Prayer for the Season
Lent is a time for prayer and reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Using these beautiful images and text, you may wish to pray one Station of the Cross at a time or reflect on the fifteen scriptural stations as they are presented here, particularly during Holy Week.
Understanding the Tradition
The Way of the Cross is an ancient Christian tradition. The custom of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem on Holy Thursday, to retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ during his last hours, began as early as the 4th century. For many centuries Jerusalem was the only place where Christians practised the Way of the Cross. But by the 11th century it became too dangerous to visit Jerusalem due to the upheaval of the crusades so, in Europe, it became popular to do a substitute ‘pilgrimage’ in one’s local area. This eventually became known as the Stations of the Cross. The tradition of having fourteen Stations was first seen in Spain in the 17th century. These were sculpted or painted to represent certain moments along Jesus’ journey towards the cross. They were placed in or around the church building. Some of the Stations originated from the scriptural accounts, others grew out of popular legends, such as Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. The Stations of the Cross was encouraged by the Franciscans, and was officially recognised by the Church in 1731. By this time pilgrims had also begun returning to Jerusalem to make the Holy Week pilgrimage. This journey in Jerusalem is known today as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows).
The Stations of the Cross is a journey that involves walking from one station to the next. We stop at each station to reflect on an image and to remember the events of Jesus’ suffering and death. It is a way of prayer. One walks in spirit with Jesus on his journey to Calvary. Some contemporary forms of the Stations of the Cross also make a clear link between the sufferings of Jesus in the first century and the sufferings of the poor and oppressed in the world today. In them we see an image of Jesus’ suffering.
Some forms of the Stations of the Cross include a 15th station to recall the resurrection as an integral part of the paschal mystery. Christian liturgy never focuses on the death of Christ without recalling his resurrection.
Background to the Stations of the Cross
Here you will find a good introduction to the history and archeology of the Passion of Jesus Christ and a background to the tradition of the Stations of the Cross.
- Make your way through the links offered on this site. Explore the places in and around Jerusalem where Jesus’ arrest, trial, death and resurrection took place.
- Find the following images: Gethsemane;the small scale reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple; the city as it might have looked in the time of Jesus; and modern-day pilgrims making the journey along the Via Dolorosa.
Origins and practice of the Stations of the Cross
This is an excellent site for learning more about the origins, history and practice of the Stations of the Cross.
- Find and read the extract from the diary of Egeria, a woman who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the 4th century.
- Of the fourteen Stations, five events are not found in the gospels. Which are they? On this site look for the story of Veronica. This is a legend not found in the Gospels.
- Why do we pray the Stations of the Cross particularly during Lent? What is the spirit and meaning of Lent?
This site introduces you to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. It includes the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross.
- Follow the journey indicated on the map and view the holy places in Jerusalem that Christian pilgrims have visited for centuries.
This site provides a more complete account by Egeria, a 4th century woman who made the Holy Week pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
- Re-write part of Egeria’s story using your own words. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation to accompany it, illustrating the places in Jerusalem she visited during Holy Week.
The following sites may be useful if you are searching for images:
Holy Land images
Images of pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land from Crusader times. Scroll down and click on thumbnail images to view what remains from the artistic heritage of the crusader architects and artists. This is evidence of the love for the holy sites that medieval Christians held.
Image of Calvary
A reconstruction of the hill of Calvary, or Golgotha, as it might have looked at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Palace of Caiaphas
A small scale model of the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Jerusalem temple at the time of Jesus’ trial and death.
Preparing to Pray
The Stations of the Cross involves the whole person in prayer. We are invited on a visual, as well as a physical and spiritual journey. While we are walking from one image to the next, we are invited to pray, to sing and to reflect. The best preparation for the Stations of the Cross is a familiarity with the gospel stories of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. As part of your preparation to pray the Stations, explore the gospel (passion) narratives as well as a variety of images that will assist your prayer. There are a number of sites below to help you in your preparation.
The Passion Narratives
Explore the Passion Narratives and compare the differences as they are presented by each of the gospel writers.
American Catholic has a very readable commentary on Spartan Mark, Eloquent Matthew, Passionate Luke and Majestic John.
Choose readers to proclaim, in parts, the passion narrative for this year: Matthew (year A), Mark (year B), orLuke (year C). You may decide to use reflective music at intervals during the reading. Suggestions include the Pie Jesu by Fauré, or by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Handel’s Largo may also be suitable. A sung antiphon such as Jesus, Remember Me, by the Taizé Community, might also be used.
