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Praying the Stations of the Cross
March 19, 2012

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 majority concern His final walk through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying the Cross.

The Stations originated in medieval Europe when wars prevented Christian pilgrims from visiting the Holy Land. The faithful installed sculptures or paintings from European artists depicting scenes of Christ's journey to Calvary. These were posted at intervals along a procession route, inside the parish church or outdoors. Performing the devotion meant walking the entire route, stopping to pray at each "station."

Today, images of the Stations (or simple crosses representing them) are on display in almost all Catholic churches. They serve mainly as a focus for Lenten worship services. But the Stations can also be performed privately, at any time of the year, even at home.

In earlier times, the number varied considerably in different places but fourteen are now considered to be accurate. They are as follows:

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus accepts the cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is sometimes included as a fifteenth station.

The celebration of the Stations of the Cross is especially common on the Fridays of Lent, especially Good Friday. Community celebrations are usually accompanied by various songs and prayers. Particularly common as musical accompaniment is the Stabat Mater. At the end of each station the Adoramus Te is sometimes sung.† For audio recordings of the Stations, click here.

Source: Catholic Online, USCCB

By Paige A. Tomas
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