If you walk into just about any Catholic Church today, you will probably see an artistic display of “The Stations of the Cross.” The Stations may be made of stone, wood, or metal, sculptured or carved, or they may be merely paintings or engravings. They are usually placed at certain intervals around the walls of a church, though sometimes they are to be found in the open air, especially on roads leading to a church or shrine. Also called “The Way of the Cross,” this devotion commemorates the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are fourteen stations that represents an event which occurred during Jesus’ Passion and death at Calvary on Good Friday.
Lent is the time of year that this devotion is practiced the most. During the lenten season, we focus more on Jesus’ life in the days leading up to His death and resurrection. The Stations of the Cross helps us do that. This devotion can be done individually by making one’s way from one station to the next and saying prayers, or by having an officiating celebrant move from cross to cross while the faithful make the responses.
1. Christ condemned to death;
2. the cross is laid upon him;
3. His first fall;
4. He meets His Blessed Mother;
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross;
6. Christ’s face is wiped by Veronica;
7. His second fall;
8. He meets the women of Jerusalem;
9. His third fall;
10. He is stripped of His garments;
11. His crucifixion;
12. His death on the cross;
13. His body is taken down from the cross;
14. and laid in the tomb.
The devotion began in the late 4th century when people came to the Holy Land from all parts of the world to visit the land of Jesus. One of the places they visited was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which had been built by the Emperor Constantine in 335 AD atop Calvary and the tomb of Jesus. During the time of the crusades (1095-1270), it became popular to go to the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus to Calvary. After the Muslims took over the Holy Land, pilgrimages became too dangerous. As a result, the Stations of the Cross became a popular substitute pilgrimage throughout Europe. Originally done only outdoors, the Stations were allowed inside churches in the mid-18th century.
The Stations of the Cross spread rapidly during this time, in large part, because of the preaching of the Franciscan, St. Leonard of Port -Maurice, who erected stations and promoted the devotion in over five hundred churches throughout Italy. The popes at the time, supported this devotion and his efforts as a way to strengthen the faith. Also in the 18th century, St. Alphonsus Liguori, wrote a brief work on the stations that is still in use today. By the 19th century, throughout England, Ireland, and North America, the Stations of the Cross had become a staple in Catholic prayer books and churches.
Until next time, God bless.