A popular devotional prayer during Lent is the Stations of the Cross. Many of us walked this journey to Calvary as children. We offer it each Friday evening during Lent, our children experience it as part of their Religious Education class and on this Friday, as the world pauses to celebrate Good Friday and the death of Christ, we will walk the Stations with the children at noon (although all are invited to join) while there will be a Stations of the Cross at 7:30 PM for all, young and old alike.
We are blessed to have a beautiful set of carved wooden stations depicting the journey which Christ took, from the halls of Pilate to his death on Calvary and then to his burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. We invite you to take a close look at them, noticing particularly the carved faces of the figures of Christ and others who accompanied him on the journey to Calvary.
From the fourth century on, Christians began making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. One of the most popular practices for these pilgrims was to walk the path that Jesus was thought to have walked as he carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem. Three centuries later the Holy Land was taken over by the Muslims and travel there by pilgrims became much more difficult.
Beginning in the 11th century, Christian armies were formed to retake the Holy Land and maintain it as a Christian state. They had some successes, but were unable to achieve long-term control. These crusades ultimately failed, but those who participated in them (having themselves walked the "way of the cross") returned home and began the practice of building replicas of the places that Jesus passed on the way to his death. The number of these stations varied widely, usually between seven and thirty. In 1731 the Church settled on the 14 stations that have become standard. Oftentimes there will be a fifteenth station added recalling the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
In 1990 when I was on sabbatical in Rome, Pope John Paul II introduced a new set of stations, beginning with the meeting before the Sanhedrin. and, among others changes, eliminating the station of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. The celebration of the stations was an interesting experience, as the Pope celebrated the first station within the walls of the Colosseum which was ablaze with lanterns at each of the openings. Exiting the ancient site, the Pope appeared carrying the cross. Passing by Hadrian's arch he ascended the steps up to the Forum while the enormous crowd followed him. For some reason the new set of stations never caught on, and I could not find any printed copy of them in the city of Rome to bring home with me.
Today pilgrims usually have the opportunity, of carrying a wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem, pausing at places where it is believed that Jesus stopped on his way to Calvary. When I visited the Holy Land, I had the opportunity of sharing the carrying of such a cross along the streets leading to the place of Christ's death.
We invite you and your family to join with us in the beautiful liturgies of Holy Week, and perhaps even spend a few moments in recollection before the Eucharist on Holy Thursday as we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist.
We remind you that on Tuesday evening we will hold our Lenten Parish Penance service and invited you to come and receive the great sacrament of reconciliation. And finally, there will be only one collection next Sunday on Easter for the health and retirement benefits of the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Fr John R. Mulvehill