Monday, June 20, 2005
The Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross is a devotion consisting of 14 different parts - called stations - of Christ's passion and death. The devotion holds many great rewards attached to it including a plenary indulgence. In the Stations of the Cross, we commemorate and remember how much our Savior loved us - to the very end. As we profess at Mass, His dying destroyed our death, and His Rising Again restored our life.

Advice from St. Alphonsus Liguori: "The pious exercise of the Way of the Cross represents the sorrowful journey that Jesus Christ made with the cross on His shoulders, to die on Calvary for the love of us. We should, therefore, practice this devotion with the greatest possible fervor, placing ourselves in spirit beside our Savior as He walked this sorrowful way, uniting our tears with His, and offering to Him both our compassion and our gratitude."

Before each station, pray "We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you [genuflect] because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world."

The Stations of the Cross: 
  1. Jesus is condemned to death 
  2. Jesus is made to carry the Cross
  3. Jesus falls the first time 
  4. Jesus meets His Mother Mary 
  5. St. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross 
  6. St. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus 
  7. Jesus falls the second time 
  8. Jesus meets the 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 is raised on the Cross and dies 
  13. Jesus' body is taken down and laid in His Mother's arms
  14. Jesus' body is placed in the tomb

The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a desire to reproduce the Via Dolorosa. Imitating holy places was not a new concept. For example, the religious complex of Santo Stefano in Bologna, Italy, replicated the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious sites, including Mount of Olives and Valley of Josaphat.

After the siege of 1187, Jerusalem fell to the forces of Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt and Syria. Forty years later Franciscans were allowed back into the Holy Land. Their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, held the Passion of Christ in special veneration and is said to have been the first person to receive stigmata. In 1217, St. Francis also founded the Custody of the Holy Land to guard and promote the devotion to holy places. Their efforts were recognized when Franciscans were officially proclaimed custodians of holy places by Pope Clement VI in 1342.

Although several travelers who visited the Holy Land during the 12–14th centuries (e.g. Riccoldo da Monte di Croce, Burchard of Mount Sion, James of Verona), mention a "Via Sacra", i.e. a settled route that pilgrims followed, there is nothing in their accounts to identify this with the Way of the Cross, as we understand it.

The earliest use of the word "stations", as applied to the accustomed halting-places in the Via Sacra at Jerusalem, occurs in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in the mid-15th century, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to Golgotha. In 1521, a book called Geystlich Strass (German: "spiritual road") was printed with illustrations of the stations in the Holy Land.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Franciscans began to build a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of stations varied between seven and thirty; seven was common. These were usually placed, often in small buildings, along the approach to a church, as in a set of 1490 by Adam Kraft, leading to the Johanniskirche in Nuremberg.

A number of rural examples were established as attractions in their own right, usually on attractive wooded hills. These include the Sacro Monte di Domodossola (1657) and Sacro Monte di Belmonte (1712), and form part of the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy World Heritage Site, together with other examples on different devotional themes. In these, the sculptures are often approaching life-size and very elaborate. Remnants of these are often referred to as calvary hills.

In 1686, in answer to their petition, Pope Innocent XI granted to the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches. In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.

Indulgences for the Stations of the Cross:

As a preface to all of the following, indulgences may only be earned by Catholics in the state of grace. Those unfamiliar with indulgences should consult: Indulgences - The Basics
  • A plenary indulgence every time the devotion is completed.  [A plenary indulgence is the removal of all punishment due to sin. Even though you are forgiven in Confession, the punishment remains unless an indulgence is granted]
  • An additional plenary indulgence if one receives Holy Communion on the day.
  • Also an additional plenary indulgence if one performs the devotion ten times and receives Holy Communion within a month after so doing.
  • A partial indulgence of ten years for every Station made if one was not able to finish the Stations.
    The Conditions for Gaining This Indulgence:
    • Walking from Station to Station when making the Way of the Cross privately; when making it publicly, it suffices for the priest with the altar boys to do so.
    • Meditate at each Station on the sufferings of our Lord.
    • These two conditions are essential. No oral prayers are prescribed; yet they are profitable.
    A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful for making the Stations of the Cross under the normal conditions:
    • One is free from all attachment from sin
    • One receives the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist (Within 7 days before or after completing this devotion but if you are in the state of mortal sin, you can not complete this devotion and gain the indulgence. You must be in the state of grace while saying the stations, even if you satisfy this requirement of Confession after)
    • One prays for the intentions of the Pope
    While there are many benefits, including indulgences, from praying the Stations of the Cross in a Church, it is not always possible to travel to a Church for this. Normally, these prayers must be said in a church building, but those legitimately impeded from doing so may also gain the indulgence by holding a specially blessed crucifix and piously meditating on the Passion of Our Lord while reciting:
    • One Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for each Station
    • Five Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Bes in memory of the Holy Wounds of Our Lord
    • One Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be "for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff" (="the exaltation of Mother Church, the propagation of the Faith, the uprooting of heresy, the conversion of sinners, peace and concord among Christian nations, and the other needs of the Church.")
    • If the prayers are said in common (as in a family) it is sufficient that only one person holds the crucifix.

    Copyright Notice: Unless otherwise stated, all items are copyrighted under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. If you quote from this blog, cite a link to the post on this blog in your article.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this blog are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate, for instance, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made by those who click on the Amazon affiliate links included on this website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”