A Guide to Stations of the Cross

 

History

Pope Benedict celebrates Stations of the CrossEven though St. Alphonus' is the most popular version, the Stations actually originated with the Franciscans.

The Stations of the Cross originated in the Holy Land as pilgrims went from one notable site to another while visiting Jerusalem. Even though this was a common practice, the Via Crucis didn't take a standard form until the fifteenth century.

The Franciscans were given guardianship of the holy places in and around Jerusalem in 1342 and it is believed that they developed the Via Crucis over time. The number of stations varied greatly from fourteen to over thirty and the first record of a Way of the Cross, while including fourteen stations, only had five that are currently in use.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries various religious orders built chapels corresponding to the stations and some even attempted to place them at the exact distances apart they would be found in Jerusalem. A book published in 1584 contained twelve stations that match the first twelve stations we have today.

The Franciscans received permission to officially erect Stations in 1686. In 1731 Pope Clement XII allowed the placement of Stations in all churches as long as it was performed by a Franciscan with the local bishop's permission. In 1862 the requirement that a Franciscan erect the Stations was dropped.

Form

The standard form for the Way of the Cross is:

  • An opening prayer

  • The naming of the Station

  • The responsorial “We adore thee , O Christ, and we bless Thee.” “Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world”.

  • A short meditation by the presider.

  • A response from the congregation.

  • Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be

  • Sometimes also added “Lord Jesus, crucified.” “Have mercy on us.”

  • A verse from the Stabat Mater

Types

  • St. Alphonsus Liguori

  • St. Francis of Assisi

  • Audience Specific

  • Scriptural

  • Longer Meditations and Variations

  • Audio

 

Liguorian

The Way of the Cross according to the St. Alphonsus Ligouri method is probably the most well known of the variations of this devotion. Each meditation starts with the saint asking us to “Consider...” and ends with the response “Grant that I may love Thee always and then do with me what Thou wilt.”

The Liguorian versions, while very similar, come in a variety of writing styles ranging from traditional to modern.

For example:


Franciscan

Franciscan Way of the CrossThe Franciscan Way of the Cross maintains the same form as the St. Alphonsus Liguori's version but the meditation and response don't follow the formulaic style of Liguori's.

Here is a comparison of the First Station:

St. Alphonsus:

“Consider that Jesus, after having been scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the cross.”

“My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate, no, it was my sins, that condemned Thee to die. I beseech Thee, by the merits of this sorrowful journey, to assist my soul in its journey towards eternity. I love Thee, my beloved Jesus; I love Thee more than myself; I repent with my whole heart of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.”

 

St. Francis:

“Jesus, most innocent, who neither did nor could commit a sin, was condemned to death, and moreover, to the most ignominious death of the cross. To remain a friend of Caesar, Pilate delivered Him into the hands of His enemies. A fearful crime – to condemn Innocence to death, and to offend God in order not to displease men!”

“O innocent Jesus, having sinned, I am guilty of eternal death, but Thou willingly dost accept the unjust sentence of death, that I might live. For whom, then, shall I henceforth live, if not for Thee, my Lord? Should I desire to please men, I could not be Thy servant. Let me, therefore, rather displease men and all the world, than not please Thee, O Jesus.”

 

Audience Specific

Stations of the Cross for Children

The various Stations of the Cross for Children are simplified and leave out most of the standard prayers that you find in the regular versions. Each contains prayers and reflections geared towards grade school children along with simplified and sometimes colorful pictures.

Elderly

The Stations of the Cross for the Elderly focuses on the trials of getting older and preparing for death.

Scriptural

Scriptural Ways of the Cross don't follow the traditional stations because they only use events found in the Bible. The Stations of the Cross done by the Pope in the Colosseum take a slightly different form each year and some years a scriptural series is followed.

Examples of these include We Were There, and A Scriptural Way of the Cross. We Were There and A Scriptural Way of the Cross follow both use stations from the Bible instead of the traditional set. Both have scripture readings in place of the meditation. A Scriptural Way of the Cross concludes each station with a reading from the Old Testament which foreshadows Christ which is a nice change.

We Were There has a little monologue / reflection from the perspective of one of the characters at that station (Pilate's wife when Pilate condemns Jesus). These are interesting but the writing style is very casual. Each station concludes with a modified verse of Stabat Mater that corresponds to the station.

Longer Meditations and Variations

There are several variations on the Stations of the Cross ranging from alternate prayers and meditations to much longer reflections than you would typically do during a public service.

Stations of the Cross, Stations of Light contains the standard stations but also includes fourteen stations of events following the crucifixion including the Resurrection, the journey to Emmaus and the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

Step by Step to Calvary follows the traditional stations but with long reflections on each event. Each station is about five pages long.

The Way of the Cross follows the standard format for the Way of the Cross but with prayers and reflections written by Fulton Sheen.

Way of the Cross is the version of the Stations that now Pope Benedict XVI wrote right before becoming pope.

Stations of the Cross contains a reflection on the love of Christ, the love of Mary and our response for each Station.

Audio

Praying the Way of the CrossTwo versions of the Stations of the Cross are available on CD.

Praying the Way of the Cross is a unique presentation in that the prayers and the music were all written by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Liam Neeson helps narrate each station.

Way of the Cross According to Pope John Paul II follows the stations as celebrated by Blessed John Paul II during 1991.

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