The Armchair Liturgist: Stations of the Cross

The pastor forwarded an email from one of our students asking about Friday stations during Lent. Are they “traditional,” we were asked. Does a priest lead them?

Good questions. What constitutes a “traditional” way of the cross? For many people, the way it was when they first prayed it. Are John Paul II’s scriptural stations a no-no?

How many priests lead the parish’s Way of the Cross these days?

Sit in the purple chair, if you would. How does your parish pray the Stations? How would you ordain it, were you more than an armchair liturgist?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Stations of the Cross

  1. Jen says:

    Up and down the west coast, it’s always been the Ligouri one. (I suspect because it’s public domain.) Plus there’s a poetry and rhythm to it that I haven’t found in other versions.

  2. Liam says:

    Background for folks wanting to chime in:

    The devotion (or, more strictly speaking, pious exercise) is Franciscan in origin, and was spread as a way for people to be blessed with a plenary indulgence in lieu of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (the Catholic holy places of which the Franciscans have been Custos for centuries). So, an important reference point would be the Enchiridion:

    63. Exercise of the Way of the Cross (Viae Crucis exercitium)
    A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who make the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross.
    In the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross we recall anew the sufferings, which the divine Redeemer endured, while going from the praetorium of Pilate, where he was condemned to death, to the mount of Calvary, where he died on the cross for our salvation.
    The gaining of the plenary indulgence is regulated by the following norms:
    The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected.
    For the erection of the Way of the Cross fourteen crosses are required, to which it is customary to add fourteen pictures or images, which represent the stations of Jerusalem.
    According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of fourteen pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations.
    A movement from one station to the next is required.
    But if the pious exercise is made publicly and if it is not possible for all taking part to go in an orderly way from station to station, it suffices if at least the one conducting the exercise goes from station to station, the others remaining in their place.
    Those who are “impeded” can gain the same indulgence, if they spend at least one half an hour in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    For those belonging to Oriental rites, amongst whom this pious exercise is not practiced, the respective Patriarchs can determine some other pious exercise in memory of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ for the gaining of this indulgence.
    The Stations of the Cross
    1. Jesus is condemned to death
    2. Jesus bears his cross
    3. Jesus falls the first time
    4. Jesus meets his mother
    5. Jesus is helped by Simon
    6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
    7. Jesus falls a second time
    8. Jesus speaks to the women
    9. Jesus falls a third time
    10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
    11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross
    12. Jesus dies on the Cross
    13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross
    14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

    Here is a guide to the Liguorian form of devotion for the Stations:
    http://www.preces-latinae.org/Libelli/ExercitiumVC.pdf

  3. Katherine says:

    We don’t use the Liguori version, but one composed of narrative passages from Scripture, responses drawn from the Psalms, a prayer for each station, and a version of the Stabat Mater. (Don’t recall the source, can check if anyone is interested.) The parish priest usually leads, but as he was away this week, a lay woman (an experienced lector) led them. It’s pretty simple — no servers, vestments, cross or candles; the leader and a few others move from one station to the next, others stay put.

  4. Melody says:

    In our parish one of the deacons leads Stations. We use a similar version as that mentioned by Katherine above. It’s a little more formal; we do Benediction at the same time. The deacon exposes the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning, and we start with the hymn O Saving Victim. The deacon wears a cope, and we (usually) have four servers; one of them carrying a thurible and the others carrying processional candles and a cross. We proceed through the Stations, including the 15th (the Resurrection) except on Good Friday; with a verse of Stabat Mater between each one. After the Stations are completed, we say the Divine Praises, and the deacon reposes the Sacrament as we sing Tantum Ergo (in English). We close with a hymn, usually Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.

  5. Melody says:

    Speaking of the John Paul II Scriptural Stations, the stations most churches have on their walls are the traditional version, and a lot of parishes would rather stick to these. I believe some parishes around here do the John Paul II ones when they have the Stations outdoors. I have heard people mention that they wish Veronica had been left in the new version, even though she isn’t mentioned by name in Scripture.

  6. John Donaghy says:

    Tradition depends on where you are.

    I remember using the 14 traditional stations at St. Thomas, even putting together a version with quotes from Mother Teresa, Archbishop Romero, Jerzy Popielusko, and others.

    We also had a tradition (from the late 1990s) of Good Friday Stations on the University campus, connecting the stations of Jesus’ way to the cross with places on the campus.

    Here in Latin America, especially in the countryside, the tradition is to do the 14 stations outdoors, stopping by crosses placed in front of people’s houses. In some cases a cross is carried.

    The more solemn stations, for example on Good Friday, are often accompanied by statues of Jesus carrying the Cross as well as the Sorrowful Mother, being carried through the streets, stopping for the stations at altars set up by people’s houses or on corners of the streets.

    On the Friday before Holy Week there was a tradition under the former bishop of diocesan Stations of the Cross. People would come from all over the diocese and walk the streets of the city. The stations were often related to the reality of life here – corruption, violence, alcoholism, etc.

    In the parish where I am serving, we will have a parish stations of the cross on the Friday before Holy Week (which used to be the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows). I think the pastor may use Stations based on the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero. He has asked all the parish to bring crosses with the pictures of those who have been killed violently this past year to carry on the way of the cross.

  7. FrMichael says:

    Ditto the comment on the West Coast “traditional Stations” being those composed by St. Alphonsus… at least in NorCal. My own parish has different sets each week, about half lay-led and the parish clergy (priests and deacons) leading the others. Since we have confessions before and after Stations, when the confession line dies down the priest participates in the lay-led in modo laico. I’ve become aware of the practice of simultaneous Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in conjunction with Stations just this Lent. Can’t say I like the practice and do not permit it here. I don’t see how having the Blessed Sacrament exposed but ignored while the procession moves around the church is a good thing.

    • Jen says:

      Huh. Granted, I was living in southern California and Seattle, but I don’t think eve ever seen Benediction/adoration *during* the Stations. After, sure.

  8. Melody says:

    ” I don’t see how having the Blessed Sacrament exposed but ignored while the procession moves around the church is a good thing.” That’s one way of looking at it; another would be that meditating on the sufferings of Jesus *is* adoration, and would scarcely be called ignoring Him.

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