While the need to slow the spread of the coronavirus is critically important, as Christians we are people of hope and should not be worried by these events, but rather, see opportunities for spiritual growth. Increasing our prayers, especially for an end to the coronavirus and for those affected by it, is one very powerful way we Christians can really make a difference in these times.
One particularly beautiful tradition in the Catholic Church is praying the Stations of the Cross. While we can pray this prayer year-round, it’s particularly emphasized during Lent. In times when we can’t go to a church to pray in front of the stations on the walls, technology affords us opportunities to pray at home.
The Blessed Mother’s Stations
Tradition tells us that our Blessed Mother daily visited the places of her son’s passion, and other Christians followed her example. After Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century, crowds of pilgrims began walking along Christ’s road to Calvary, as St. Jerome and other early Christian writers attest.
But with the spread of Islam in the ninth century making travel to the Holy Land impossible, Christians in Europe began to replicate the Via Dolorosa, or Sorrowful Way, so that they could walk with Christ without traveling to Jerusalem. This devotion spread throughout the Catholic world, and in 1686, Pope Innocent XI offered to those praying the Stations in churches the same plenary indulgence as those who go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Imagine that—by walking the Stations of the Cross, you can receive the same indulgence as if you were to actually go to Jerusalem! This is huge! We should not miss any opportunity to receive such a great blessing.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori in the 1700s wrote a beautiful series of meditations for the Stations, which is the model for most of our modern versions. Those of us who went to Catholic grade school and prayed the Stations every Friday remember the initial prayer and response from each station well:
“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
How to Pray the Stations at Home
Technology is affording us so many opportunities to grow in grace that we should be thanking God for the internet. As a mother who worries about how her Millennial and GenZ children use the internet, it’s a healthy reminder to me that there is much good out there (including Ascension). So if you don’t already have a booklet at home, or even if you do, here are some ideas for using the web for Stations of the Cross:
Watch the Stations
The Catholic TV Network offers wonderful programming as well as daily Mass. It also has a beautiful and meditative video, Stations of the Cross with Father Reed. The stations we see in the video are beautiful, as are the prayers. Stations of the Cross for Children is a short, age-appropriate presentation for younger children. Very sensitive children may be deeply affected, so watch it first, but it’s very well done. No prayers are said, so you can pause and say a prayer in between.
Another video on YouTube shows the actual locations in the Holy Land. This is not meditative, but it is very interesting to watch, just to see the actual sites: The Via Dolorosa Tour by HolyLandSite.com. It’s not Catholic, but it’s well done.
Listen along to the Stations
Ascension has a beautiful audio version by Fr. Mark Toups reading through his booklet, The Way of the Cross: Praying the Psalms with Jesus. I love this booklet because it takes a very different approach. We imagine how Jesus is feeling and what he is seeing, and then pray with him specific psalms that are appropriate for each Station. So moving!
Read Stations of the Cross Prayers Online or Print Them Out
The Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus de Liguori can be found on e-Catholic2000.com. This includes some lovely images of the stations.
Printable Stations of the Cross are also available. If you don’t have a booklet of Stations of the Cross and you’d like to start right away, you can print out a booklet. Catholic Icing offers a page full of printable Stations of the Cross. Most are for children, but at least one is for adults, complete with meditations.
Gaining the Plenary Indulgence at Home
Gaining the plenary indulgence for Stations of the Cross at home has certain extra requirements, but if you have a home-bound loved one, it would certainly be worth the effort.
The requirements for gaining any plenary indulgence are:
- Be in a state of grace (no mortal sin)
- Be detached from sin, even venial sin
- Make a good confession within twenty days before or after
- Receive Holy Communion within twenty days before or after
- Pray for the pope’s intentions.
Additional requirements for the plenary indulgence for Stations of the Cross at home:
- Have properly hung and blessed Stations (could be fourteen small crosses)
- Move from station to station (or at least the leader moves from station to station).
If all the conditions are not met, the indulgence becomes a partial indulgence, so even while we’re striving to be free from sin, our Lord mercifully rewards us for our efforts to grow closer to him.
The Fruit of Prayer
Praying the Stations of the Cross, either at church or at home, provides us with many graces and opportunities to grow in our love of God. In both good times and difficult times, this beautiful devotion is a source of great comfort, for it not only reminds us of all that our Lord has done for us. It reminds us that, even in the trials of life, our Lord is with us, he loves us, and joy awaits us. Lent always ends with Easter.
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Jeannette Williams is the part-time communications coordinator of St. Jude Church and Shrine in Chalfont, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer and blogger. The mother of six, she homeschooled the first five through high school in the classical tradition, while the youngest now attends a new classical high school, Martin Saints, in Oreland, Pennsylvania. Jeannette’s greatest passion, besides her family, is to study the Catholic Faith and share it with others. When she’s not writing, Jeannette enjoys studying Spanish and Japanese, gardening, and spending time with her husband and children.
Featured image from needpix.com
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