History of the Stations of the Cross

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History of the Stations of the Cross The Stations of the Cross are a Catholic devotion which commemorates the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the fourteen stations represents an event which occurred during Jesus' Passion and death at Calvary on Good Friday. The Stations were originally performed many centuries ago by Christian pilgrims who visited the Holy Land and the sites of Jesus' Passion. Promotion of the devotion to the Stations began in earnest with the Franciscans, wh
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  History of the Stations of the Cross  The Stations of the Cross are a Catholic devotion which commemorates thePassion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the fourteen stationsrepresents an event which occurred during Jesus' Passion and death at Calvary onGood Friday.The Stations were originally performed many centuries ago by Christianpilgrims who visited the Holy Land and the sites of Jesus' Passion. Promotion of the devotion to the Stations began in earnest with the Franciscans, who weregiven custody of the Holy Places in the Holy Land in the 1300s. CountlessCatholics have all enriched their spiritual lives with this powerful devotion.(Also called Stations of the Cross, Via Crucis, and Via Dolorosa). These names areused to signify either a series of pictures or tableaux representing certain scenesin thePassion of Christ, each corresponding to a particular incident, or the specialform of devotion connected with such representations. Taken in the former sense, the Stations may be of stone, wood, or metal,sculptured or carved, or they may be merelypaintingsor engravings. SomeStations are valuable works of art, as those, for instance, in Antwerpcathedral,which have been much copied elsewhere. They are usually ranged at intervalsaround the walls of a church, though sometimes they are to be found in the openair, especially on roads leading to a church or shrine. Inmonasteriesthey areoften placed in thecloisters. The erection and use of the Stations did not becomeat all general before the end of the seventeenth century, but they are now to befound in almost every church. Formerly their number varied considerably indifferent places but fourteen are now prescribed by authority. They are as follows: 1. Christ condemned todeath;2.the cross is laid upon him;3.His first fall;4.He meets His Blessed Mother; 5. Simon of Cyreneis made to bear the cross; 6. Christ'sface is wiped by Veronica;7.His second fall; 8. He meets thewomenof  Jerusalem; 9.His third fall;10.He is stripped of His garments;11.His crucifixion;12.His death on the cross;13.His body is taken down from the cross; and 14. laid in thetomb. The object of the Stations is to help thefaithfulto make in spirit, as it were, apilgrimageto the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death, and this has 1  become one of the most popular of Catholicdevotions. It is carried out by passingfrom Station to Station, with certainprayersat each and devout meditation on thevarious incidents in turn. It is very usual, when the devotion is performed publicly,to sing a stanza of the Stabat Mater while passing from one Station to the next. The Via Dolorosa Over the years, the route of pilgrim processions --beginning at the ruins of the Fortress Antonia and endingat the church of the Holy Sepulcher -- was accepted asthe way that Jesus went to his death. It was known as the Via Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Way; Today, it windsthrough the crowded areas of Jerusalem's Old City, andpilgrims still travel it in prayer. Stations developed on this venerable route as earlypilgrims honored places where specific incidents tookplace as Jesus went Calvary. However, the search for them was complicatedbecause the Jerusalem of Jesus' day had been almost completely destroyed byRoman armies in 70 AD. In many cases, therefore, pilgrims could only guesswhere some incidents described in the gospel took place. The erection of the Stations in churches did not become at all common untiltowards the end of the seventeenth century, and the popularity of the practiceseems to have been chiefly due to theindulgencesattached. The customsrcinated with theFranciscans, but its special connection with that order has nowdisappeared. It has already been said that numerousindulgenceswere formerlyattached to the holy places at Jerusalem. Realizing that fewpersons, comparatively, were able to gain these by means of a personalpilgrimageto theHoly Land,Innocent XI, in 1686, granted to theFranciscans, in answer to their petition, therightto erect the Stations in all their churches, and declared that alltheindulgencesthat had ever been given for devoutly visiting the actual scenesof Christ's Passion, could thenceforth be gained byFranciscansand all others affiliated