Walking in the steps of Jesus
In the years of the early church,
Christian pilgrims would travel to
Jerusalem to walk the Way of the
Cross. Now, Catholics around the
world retrace the steps of Jesus
through the Stations of the Cross in
their own churches or communities.
Stations of the Cross is a Catholic devotion
that has a rich history and can
take many different forms.
Since the 4th century, pilgrims would
come to the Holy Land and visit places
connected to Jesus' life, said Richard
McCarron, associate professor of liturgy
at Catholic Theological Union. "The pilgrims
would come back (to Europe) and
recreate these experiences," McCarron
said. By the 5th century, shrines were
erected in Europe to represent some of
the shrines in Jerusalem.
During the Medieval period, Catholics
began to pray more devotions that were
connected to the passion and suffering
of Christ. "The Way of the Cross comes
out of 16th century devotions to the passion
that are rooted in the idea of a pilgrimage," McCarron said.
Since pilgrimages were dangerous
and expensive, McCarron said, more
stations and shrines were erected in Europe
so that the devout could still follow
the Way of the Cross without traveling
to the Holy Land. By the 17th and
18th centuries, stations were built in
The idea of the stations as being a pilgrimage
was still emphasized. The stations
were built in churches but they
were spread throughout the church. Mc-
Carron said the stations represent the
pilgrimage practice of going from place
to place. "You shouldn't lose the sense
that you move, you walk," he said.
Another important aspect of the devotion
for people in the medieval church
was that the devotion was visual and
engaging. On Good Friday, many people
could not go to church because they
had to work, McCarron said. If they did
go to church, they usually did not understand
Latin. People would pray the
Stations of the Cross instead of going to
Mass. "It spoke their language," Mc-
Carron said. The stations involved
"color, drama, bodily language," all
things that the people could relate to.
Todd Williamson, the director of the
Office for Divine Worship, explained
that the Stations of the Cross "are not
connected to any one season," but it is
more common for people to celebrate
this devotion during Lent. "The stations
take special prominence during Lent because
of what comes at the end of
Lent," Williamson said. "The stations
are a means by which we prepare to
focus on the passion, death and resurrection
Parishes typically hold Stations of the
Cross on Fridays. "Friday is the
traditional day of the week when
the church has recalled the passion
and crucifixion of Christ,"
Williamson said that praying
the Stations of the Cross is still
connected to indulgences, but
for many people this devotion is
a way to connect to Christ. "Stations
of the Cross is a unique way for
the faithful to be connected to the crucifixion,"
Those who pray the stations, walk
along the Way of the Cross. "In its most
traditional form, the Stations of the
Cross is a pilgrimage," Williamson said.
"Walking is a part of it; it is meant to be
a devotion of movement. We literally
walk with Christ."
Sometimes the Stations of the Cross
takes place outdoors, where there is
more room to walk than in a church.
But even when the stations are in a
church, Williamson said, there is still
movement between the stations.
Since Stations of the Cross is a devotion,
it can be prayed in different ways. "There is not one official, singular text
or way that devotions need to be done,"
Williamson said. "For most devotions-
and Stations of the Cross is a good example
of this-there are various ways
and forms that the devotion can be
For example, Pope John Paul II would
follow a version of the stations that was
based in the Gospel accounts of the Passion.
Along with this scriptural version,
Liturgy Training Publications produces
two other guidebooks for praying the
stations. One version is on the traditional
Jerusalem stations and the other follows
the stations through the women
who were present at the crucifixion.
Other stations reflect on social justice
issues in today's world and how they relate
to the crucifixion. Some churches
present living stations, where people
play the roles in the different Stations of
Williamson explained that different
forms of the Stations of the Cross benefit
the different spiritual focuses that
people have during Lent. For example, "If you are committed to social justice
during Lent, that would be a format to
take in the stations," Williamson said.
Where to pray the Stations of the Cross
Most parishes hold traditional Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent.
Here is just a sampling of other opportunities for praying the Stations of
the Cross at places throughout the archdiocese.
Holy Name Cathedral - Traditional Stations of the Cross
Every Friday in Lent at 5:45 p.m. and on Good Friday at 3 p.m.
St. Peter's in the Loop - Every Friday in Lent at 4:15 and on Good Friday at 5:30
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii - Stations are held every Friday in Lent at noon.
St. Ann's in Lansing - Living Stations of the Cross
Junior high and high school students in the parish put on living Stations of the Cross
at 7:30 p.m. on March 30. The young people dress up in traditional costumes and
act out the different scenes from the last moments of Jesus' life.
Divine Savior in Norridge - Cross walk through the streets
This cross walk begins at 1:45 p.m. on Good Friday in the church. Members of the
parish carry a large wooden cross throughout the neighborhood. Stops are made
along the way to pray the Stations of the Cross.
St. Giles Parish, Oak Park - Living Stations of the Cross
Junior high and high school students of the parish organize living Stations of the
Cross. The young people and adults in the parish perform the roles in the stations.
The stations are held at 7:30 p.m. on Good Friday.
Pilsen Way of the Cross - This living Stations of the Cross begins in the
basement of Providence of God Church, 717 W. 18th Street, at 9 a.m. on Good
Friday. Members from eight parishes in the Pilsen neighborhood organize the annual
event and play the different roles in the stations. In the basement of Providence of
God Church, the scenes of the Last Supper, the agony in the garden and the arrest
of Jesus are played out. Then the participants make their way outside. The
procession goes along 18th Street and stops at certain points for each station. When
the people reach Harrison Park, Jesus is crucified. He is taken down from the cross
and his body is carried to St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th Street, for burial.
Port Ministries - Stations in the street
This organization serves the poor and homeless on the South Side of Chicago.
They walk the Stations of the Cross in the streets of the neighborhood. Usually the
walk is several miles long. They stop to say the stations at significant locations in
the neighborhood, such as places that involve children or places where violence
has occurred. The stations follow a traditional script and will begin
at noon on Good Friday.
For information about the meeting place, call (773) 778-5955.
Holy Family Parish in Inverness - Online stations
Stations of the Cross are available on the parish's Web site,
www.holyfamilyparish.org. Along with photos of the stations,
there are audio reflections by Father Pat Brennan for each station.
Catholic Online - Online stations
Catholic Online also offers a script for the Stations of the Cross,
which could be used for group or personal reflection.
Check out the stations at www.catholic.org/prayers/station.php.