Stations of the Cross: A private and communal prayer

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Sister Bridget Stumpf shares her knowledge of the Stations of the Cross using videos, slides, paintings, music & books for her presentation. (Renae Bauer photo)

This ancient devotional can be experienced in both familiar and new ways

by Renae Bauer

(May 2017) -- There is a street in the Old City of Jerusalem called the Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief) that is believed to be the route Jesus traveled on his way to his crucifixion. 

The Via Dolorosa has been a pilgrimage destination for nearly 2,000 years, and for more than 500 years the Stations of the Cross have brought the Via Dolorosa to Christians around the world. The stations mark 14 key events beginning with Jesus’ condemnation and ending with his burial. 

This devotional, which helps us to remember the suffering as well as the love of Jesus Christ, was presented by Sister Bridget Stumpf at the February Gathering of Associates as part of their ongoing formation. 

The 14 Stations of the Cross we know today have been part of the Catholic tradition since 1731, said Sister Bridget. Nine stations depict Gospel scenes while the other five are from Christian tradition. In some instances a 15th station is added to acknowledge Christ’s resurrection. 

Sister Bridget mentioned that while the stations are traditionally prayed in church, they can be prayed at home or outdoors (such as the stations at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion), alone or as a group, aloud or silently. She encouraged people to seek books about the stations and consider making their own station book, which she has done. 

Traditionally, the stations are prayed as follows: The station is named, the scene is contemplated, a brief prayer is offered, and a verse of Stabat Mater Dolorosa is sung (“At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to her Son to the last”). According to Sister Bridget’s research the Stabat Mater, which echoes the Holy Mother’s experience at the cross, is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns. 

Another well-regarded Latin hymn is Mater Speciosa, a tender recounting of Jesus’ birth. Sister Bridget pointed out that praying the stations isn’t strictly a Lenten or Good Friday devotional. It can be practiced year-round including at Advent. To assist, she recommended two books to consider for the Stations of the Crib: “Passion of the Infant Christ” by Caryll Houselander and “Stations of the Crib” by Joseph Nassal.

Sister also recommended several online videos for anyone wanting to experience the Stations of the Cross and prayer in that format: 


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