to their order if they made the Way of the Cross in their own churches inthe accustomed manner.Innocent XIIconfirmed the privilege in 1694 andBenedict XIIIin 1726 extended it to all thefaithful. In 1731Clement XIIstill further extended it by permitting theindulgencedStations to all churches, provided thatthey were erected by aFranciscanfather with the sanction of the ordinary. At thesame time he definitely fixed the number of Stations at fourteen.Benedict XIVin1742 exhorted allprieststo enrich their churches with so great a treasure, andthere are few churches now without the Stations. In 1857 thebishopsof England  received faculties from theHoly Seeto erect Stations themselves, with theindulgencesattached, wherever there were noFranciscansavailable, and in 1862 this last restriction was removed and thebishopswere empowered to erect theStations themselves, either personally or by delegate, anywhere within their jurisdiction. These faculties are quinquennial. There is some uncertainty as to 2  what are the preciseindulgencesbelonging to the stations. It is agreed that allthat have ever been granted to the faithful for visiting the holy places in personcan now be gained by making the Via Crucis in any church where the Stationshave been erected in due form, but the Instructions of the Sacred Congregation,approved byClement XIIin 1731, prohibitpriestsand others from specifying what or how manyindulgencesmay be gained. In 1773Clement XIVattached the same indulgence, under certain conditions, to crucifixes duly blessed for the purpose,for the use of the sick, those at sea or inprison, and others lawfully hindered frommaking the Stations in a church. The conditions are that, whilst holding thecrucifix in their hands, they must say the Pater and Ave fourteen times, thenthe Pater , Ave , and Gloria five times, and the same again once each for thepope'sintentions. If onepersonhold the crucifix, a number present may gain the indulgencesprovided the other conditions are fulfilled by all. Such crucifixescannot be sold, lent, or given away, without losing theindulgence. The following are the principal regulations universally in force at the present timewith regard to the Stations: ã If apastoror a superior of aconvent,hospital, etc., wishes to have the Stations erected in their places he must ask permission of thebishop. If there areFranciscanFathers in the same town or city, their superior must beasked toblessthe Stations or delegate somepriesteither of his own monasteryor asecular priest. If there are noFranciscanFathers in that place thebishopswho have obtained from theHoly Seethe extraordinary of  Form C can delegate anypriestto erect the Stations. This delegation of acertainpriestfor the blessing of the Stations must necessarily be done inwriting. Thepastorof such a church, or the superior of such ahospital, convent, etc., should take care to sign the document thebishopor the superior of themonasterysends, so that he may thereby express hisconsent to have the Stations erected in their place, for thebishop'sand therespectivepastor'sor superior's consent must be had before the Stationsare blessed, otherwise the blessing is null and void; ã Pictures or tableaux of the various Stations are notnecessary. It is to thecross placed over them that theindulgenceis attached. These crosses mustbe of wood; no other material will do. If onlypaintedon the wall the erectionis null (Cong. Ind., 1837, 1838, 1845); ã If, for restoring the church, for placing them in a more convenient position,or for any other reasonable cause, the crosses are moved, this may be donewithout theindulgencebeing lost (1845). If any of the crosses, for somereason, have to be replaced, no fresh blessing is required, unless more thanhalf of them are so replaced (1839). ã  There should if possible be a separate meditation on each of the fourteenincidents of the Via Crucis, not a general meditation on the Passion or onother incidents not included in the Stations. No particularprayersareordered; 3  ã  The distance required between the Stations is not defined. Even when onlytheclergymove from one Station to another the faithful can still gain theindulgencewithout moving; ã It isnecessaryto make all the Stations uninterruptedly (S.C.I., 22 January,1858). Hearing Mass or going to Confession or Communion between Stationsis not considered an interruption. According to many the Stations may bemade more than once on the same day, theindulgencemay be gained eachtime; but this is by no means certain (S.C.I., 10 Sept., 1883). Confession andCommunion on the day of making the Stations are notnecessaryprovidedthepersonmaking them is in a state of grace; ã Ordinarily the Stations should be erected within a church or public oratory. If the Via Crucis goes outside, e.g., in a cemetery orcloister, it should if possible begin and end in the church. 4
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