Praised be Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother Mary! Even though our parish church of St. Paul is appointed in a very restrained and simple style, it nevertheless contains those appointments which are standard and typical of a Catholic Church or oratory. As we look at the nave of our church on either side, we see one of these standard features: the 14 images that depict some of the scenes of the route our Blessed Lord took on the day of His great suffering (passion) and death which we call “Good Friday.” Why are they there?
“During the Turkish occupation of the Holy Land in the late Middle Ages, when pilgrims were prevented from visiting its sacred sites, the custom arose of making replicas of those holy places, where the faithful might come to pray. One of the most popular of these devotions was the ‘Stations of the Way of the Cross’, which were imitations of the ‘stations’, or stopping places of prayer on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. By the late sixteenth century the fourteen stations, as we know them today, were erected in almost all Catholic churches.” (From the foreword of The Way of the Cross, by St. Alphonsus Liguori, published by Barton-Cotton Co.)
Various forms of the stations outside of Palestine were built starting in the 5th century; but they were certainly not widespread. St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) had a great love for our Lord’s Passion, and so he promoted this devotion greatly. In 1342, a little more than one hundred years after his death, his followers in religious life (Franciscans) took over custody of the holy places in Jerusalem. They then saw it as their duty to promote devotion to the actual locations, and to “replicating” them in their monasteries, friary chapels, and churches throughout the world. Since most people lacked the means to make an actual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, this was the next best option, enabling one to make a spiritual pilgrimage. Many may be familiar with the Franciscan Holy Land Monastery on Quincy Street in the Northeast section of Washington, D.C. There the Franciscans have created a shrine with replicas of the shrines in the Holy Land.
At first, the number and titles of the stations were not uniform from place to place. Even after Pope Clement XII stabilized them in 1731, variations continued to spring up in different places throughout Europe. The accepted stations today are: (1) Christ is condemned to death by Pilate; (2) Jesus takes up His cross; (3) Jesus falls the first time; (4) Jesus meets His blessed Mother; (5) Simon of Cyrene is pressed into carrying the cross; (6) Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; (7) Jesus falls the second time; (8) Jesus speaks to 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 dies on the cross; (13) Jesus is taken down from the cross; (14) Jesus is laid in the tomb. By Church law, each station must have a little cross, made of wood.
This popular devotion, when prayed along with the following conditions carry a plenary indulgence: (1) Persons making “the stations of the cross” must be in the state of grace, (2) they must meditate on the Passion of Christ, (3) they (or at least the leader) must proceed from one station to the next. The stations are prayed communally at St. Jude at 8:00 pm on the Fridays of Lent, typically utilizing one of the prayer method booklets. Some people make the “Way” privately every Friday of the year; and some even daily. It connects us with Jesus, who suffered and died for us. Hopefully, we find in this devotion, sorrow for offending God through our sins, and the courage to carry our own crosses in life, and those of others. Most importantly we feel the love of Christ, and the hope of His resurrection.
At St. Paul’s we pray the Way of the Cross publicly on each of the Fridays of Lent at 7.30PM. I would encourage our parishioners to make the Way of the Cross during the remainder of Lent.
The Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Friday of this week will be the Friday immediately preceding Good Friday. In the tradition of the Church, this Friday has been a day in honor of the suffering Our Blessed Lady endured at the foot of the Cross. It is most appropriate that this suffering is considered on the Friday before Good Friday. Our Lord suffered his passion, and Our Lady suffered her compassion (which means to suffer along with another). Our Lady’s sorrow was to see her Son suffering upon the Cross, but she was completely resigned to God’s Holy Will. The Gospel tells us that she stood at the foot of the Cross. She did not wallow at the Cross as may be depicted in some Hollywood versions, but rather stood in quiet resignation and dignity, serenely accepting and suffering along with Our Lord in His passion.
CMA: I received a letter from the Bishop this week in which he asked me to extend to all of our good parishioners his most sincere thanks for your generous response to the Catholic Ministries Appeal. Our parishioners’ pledges have exceeded our goal. I am most grateful to all of you for this generosity which is of great assistance to the parish. May God bless and reward you and thank you for fulfilling the pledges.
In this week before Holy Week let us try to finish what must be done so that we may give to Holy Week all our spiritual efforts and resolutions.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda