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  A Christian Faith Magazine March 2003, Volume 8, Issue 8  
Living the Stations of the Cross
Brother Gus Parlavechio, C.P.
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Along with the Rosary and various Novenas, a popular Catholic devotion, particularly in the Season of Lent, is the Stations of the Cross -sometimes called the Way of the Cross.

St Paul.jpg
St. Paul of he Cross artwork
© Bro. Michael Moran, C.P.

This particular devotion is very old -going back to the 5th century. However, it was not until the 12th century that the Stations of the Cross became very popular. This was the time of the Crusades and they became a favored devotion of those who were unable to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. By making the Stations of the Cross, people could feel a connectedness with those who were actually visiting those stations or stops of Jesus' Passion.

Back at the beginning days of this devotion, there were as few as five or six Stations and as many as twenty Stations. It wasn't until the 15th century that the church agreed to settle on the fourteen Stations with which we are all familiar. However in recent years there has been some movement to include a 15th Station -namely The Resurrection.

The thinking behind this additional Station is that Jesus' Passion does not make any sense without the Resurrection. Those opposed to this idea say that the Resurrection was not another stop or station along the way; the Resurrection occurred at the tomb which is the final stop, the fourteenth station.

You will find Stations of the Cross in every Catholic Church and in Chapels as well. The depictions of Jesus' Way of the Cross are rendered in all sorts of ways; there are Stations in wood, stone, tile and metal as well as in paint and ink. The renditions are as diverse as are the mediums used from classic styles to modem to impressionistic.

Stations of the Cross that are indoors in churches and chapels are to have small, usually wooden crosses above, below or beside each Station. There are also many, many devotional pamphlets of meditations available for use when praying the Stations that appeal to every level of piety and spirituality. This devotion has as its aim what all devotions have; namely, they are attempts to respond to God with gratitude for the gift of faith.

When we pray the Stations of the Cross in a church or chapel, we literally walk from station to station pausing at each one to recall an incident from the drama of Jesus' journey to Calvary. We remember and we respond in faith.

Wooden Cross

I'd like to share a few words about remembering. Recently, I heard these thoughts about memory at a workshop I attended, and I very much liked what I heard. The speaker said that there are two kinds of memory - static memory and dynamic memory. Static memory is the recalling of some past event found pleasant -and that's where it ends. We recall something from the past and that is precisely what it is - the past. Dynamic memory, however, is recalling an event of the past that is a springboard for the present and/or the future.

It is a recollection that has power -that gives direction or support -it is dynamic memory. Hopefully, for us as people of faith, our remembering when we pray the Stations of the Cross is dynamic memory.

St. Leo the Great once said: "You will appreciate the Passion of Christ -when you look with the eyes of your heart on Jesus Crucified -and see yourself there in Him." In the Stations, our experiences of life can and do find links of relationship between ourselves and Jesus. And it is in remembering Jesus' Passion in the dynamic type of memory that we see ourselves there -that we live the Stations of the Cross, and find in them a springboard, a power, and a courage to faithfully take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

The First Station Jesus Is Condemned To Death
The Second Station Jesus Takes Up His Cross
The Third Station Jesus Falls For The First Time
The Forth Station Jesus Meets His Mother
The Fifth Station Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry The Cross
The Sixth Station Veronica Wipes The Face of Jesus
The Seventh Station Jesus Falls A Second Time
The Eighth Station Jesus Meets The Women of Jerusalem
The Ninth Station Jesus Falls A Third Time
The Tenth Station Jesus Is Stripped Of His Clothes
The Eleventh Station Jesus is Nailed To The Cross
The Twelth Station Jesus Dies On The Cross
The Thirteenth Station Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross
The Fourteenth Station Jesus Is Placed In The Tomb
Concluding Reflection The Resurrection

The First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death

We LIVE with the reality of condemnation to death when we learn that we (or someone we love) has a fatal disease- has been diagnosed HIV+ --or perhaps someone we know is condemned by a court to die for a crime or crimes against society.

We LIVE with the reality of condemnation to loneliness and separatism that comes from racism and sexism.

What a terrible knowledge condemnation is -

When we LIVE with this harsh reality, we can go to Jesus and in him find a companion who will not let us stand, alone but will extend an arm in gentle support.

Lord, by your cross and resurrection,
you have set us free -
you are the Savior of the world.

The Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time

It's curious to me that when we pray the Stations of the Cross, we encounter Jesus ling three different times. I wonder if it is reflective of our LIVING with the experience of falling in our lives?

We can sometimes be weak and we fall because of that weakness or selfishness or attachment to some less than admirable behavior.

Jesus experienced a physical weakness that caused him to fall, and yet he got up continued on.

May we find in Jesus' falling and rising an example of hope and perseverance for ourselves.

Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free - you are the Savior of the world.

The Fourth Station
Jesus Meets his Mother

What a poignant moment this was!

As far as we know, there were no words spoken -just an exchange of loving glances in silence. In spite of the hurt and pain - in spite of the grief and ugliness of the moment and the beaten Jesus, the silent look of love prevailed.

That silent look of love is LIVED today in the quiet embraces of reconciliation in families - in the embrace of parents welcoming home a run-a-way child - and in the knowing glance that passes between people in situations where there are no adequate words to say. May we cherish these moments of life -as Mary and Jesus cherished their love.

Lord, by your cross and resurrection,
you have set us free -
you are the Savior of the world.

The Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies on the Cross

If there were a Fifteenth Station, it would be called The Resurrection.

Some of us may have had the honor of being present when someone slips from this life. We pray for them. We visit their graves. We remember them in countless ways from photographs to cherished memories.

From the cross, at the moment of death, Jesus cried, "It is finished." In faith we believe that those words of completion offer us a new beginning. When the fear of death comes upon us, may Jesus' death be a source of comfort and courage that we might embrace that new beginning.

Lord, by your cross and resurrection,
you have set us free -
you are the Savior of the world.

Concluding Reflection

If there were a Fifteenth Station, it would be called The Resurrection.

As Christians, we LIVE in the hope of the Resurrection - the Resurrection of the dead AND we LIVE with the little Resurrections that happen along life's way. Resurrections like recovery from illness or addiction - Resurrections like reconciliations and comings home - Resurrections like new found courage and new insights - openness to grace and favors granted.

Truly then, the Stations of the Cross are the Stations of our lives.

In the memory of Jesus' Passion,
evoked in the Stations of the Cross,
may we find strength and courage
to journey with Jesus,
to take up our crosses and follow him,
for by his cross and resurrection,
Jesus has set us free
and is the Savior of the world.


We extend our gratitude to Brother Gus and the Passionist Community for allowing us to incorporate some of the Living the Stations of the Cross in our magazine.

For more information and to request a complete copy of the Living the Stations of the Cross ($4.95/copy plus shipping and handling) please contact:

Calvary Retreat Center
P.O. Box 219
59 South Street
Shrewsbury, MA 01545-0219
Tel. 508-842-8821

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