Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

History Behind the Way of the Cross

Mar 28, 2019

You will not arrive at what you desire by following your own path, or even by high contemplation; but only through a great humility and a surrender of the heart. St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Growing up, I have good memories of serving Stations of the Cross after school at Saint Ambrose. The Stations would be held at 3:00 o’clock every Friday afternoon during Lent. My friend Nick and I would walk over to church to serve Stations for the then-Father Rivituso. Then a bunch of families would go to the not-so-penitential fish fry at Saint Joan of Arc!

The devotion of the Stations or Way of the Cross, like many things in the Church, developed and changed throughout history. But tradition tells us that our Blessed Mother was the first to practice this devotion. Tradition tells us she would walk and visit the way of the Cross after the Passion and Death of Jesus.

After Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire, the places of the Stations were marked for pilgrims, who began making their way to these holy sites. The devotion continued to grow in the Church through the fifth century in places outside the Holy Land. It became a pious devotion to build replicas of the Stations of the Cross.

We have a famous version of these shrines in our own nation’s capital at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC, just a mile or so from Catholic University and Saint Anselm Abbey. These shrines were built to give people the opportunity to gain the spiritual graces and indulgences by making the Way of the Cross spiritually at these Holy Shrines.

The Franciscan Order was appointed to be the custodians or guardians of the Holy Land sites in 1342. Early on, there were markers at Pontius Pilate’s home, the place where Christ met His mother, where He greeted the women, where He met Simon of Cyrene, where Jesus was stripped of His garments, where He was nailed to the cross, and at His tomb. These seven stations would develop into fifteen stations by the seventeenth century.

By the end of the seventeenth century, the Stations of the Cross become popular in more churches throughout the world. Pope Benedict XIII extended the spiritual indulgences throughout the whole Church in 1726. Soon Pope Clement XII allowed Stations to be put in all churches throughout the world in order for all the faithful to pray the Stations.

We not only pray and meditate on the Passion and Death of our Lord but we also remember His Resurrection. Today many devotional booklets for praying the Stations of the Cross now include the fifteenth Station of the Resurrection. An indulgence is granted for those who prayerfully exercise the Way of the Cross, actually moving from station to station where they are erected, while meditating on the Passion and Death of our Lord. This beautiful devotion is still an important part of our life as Catholics. In recent history, Pope Saint Paul VI approved a Gospel-based version of the Stations, similar to the version we use each Friday evening with our Soup and Stations.

Please join us each Friday during Lent for a soup and bread supper in the Worship Space at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Stations of the Cross at 7:00 p.m.

God bless you and your families,
Fr. Aidan, OSB

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