Christians throughout the world meditate and pray at the Stations of the Cross. These 14 spiritual steps reflecting the last days of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem are a powerful and popular Lenten devotion. The Stations are often called The Way of the Cross or Via Crucis and Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows).
Christians are invited to follow Christ and take up their personal, daily cross as they symbolically walk along with Him. Remembering and meditating on the sufferings of Christ’s last days helps draw believers closer in spirit to Christ. The devotion also brings Christians together in a spiritual pilgrimage.
Pictures or tableaux of the events in the last days of Jesus’ life are rendered in artwork, sculpture or engravings and posted at regular intervals, usually around the walls of a church. These pictures allow people to meditate on The Way of the Cross as they pray. When the Stations are prayed publicly, a leader recites prayers, standing in front of each station, and invites those in the pews of the church to follow along from their seats.
The Stations of the Cross have been interpreted in many prayerful ways. There is Mary’s Way of the Cross, or prayers from the perspective of the Blessed Mother on her Son’s last days. There is a shortened form of the prayers, called the Pocket Way of the Cross. Some Stations of the Cross include the singing of “Stabat Mater.” The traditional Way of the Cross generally opens each station with the prayer: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless thee,” spoken by the celebrant. The people respond, “Because by thy holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” The Stations will almost always include scriptural readings for meditation.
The Stations of the Cross will always be prayed in 14 steps corresponding to these events:
1. Christ is condemned to death.
2. Christ takes up His cross.
3. Christ falls the first time.
4. He meets His Blessed Mother.
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls the second time.
8. He meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. He falls the third time.
10. He is stripped of his garments.
11. Christ is crucified on the cross.
12. Christ dies on the Cross.
13. His body is taken down from the cross.
14. He is laid in the tomb.
Many Christians will pray the Stations of the Cross only during the season of Lent, usually on the Fridays of this holy season. But the Way of the Cross may be prayed at any time. Believers may sit in the privacy of their church and pray this devotion with any prayers and/or scripture of their choosing. There are no ordered prayers for the Stations of the Cross. Thus, a Catholic may gain a plenary indulgence whenever the Stations are prayed uninterrupted in a devotion following the 14 steps.