Hype Up Your Stations of the Cross this Lent

I remember the first time I was not able to attend the Via Crucis viviente, or live Stations of the Cross, at my parish. I was working at a restaurant and my night shift meant that I would miss this Good Friday tradition that I had grown up doing. I was devastated. While I still was able to attend the English-language devotion that took place earlier in the day at my parish, something just didn’t feel the same.

It may not seem like that big of a deal but, if you’re Hispanic like me, you know that we go hard on this solemn day. It’s more than just your VBS kind of play. Many of our parents and grandparents grew up experiencing huge reenactments of the Biblical narratives about Christ’s final hours of life. Across Latin America during Holy Week, these events shut down city roads for miles and miles in order to help people journey to the cross with Jesus. (Think Mel Gibson production level, but the blood looks way more fake).

That tradition stays alive throughout the United States in Hispanic/Latino communities everywhere. While we didn’t shut down the streets of our local neighborhood, we did take up most of the parish grounds in order to recreate the scenes of the Passion and Death of Jesus and help the faithful dive into the meaning of those holy days. We don’t just meditate on the events — we literally walk with Jesus through it.

As you gear up for Holy Week, take a lesson from this awesome Hispanic/Latino tradition and get yourself into the narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death by incorporating some of these ideas into your prayer life:

1. Walk the walk

It is a common devotional practice to meditate on the Stations of the Cross on Fridays throughout the Lent season. Kick this form of prayer up a notch by taking it outside and walking while you reflect on the stations. I know for me, it is tempting to only think of the Passion of Christ in the abstract, when it was very much a physical experience. But what those long processions of the Via Crucis viviente taught me was that Jesus felt every single step and every one of the moves He made while carrying the Cross.

Try walking through the Stations, and reflect on just how human Jesus’ effort was. You can follow the outdoor stations on your parish grounds if they have them. You could grab your favorite Stations of the Cross devotional and head out on a hike to pray on the move. By making a journey out of this prayer, we are more able to recognize the great effort that was required for Jesus to make that long and painful walk for our sake (and for the sake of the whole world).

2. Pick a character

Another good practice as you pray with this devotion is to try to place yourself as one of the characters in the narrative. This is a common form of imaginative prayer, in which you can really place yourself in the biblical story. One of the best parts of the Via Crucis viviente at my parish was that it was led by the young adults of the Hispanic community, and so these were people that I knew pretty well and already related to in some way. This really opened my eyes as to how these people could have been any of us: a kind woman simply looking to provide comfort by wiping Jesus’ face; a complete stranger, asked to lend a hand to an innocent man; a close friend, led astray by temptation and sin.

As you enter into Christ’s way of the cross, pay attention to what characters stand out to you the most. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what unique perspective that brings to your relationship with Him and with others. Let the life-changing events of that day be present in your own life now, and see how that is an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.

3. Let it change you

This might seem like a “duh” kind of suggestion, but it goes overlooked more than you think. I think the benefit of having the Via Crucis viviente every year was that the different characters were played by new people each time, and thus felt unique in their own way. That made it really easy for me to draw something different out of it each year. It reminded me that, no matter how often we enter into the word of God, it has something new to tell us each time.

It’s easy to just robotically power through this prayer, especially if you’ve done it for many Fridays in a row. Before even praying the first Station, ask the Lord to help you see something new this time. Afterward, make a note of the new thing you found and praise Him for showing it to you. Ask for the grace to take gift into the rest of your day.

Praying with the Stations of the Cross can be a beautiful way to enter into the reality of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. I hope this devotion leads you to many encounters with Him this Lent, during Holy Week, and always!

To enter into the Stations of the Cross, check out VIA: Finding Hope in the Stations of the Cross, a book that will guide you through praying these and lead you into Christ’s suffering and death.