So you had a burger on a Friday, maybe broke three out of the four promises you made for Lent, or realized that besides fasting you really haven’t added any prayer. If you haven’t done a great job with your Lenten sacrifices, don’t worry there is hope! I’d like to offer a concrete action you can take immediately this week.
Go pray the Stations of the Cross.
You might think it’s only for the LOL’s (little old ladies) in your parish, but I assure you it is not! Let me give you a few reasons for why you should make your way to your parish for the next month or so of Fridays left in Lent.
What are the Stations of the Cross?
The Stations of the Cross are prayers that help us meditate on Jesus’ Passion and sacrifice for us. They incorporate the use of Scripture, prayers, meditations, and songs while traveling to 14 stations. The Stations are based upon Scriptural accounts from the time when Jesus was condemned to death until He was laid in the tomb. The practice of taking a pilgrimage to follow Jesus’ steps on the way to His crucifixion has existed since the early Church. It’s an opportunity for us to truly enter into the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ passion and death, which prepares us for His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Why pray the Stations of the Cross?
1. So we can never forget what the Cross of Christ is all about
We see a crucifix everywhere. It can lose meaning, just like certain prayers we recite over and over again and have memorized. We can become desensitized to the reality that is present in it. It can even cause you to question why it is so important, and why we identify our faith and identity as Catholics with the crucifix. We even begin and end every prayer with the sign of the cross on our bodies. The cross was the means of our salvation. Never forget what He saved us from! Jesus freed us from the bonds of sin and death, which we inherited through Original Sin (see Romans 5:19).
There’s a song that I have always appreciated for pointing out and praying for the need to constantly see the cross with freshness, humility, and wonder.
“May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross
May I see it like the first time, standing as a sinner lost
Undone by mercy, and left speechless, standing wide eyed at the cost
May I never lose the wonder, the wonder of the cross.”
(Vicky Beeching “The Wonder of the Cross”)
The Stations of the Cross help us remember the story of the cross, and the reality of why this was the most significant event in the history of the world.
2. Drawing close to Jesus transforms our hearts
Praying the Stations brings us to a close encounter with Jesus, recognizing that the story we are meditating on was actually done for us. This is the fact that is the game changer for me when I am praying them. Realizing that all of this was done for me (even though I don’t deserve it), and that I have a call to live differently because of it. Pope Francis said that one of our goals during Lent is “to have a greater awareness of the redemptive work of Christ.”
When we meditate on what Christ accomplished for us and for the world, it fills us with a humble appreciation and a desire to respond.
“This marks the beginning of our conversion: it is the grateful response to the stupendous mystery of God’s love. When we see the love that God has for us, we feel the desire to draw close to Him: this is conversion” (Pope Francis).
We respond to Christ’s love by turning away from sin and toward God. This is why we practice sacrifices during Lent. Through the Sacrament of Confession, prayers, fasting, and getting rid of sinful habits, we are drawn closer to Christ, made new and strengthened to follow Him to His cross and Resurrection.
3. Praying the Stations is praying with the entire Church
Almost every Catholic Church has the Stations of the Cross along its inside walls and prays them every Friday during Lent as a community. I remember when I realized that these prayers go further than just my parish. We are united in prayer with the whole Church, and there is a visual image that brought it all home for me. Every year on Good Friday, the Pope leads pilgrims from all over the world in the praying of the Stations of the Cross… inside the Colosseum. That’s right, I said the Colosseum! As in, the same place where Christians were once martyred for entertainment in the gladiator arena. It’s amazing to see the universality of the Church when pilgrims from all over the world join in praying the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
You better believe this is on my bucket list!
The Stations as a prayer intimately positions us to see not only the result of the love of Christ (the crucifix) but allows us to see the act of love He did for us (the crucifixion).
As Catholics, we know that the crucifixion was not the end of the story. The beauty of Easter and the hope of the Resurrection is celebrated at Mass every Sunday. On the cross the victory over sin and death was won for us, once and for all.
If you want to know who Jesus is, or wonder if He really loves you, go pray the Stations of the Cross. It’s crucial that we never forget our own story, and why we live our lives for God! Come and see the love of God for us, and let it change you!
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).