|From Church of Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Avranches, Manche, Normandie, France|
Our parish, St. Catherine of Siena, like many Catholic churches throughout the world, traditionally prays the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent. I particularly like our tradition of incorporating all three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We begin our evening with a light Lenten meal, made and served by one of the Church apostolates or ministries. This accentuates the fasting. While we are eating, we are encouraged to donate to a local charity; each Friday during Lent is dedicated to a different local charity. This act encourages alms giving. Finally, we all walk over to the Sanctuary and pray the Stations.
The Stations of the Cross originated in the 14th Century, but the images of the Stations could be found in many churches before this time. The devotion has its roots in the Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa. Shortly after the death of Christ, people began making pilgrimages to Jerusalem and tracing Christ's path to His crucifixion. Pious tradition holds that the Blessed Mother would daily visit the site of Christ's passion.
One thing that is fairly well established is that there are a total of fourteen stations. While this may be generally the case, the way one prays or reflects on the Stations can vary greatly. There are different ways of praying the Stations. For example, Joe Catholic led the Stations at our parish last night and we prayed the Stations from a Marian point of view. Blessed John Paul II had his own variation on meditating on the Stations based on sacred scripture. These are available in paperback on Amazon and as an iTunes app.
Saints & the Stations
Over the years, many of the saints have written their own reflections on the Way of the Cross. My personal favorite, available in the Handbook of Prayers and the Daily Roman Missal, was written by St. Josemaria Escriva. I like these because they assume a lectio devina approach. This version is available at EscrivaWorks or can be purchased as a small paperback at Scepter Publishers.
You don't need to wait until Lent to pray the Stations. Traditionally, many devout Catholics have prayed the Station on "ordinary" Fridays. If you can't make it to a church to walk around the Stations on the wall, you can use a prayer card, chaplet or other reminder to help you follow the Way of the Cross.
My mother told me about the Stations at Groom, Texas. I hope to take her some day soon.