Three sections devoted to a time-honored tradition picked up from Jerusalem in ancient times, and thanks to the Franciscans, we have as a part of nearly every Catholic church yet today:
§ 132 § The Stations of the Cross originated early in the history of the Church. It was the custom of the faithful to follow the way walked by Christ from Pilate’s house in Jerusalem to Calvary. As time went on, pilgrims to the holy city desired to continue this devotion when they returned home. In the fourteenth century when the Franciscans were entrusted with the care of the holy places in Jerusalem they promoted the use of images depicting the Lord’s Way of the Cross.
§ 133 § Whether celebrated by a community or by individuals, the Stations of the Cross offer a way for the faithful to enter more fully into the passion and death of the Lord and to serve as another manifestation of the pilgrim Church on its homeward journey. Traditionally the stations have been arranged around the walls of the nave of the church, or, in some instances, around the gathering space or even the exterior of the church, marking the devotion as a true journey.*
* Often churches have images as well as the crosses that mark the fourteen or fifteen stations. While the depictions of the passion are desirable, only the crosses are needed. The images that accompany the crosses are optional.
This is the note from the US bishops, unreferenced. Almost every place I’ve seen has images. I suppose the advantage to having just the crosses is that one can do alternate meditations, like this Scriptural one attributed to Pope John Paul II, and used by him publicly in Rome from 1991.
§ 134 § The Stations enjoy a long tradition. In recent times some parishes have clustered the stations in one place. While such an arrangement may be expedient, it is not desirable because it eliminates space for movement, which characterizes this devotion as a “way” of the cross.
Movement is a definite challenge. My parish has a prayer pathway from one entrance into the church. It’s great for individual movement or small groups. More than twenty, not so good. I like less the layout I’ve seen inside many churches along the perimeter of the nave, especially where people sit in pews and let the leaders walk the way. Not everyone likes outside, so I suppose we live with stations less then optimal for those numbers of devotees from one to several hundred.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.