Background and History
For Roman Catholics throughout the world, the Stations of the Cross are synonymous with Lent, Holy Week and, especially, Good Friday. This devotion is also known as the “Way of the Cross”, the “Via Crucis”, and the “Via Dolorosa.” It commemorates 14 key events on day of Christ’s crucifixion.
The Stations originated in medieval Europe when wars prevented Christian pilgrims from visiting the Holy Land. In the 12th century, St Francis of Assisi devised the list of stations and started the tradition of reciting it as a type of devotional service. European artists created works depicting scenes of Christ’s journey to Calvary.
“The pious exercise of the Way of the Cross represents the sorrowful journey that Jesus Christ made with the cross on His shoulders, to die on Calvary for the love of us. We should, therefore, practice this devotion with the greatest possible fervor, placing ourselves in spirit beside our Savior as He walked this sorrowful way, uniting our tears with His, and offering to Him both our compassion and our gratitude.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori, 1761
Praying the “Stations of the Cross” is one of the most popular devotions for Roman Catholics and is often performed in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His Passion. The object of the Stations is to help us make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death.
This devotion may be conducted personally, by making your way from one station to another and saying the prayers, or by having the celebrant move from station to station while the congregation make the responses.
A plenary indulgence may be gained by praying the Stations of the Cross. If, for some reasonable cause, the Stations are interrupted, a partial indulgence may be gained for each station.