything I have is a gift from you. Show me how you want me to share my blessings with others so they have enough to be warm and safe like me.
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross — Trust
Prayer: Dear God, please help me to trust you more. Sometimes I think I am in charge of everything. I worry too much. Or I take too much credit. Help me remember that even when things seem bad you are able to make it all be okay. Help me just trust in you.
The Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross — Faith
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for this great gift of faith. May I never forget you are always there for me, alive in my heart, in my family and in the goodness of the world.
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross — Silence
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me shut out the noise of our world. Help me put down the phone, turn off the video, and simply be quiet and alone with you. Then whisper in my soul how I can do better. Remind me that when I hurt others, I am hurting you, because you quietly live in all of us.
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is placed in the tomb — Hope
Prayer: Dear God, let me never forget how amazing and powerful you are. You can conquer death! You can conquer whatever seems wrong, lifeless or sad in my own life, too. Thank you for that great hope, dear Lord.
Susan M. Erschen writes from Missouri.
|History of the Stations of the Cross|
While the practice of following the Way of the Cross can be dated back to the Blessed Mother’s practice of visiting the holy sites of Christ’s passion, the formalized prayers and Stations of the Cross came centuries later.
After Christianity was legalized under the rule of emperor Constantine, he had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built around the site of Christ’s tomb. Soon after, pilgrims began praying at the site before visiting others from Jesus’ passion, where more churches were later constructed. This tradition began what is now the practice of walking the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Sorrowful Way.”
This devotion continued throughout the centuries, but it was not until the 1300s when the holy sites and churches in the Holy Land were entrusted to the care of the Franciscans. About a hundred years later, the term “stations” was first used by an English pilgrim, William Wey, and the word soon became popularized as the practice was adopted through images of each station displayed inside European churches.