By Kaelanne Jordan
According to Aleteia, one of the most powerful ways to enter into the Passion and death of Jesus is to pray the pious devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. It consists of 14 stations along which an individual can retrace the footsteps of Christ during His Passion and death. They are:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes up his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets his mother
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
While there isn’t one particular person responsible for erecting the Stations of the Cross, it was the Franciscans in the 17th century who “wanted to begin erecting these ‘stations’ within the church walls and asked Rome for permission,” according to the website.
The article said that the Franciscans wanted the faithful to be granted the same indulgences that would have been given to those who travelled to Jerusalem.
Pope Innocent XI recognised the need and granted their request, paving the way for the Stations of the Cross as we know them today.
In an interview with Catholic News, Fr Kwesi Alleyne explained the significance of the Stations and how faithful should meditate on the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.
Lent, he explained, is a time for preparation to enter into the Paschal Mysteries of Christ’s Passion, death, Resurrection and ascension into Heaven. The Stations of Christ, Fr Kwesi said, is one means by which faithful can enter into that time of Christ’s life which is the beginning of that “high point” of that celebration.
Is there a special way to pray the Stations of the Cross?
According to Fr Kwesi, if prayed “meditatively”, the Stations can bring the Passion of Christ alive to the person who prays them.
Meditatively, he highlighted means that one is really present in mind and heart to what they are praying. Meditating on the Stations is to “unpack” that part of Jesus’ life and its relevance to my life and our life as church and society.
“What may be helpful is using my imagination to enter into that moment. It may be helpful to see what in that [Station] speaks into my life. As I meditate on that particular Station, I can go back into my own experience, into what’s happening now…so I have that in the background and I allow the Stations… those memories, to come to the fore and I bring it to the moment of prayer.”
Fr Kwesi described a scenario using the 8th Station: Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem. “…I picture myself there in the scene… these crying women and Jesus is there, and they have this point of concern…and something may come up in my heart…I think of Singing Sandra and a song and what she described in the song of the description of the ghetto…and I am moved to think of mothers who are crying, and I may be moved to pray for them.”
He gave the example of how he would meditate during the 13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his mother.
“I may think of a loss where it is difficult for me to stand with somebody. I may think of a time when I went to somebody’s home to console them and was at a loss. And I can see Mary as a model for her ability to stay… to stand there…she doesn’t have all the answers but she holds Christ…but it moved me to stand, be present, just embrace and hold the pain of the moment without having the solution. Those are ways we can meditate”.
Reminded there are persons who tend to avoid the Stations of the Cross as it conjures emotions, Fr Kwesi responded that suffering is not something most persons like.
“We try to recoil from it and not face it. The challenge of maturity, both spiritual maturity and our human maturity is to come to a stage where we come to terms with the reality of suffering in the world.”
He continued, “…that is when faith is pushed to maturity and the cross on Calvary places God at the centre of all the challenges of suffering. And it’s at the core of our human experience and Christian faith.”
The invitation to the journey is still there. It is, an invitation to growth.
“It’s not about just focusing on the brutality of it. It’s not about relishing in gore or anything like that. It’s the whole question of the victory that good cannot be stamped out. Even though Jesus is crushed and that oppression may be part of the experience, it could never stamp out goodness.”
He urged Catholics to see the “beauty” of Jesus persevering and His freedom throughout the Stations.
“Jesus falls… that is not in the Bible but the devotions develop in a way to show His humanity and to show Him getting up…so it can get in touch with our own weakness and struggles and challenges and suffering. And to draw that strength, to recognise, the Divine at work and to move forward in hope and work for justice to push forward even in dark situations… that’s where Christianity challenges us to…that’s the invitation,” Fr Kwesi said.
Doing your devotion
While it is traditional for some churches to have public processions for the Stations of the Cross, in the current pandemic however, gatherings for procession of worshippers are not allowed.
The Archdiocese’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Team issued Guidelines for the Lenten Season and Holy Week. The Guidelines state that if the Stations of the Cross are being prayed inside the church, it is compulsory that no more than three (3) persons lead the prayers while moving between the Stations, using a microphone to amplify the sound. The congregation remains in pews. To observe the required physical distancing, the seat nearest the aisle in each pew should not be occupied so that the two persons leading the prayers will not be too close to those in the pews.”
On Good Friday, the Guidelines suggested the Stations can be performed using a motorcade.
How can families can perform the 14-step devotion in this time of pandemic? Fr Kwesi suggested families gather at home to pray the Stations together.
He suggested at each Station, a member of the family can do a reflection; depending on age, small children can be encouraged to draw the Stations or go online and find images which are printed and used in the home to assist their meditation.
“Be creative in it. Get some teenagers to write a meditation of the Stations based on their lives,” he said.