One of my favorite devotions is the Stations of the Cross. It is a devotion that transports us to be with Jesus during His long, painful Way of the Cross and crucifixion, death, and burial. As we pray at each Station, we accompany Jesus and are present to Him. Praying the Stations can give us a greater understanding of Jesus’ suffering and gratitude for what He endured willingly to save us. The origins of the Stations of the Cross devotion are in the 4th century when Christians on pilgrimage in the Holy Land prayed at the sites of the Way of the Cross. .
There are many different meditations for this devotion. St. Alphonsus Liguori’s meditations are perhaps the best known. It is easy to find meditations for the Stations of the Cross in prayer books, leaflets, and online. We are also free to make up our own meditations as we pray the Stations. The traditional meditations remind us that it was because of our sins that Jesus suffered and died; we realize we are responsible. This thought makes us repent of our sins and ask God to help us to live virtuously. Some of the Stations inspire us to make other changes in our life. For example, the second Station in which Jesus accepts His cross inspires us to accept the crosses in our lives and offer them up to God for the salvation of other people; the fifth Station in which Simon helps Jesus carry His cross inspires us to offer to help Jesus in His work in the world today; the sixth Station in which Veronica wipes the face of Jesus inspires us to see Jesus in those in need and go out to help them; and the tenth Station in which Jesus is stripped of His garments inspires us to seek to become detached from material things and from anything else that prevents us from dedicating our lives to God.
The Stations of the Cross is a devotion that involves our souls as we pray, our minds as we use our imagination to meditate, and our bodies as we walk from Station to Station. Most of the traditional fourteen Stations can be found in Sacred Scripture except for Jesus’ falls, His meeting with His mother Mary, and His meeting with St. Veronica, but as not everything that happened to Jesus was written in Scripture, we can assume that these Stations are based on an oral tradition and they are all likely to have happened. Jesus was weak and carrying a heavy cross, so He may have fallen; we know Mary was with Jesus as He suffered and died on the cross so He may have briefly met her on the way to Calvary; we know there were women following Jesus, so one woman may have gone up to Jesus to wipe his His face with her veil. St. John Paul II, who gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary also gave us the Scriptural Way of the Cross; all of the Stations are found in the Gospels and they begin with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In 2007, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI approved these Stations for public celebration and private meditation.
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