It is customary on the Fridays of Lent to make the Stations of the Cross, in fact, you’ll find that many parishes do this together as a group on Friday nights. The Stations of the Cross, also called the Way of the Cross, is an old Lenten tradition in the Catholic Church which dates back as far as the fourth century. St. Francis of Assisi is credited for modernizing it into what we are now familiar with.
The Stations of the Cross has always kept a special place with me as one of my personally favorite prayerful meditations. Even in my childhood I remember enjoying the Stations of the Cross services at my local parish with my family on Friday nights. The devotion stuck with me, and I found myself continuing this favorite devotion even as a college student with a Stations of the Cross book right there in my dorm room.
There is something very concrete and very practical about breaking up the Passion into moment by moment pictures so that all Christ endured really sinks in for us. He didn’t merely walk to Calvary with a cross on his back. He stumbled three times. His face was covered with sweat and blood, and probably tears too, so much that St. Veronica had compassion on him in the simple loving act of wiping his face. He saw the heart-stricken face of his Mother, which caused him emotional pain because of his love for her. Basically the Stations of the Cross takes the 3rd Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary and really unpacks it in more detail.
Now that I am older with children of my own, I have come to appreciate the Stations of the Cross for its ability to be a great catechesis tool that can be performed with the whole family. Just like my parents did when they took me to the parish every Friday during Lent for the Stations, so now I take my own kids so they will learn to reflect on Christ’s Passion more deeply and intentionally. In my opinion, doing the Stations of the Cross might be one of the best practices for any family during the Lenten season. And, it can be performed as a special devotional practice on every Friday of the year too, which is a special day set aside for penance for the whole Church.
The great thing about the Stations is that if your local parish doesn’t offer it, or if you live too far away, or for other reasons you’re family schedule won’t permit the travel time, you can still do the Stations at home. There are many great Stations of the Cross books with great illustrations, even kid’s posters that you can hang up in the play room. Have your children lead some of the Stations as well to get them really involved in it.
Although the Stations of the Cross is so familiar to us (just about every parish has them on the wall around the pews) we should not allow it to become something that’s taken for granted. Meditating on the Passion of Christ is what makes saints. And the Way of the Cross is one of the best ways to help us live the Christian life, it is a great encouragement to live the kind of heroic, self-sacrificial life we’re all called to—especially as fathers. When we look to Christ’s Passion, all of our worries and concerns are put into perspective, and we are reminded of what life is all about.
Do you pray the Stations of the Cross with your family during Lent? Do you find the Stations of the Cross rewarding, uplifting, or inspiring?