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The Stations of the Cross

San Clemente, Rome - Detail of apse mosaic - 12th Century

PRAYING THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS is a popular devotion in both the Eastern and Western Churches. It was developed during the Crusades when the knights and pilgrims began to follow the route of Christ's way to Calvary. This devotion spread throughout Europe and was promulgated by the Franciscan friars in the 14th and 15th centuries. Eventually, the Stations of the Cross became an important catechetical tool, and the popularity of this devotion inspired some of the greatest examples of medieval Christian art. Some scholars believe that medieval miracle plays, which were essentially tableaux of Christ's life, developed from the sculptured representations of the Stations of the Cross in the great Churches. These scenes from the Way of the Cross have provided inspiration for many of the world's greatest works of visual art.

During Lent or Holy Week most parishes have a service of Stations at least once. It is worth taking children to this so that they can participate with other Catholics in this timeless and very moving devotion. If you are near a cathedral or other large church that has beautiful Stations it would be worth making a visit with children so that they can look closely at the depictions of Christ's way to Calvary. The visual representations, combined with the prayers and meditations, help to deepen our understanding of the Way of the Cross, which will be of great spiritual benefit for all Catholics of all ages.

The Fourteen Stations

First Station - Jesus is condemned to Death
Second Station - Jesus is made to bear His Cross
Third Station - Jesus falls the first time under His Cross
Fourth Station - Jesus meets His Mother
Fifth Station - Simon the Cyrene helps Jesus carry His Cross
Sixth Station - Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Seventh Station - Jesus falls the second time
Eighth Station - Jesus speaks to the daughters of Jerusalem
Ninth Station - Jesus falls the third time
Tenth Station - Jesus is stripped of His garments
Eleventh Station - Jesus is nailed to the Cross
Twelfth Station - Jesus dies on the Cross
Thirteenth Station - Jesus is taken down from the Cross
Fourteenth Station - Jesus is buried in the sepulchre

After announcing each station, genuflect and say:

V .We adore Thee O Christ and we praise Thee,
R. Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Then say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory be to the Father +

After the final station, this prayer, adapted from one composed by Saint Alphonsus, might be said:

O Jesus Christ, my Lord, with what great love you traveled the painful road which led to your death -- and how often have I abandoned you. But now I love you with my whole soul, and because I love you, I am sincerely sorry for having offended you. My Jesus, pardon me, and permit me to accompany you on this journey. You died for love of me, and it is my wish, O my dearest Redeemer, to be willing to die for love of you. O my beloved Jesus, in your love I wish to live, and in your love I wish to die. Amen. +

(+ - All make the sign of the cross.)

Excerpt from the Directory on Popular Piety, approved by Pope John Paul II, issued December 2001
Via Crucis
[Way of the Cross]

131. Of all the pious exercises connected with the veneration of the Cross, none is more popular among the faithful than the Via Crucis. Through this pious exercise, the faithful movingly follow the final earthly journey of Christ: from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord, "in a small estate called Gethsemane" (Mk 14:32), was taken by anguish (cf. Lk 22:44), to Calvary where He was crucified between two thieves (cf. Lk 23:33), to the garden where He was placed in freshly hewn tomb (John 19:40-42).

The love of the Christian faithful for this devotion is amply attested by the numerous Via Crucis erected in so many churches, shrines, cloisters, in the countryside, and on mountain pathways where the various stations are very evocative.

132. The Via Crucis is a synthesis of various devotions that have arisen since the high middle ages: the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which the faithful devoutly visit the places associated with the Lord's Passion; devotion to the three falls of Christ under the weight of the Cross; devotion to "the dolorous journey of Christ" which consisted in processing from one church to another in memory of Christ's Passion; devotion to the stations of Christ, those places where Christ stopped on His journey to Calvary because obliged to do so by His executioners or exhausted by fatigue, or because moved by compassion to dialogue with those who were present at His Passion.

In its present form, the Via Crucis, widely promoted by Saint Leonardo da Porto Maurizio (+1751), was approved by the Apostolic See and indulgenced (137), consists of fourteen stations since the middle of seventeenth century.

133. The Via Crucis is a journey made in the Holy Spirit, that divine fire which burned in the heart of Jesus (cf. Lk 12:49-50) and brought Him to Calvary. This is a journey well esteemed by the Church since it has retained a living memory of the words and gestures of the final earthly days of her Spouse and Lord.

In the Via Crucis, various strands of Christian piety coalesce: the idea of life being a journey or pilgrimage; as a passage from earthly exile to our true home in Heaven; the deep desire to be conformed to the Passion of Christ; the demands of following Christ, which imply that His disciples must follow behind the Master, daily carrying their own crosses (cf Lk 9, 23).

The Via Crucis is a particularly apt pious exercise for Lent.

134. The following may prove useful suggestions for a fruitful celebration of the Via Crucis:

* the traditional form of the Via Crucis, with its fourteen stations, is to be retained as the typical form of this pious exercise; from time to time, however, as the occasion warrants, one or other of the traditional stations might possibly be substituted with a reflection on some other aspects of the Gospel account of the journey to Calvary which are traditionally included in the Stations of the Cross;

* alternative forms of the Via Crucis have been approved by Apostolic See (138) or publicly used by the Roman Pontiff (139): these can be regarded as genuine forms of the devotion and may be used as occasion might warrant;

* the Via Crucis is a pious devotion connected with the Passion of Christ; it should conclude, however, in such fashion as to leave the faithful with a sense of expectation of the resurrection in faith and hope; following the example of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem which ends with a station at the Anastasis, the celebration could end with a commemoration of the Lord's resurrection.

135. Innumerable texts exist for the celebration of the Via Crucis. Many of them were compiled by pastors who were sincerely interested in this pious exercise and convinced of its spiritual effectiveness. Texts have also been provided by lay authors who were known for their exemplary piety, holiness of life, doctrine and literary qualities.

Bearing in mind whatever instructions might have been established by the bishops in the matter, the choice of texts for the Via Crucis should take a count of the condition of those participating in its celebration and the wise pastoral principle of integrating renewal and continuity. It is always preferable to choose texts resonant with the biblical narrative and written in a clear simple style.

The Via Crucis in which hymns, silence, procession and reflective pauses are wisely integrated in a balanced manner, contribute significantly to obtaining the spiritual fruits of the pious exercise.

Family "Tenebræ" Stations

Throughout the season of Lent, but especially during the Holy Week Triduum the family can pray the Stations together at home. In her book The Year and Our Children, Mary Reed Newland suggests that family members make a candelabrum for the Stations of the Cross "to be used after the fashion of Tenebrae ... to help them love the Stations and to say them nightly during Lent." [p. 146] You might make a particular effort to say them as a family during the evening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, especially if the service of Tenebrae is not available at your parish.

You will need

* An improvised candelabrum can be made either by using a length of board with holes drilled for fifteen candles (one for each Station plus one to represent the Light of Christ), or by using a strong cardboard box (or even two stout shoe boxes) with holes for the candles cut in the top. You might cover the box with contact paper, and secure the candles with masking tape on the bottom of the box.

If you have small children, you may prefer to explain the meaning of each station yourself rather than reading a meditation from a book.

At the beginning of the devotion, with the room in darkness and everyone standing, light all the candles. After each station is said a child puts out one candle, alternating left and right ends. When the last station is said the candle in the center, the Lumen Christi , or Light of Christ, candle, is extinguished and the room is in darkness. Explain the darkness to the children by saying, "Christ was the Light of the World, and when He died, the Light was gone from the world". Then relight only this center "Light of Christ" candle -- a reminder that Christ is with us, even in the deepest darkness.

Stabat Mater

This hymn is usually ascribed to Jacopone da Todi, a 13th Century Franciscan. It deals with the crucifixion, and, in particular the sorrow of Mary at the foot of the Cross. In the 18th century it was adopted as the sequence for the feast of the Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin. In addition to plainsong settings, there are settings from the 15th century on by such diverse composers as Josquin des Pres, Palestrina, Pergolesi, Haydn, Rossini, Verdi, and Dvorak.


Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam, et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti.
Quæ mrebat, et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati pnas inclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentum cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suæ gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis,
Et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Moriendo desolatum
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum fugeam.
Fac ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.
Tui Nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Pnas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolere,
Donec ego vixero.
Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum præclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara;
Fac me tecum plangere,
Fac ut portem Christi mortem,
Passionis fac consortem
et plagas recolere

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
Fac me Cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii.
Flammis ne urar succensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire
Da per Matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriæ.
Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animæ donetur
Paradisi gloria.



At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last:
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Lo! the piercing sword had passed!

O how sad, and sore distressed,
Now was she, that Mother Blessed
Of the Sole-begotten One;
Woe-begone, with heart's prostration,
Mother meek, the bitter Passion
Saw she of her glorious son

Who could mark, from tears refraining,
Christ's dear Mother uncomplaining,
In so great a sorrow bowed?
Who, unmoved, behold her languish
Underneath His Cross of anguish,
'Mid the fierce, unpitying crowd?

For His people's sins rejected,
She her Jesus, unprotected,
Saw with thorns, with scourges rent;
Saw her Son from judgment taken,
Her beloved in death forsaken,
Till His Spirit forth He sent.

Fount of love and holy sorrow,
Mother! may my spirit borrow
Somewhat of thy woe profound;
Unto Christ, with pure emotion,
Raise my contrite heart's devotion,
Love to read in every Wound.

Those five Wounds on Jesus smitten,
Mother! in my heart be written,
Deep as in thine won they be:
Thou, my Savior's cross who bearest,
Thou, thy Son's rebuke who sharest,
Let me share them both with thee!

In the Passion of my Maker
Be my sinful soul partaker,
Weep till death, and weep with thee;
Mine with thee be that sad station,
There to watch the great Salvation
Wrought upon the atoning Tree.

Virgin thou of virgins fairest,
May the bitter woe thou sharest
Make on me impression deep:
Thus Christ's dying may I carry,
With Him in His Passion tarry,
And His wounds in memory keep.

May His Wounds transfix me wholly,
May His Cross and Life Blood holy
Ebriate my heart and mind;
Thus inflamed with pure affection,
In the Virgin's Son protection
May I at the judgment find.

When in death my limbs are failing,
Let Thy Mother's prayer prevailing
Lift me, Jesus! to Thy throne;
To my parting soul be given
Entrance through the gate of Heaven,
There confess me for Thine own.

Way of the Cross, Good Friday, 2014, Led by Pope Francis, MEDITATIONS by H.E. Msgr. Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano

WAY OF THE CROSS, Good Friday 2005, MEDITATIONS AND PRAYERS, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [posted on the Vatican Website] | Way of the Cross Page on the Vatican Website 1991-Present

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