Reflect on a phrase from the Gospel
Spend 10 or 15 minutes in quiet prayer reflecting on a short phrase from one of the passion narratives, e.g. ‘Your will be done’ (Matt 26:42) or ‘Jesus remember me’ (Lk 23:42) or ‘Father, for you all things are possible’ (Mk 14:36). In order to do this, choose your phrase from the gospel and go to a quiet place. Close your eyes and relax the tension from your body and mind. Repeat the phrase slowly and softly a few times. Allow the words to fade away into silence. Stay with the silence for a moment before concluding.
Reflect on Various Images
View and reflect on the Stations of the Cross from Lodwar cathedral in Kenya. These Stations depict a black Christ, emphasising his identification with all cultures. Discuss the impact of these images.
Traditional or Scriptural Stations
Discuss the events along Jesus’ journey of suffering and how you would depict them. Choose either the Traditional Stations of the Cross, or the Scriptural Stations from the download box and create your own series of images. This may be done in mime or drama, or in painted or sculpted form.
Jesus’ Seven Last SayingsThis site examines the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross, taken from each of the Gospel accounts.
Crucifixion in AntiquityFind the drawing that illustrates the Roman method of crucifixion in the time of Jesus. Have you ever seen the crucifixion depicted in this way? Discuss.
Create palm crossesIf you do not have access to images of the Stations of the Cross, you may wish to create 14 palm crosses and place them around the room or along a corridor in the school. Use these as your stopping points as you pray the Stations of the Cross.
Helping Children Pray the Stations of the CrossThis site is for the primary school teacher and contains ideas for helping children pray the Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross may be prayed individually or as a group.
If you choose to pray individually:
- visit the websites below for access to prayers and images, or
- visit your parish church or college chapel and spend time in quiet prayer at each of the Stations of the Cross.
As a Group
There are a number of ways in which a group can pray the Stations of the Cross:
- Dramatise each of the Stations using mime or a ‘frozen image’.
- Use images or stories of contemporary situations to illustrate Christ’s image in those who suffer in our world today.
- Pray from the Scriptural accounts of Christ’s passion.
- Use slides on a screen.
- Use the traditional Stations of the Cross in the parish church or school chapel.
- Set up the Stations of the Cross in the school grounds. These may be painted or sculpted by students from the school.
- You may decide to make a group excursion into the city of Melbourne to journey through the Stations of the Cross at various city churches. The walk commences at St Francis Church in Lonsdale St and concludes at St Paul’s Cathedral. The route is marked by 14 bronze sculptures which tell the story of the journey of Jesus from the Last Supper to the Cross.
Praying the Traditional Stations of the Cross
Choose from the following to pray the Stations of the Cross:
- Stations of the Cross for Children and families. The text has been composed specifically to suit the primary school child.
- Praying the Stations of the Cross with St Paul of the Cross. This is a well constructed online version of the Stations. It contains an image, opening response, Scripture reading, reflection and prayer for each Station.
- Stations of the Cross. These Stations from Creighton University are written as a personal reflection and may be prayed individually or as a group.
- Prayers for the Stations of the Cross. There are no images on this site, but the prayers are quite beautiful and are related to contemporary situations.
Praying the Scriptural Stations of the Cross:
Since 1991, Pope Paul II has encouraged Christians to pray the Scriptural Stations of the Cross. On this printable document below you will find a short responsory, Scripture reading and prayer for each of the Stations. It is structured for group prayer.
- Scriptural Stations from the Vatican. Pope John Paul II prayed these Stations at the Colosseum during Holy Week in 1994. With each Station there is an image, Scripture reading, meditation and prayer.
Meditating on the Stations of the Cross reminds us that suffering is a profound mystery. It brings us knowledge of Christ and knowledge of self. The fourteenth station is a reminder that we must wait patiently in times of darkness. Christ did not go straight from the cross to the Resurrection. Holy Saturday was a long day of waiting. In silence and hope we wait until the light of the Resurrection breaks through the dark.
We live in a beautiful world, but many in it are suffering just as Jesus Christ suffered. Injustice, greed, violence and poverty are scars on the face of our world and we cannot ignore them. Every day we see images of people suffering their own ‘stations of the cross’. As Christians we cannot truly pray the Stations of the Cross if we do not hear the cries of those who are suffering today and respond to them in some way. It is a call to action.
- Send a letter to your local Member of Federal Parliament urging action for social justice in an area of concern.
- Organise fundraising events for Project Compassion. Visit and explore the Caritas Australia website.
- Find the St Vincent de Paul centre nearest to your school and ask what their greatest needs are, e.g. food, money, clothing. Support them by collecting these items.
- Discuss: What motivates a person to dedicate their lives to relieving the sufferings of others? Moira Kelly is an Australian woman who is dedicated to transforming the lives of children who have suffered from horrific injuries and physical deformities. For stories and images of Moira and the children, explore the website of the Children First Foundation.
- Choose from one of the following sites to research how the Church is responding to suffering in our world today:
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Jesuit Social Services, or Jesuit Refugee Service