Catholic Moment: It’s time to pray the Stations
March 15, 2011
By Father Earl Fernandes
Our family prayed the rosary every night. Invariably, my mother would say, “It’s time to pray the rosary,” just as our favorite television programs began. The rosary would be followed by a host of prayers, including the Litany of Loreto, the Angelus, a perpetual novena to the Little Flower and a list of Our Fathers and Hail Marys for various intentions.
Lent was more difficult, because just when we thought we were done, my father would speak up, saying, “Get the book. It’s Lent. It’s time to pray the Stations.”
We groaned. As our hopes of seeing the end of our TV shows faded, one of us went to get the book that contained the Stations of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori. We took some consolation that we could at least momentarily arise from the living room floor, for the customary genuflections at “We adore you, O Christ and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
As I grew older, I took great consolation in the Stations, particularly those of St. Alphonsus. Each one ended in practically the same way: “I love you, Jesus my love; I repent of ever having offended you. Never allow me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me as you will.”
It was a very personal, affective prayer that even as children we could understand. Little by little, I would listen not only to my own voice but to those of my brothers and my parents.
Together we expressed our love for Jesus, our sorrow for our sins, our promise to do better and our desire to love Him always and to put ourselves at His service.
The experience became even stronger when we went to church for the Stations. The voices of the whole parish confessed their love for Jesus and promised to do better. There appeared to be strength in numbers. The three “falls” of Jesus were especially moving for parishioners, particularly because we were all too aware of our sins, our falls, and yet we carried on with our crosses.
St. Leo the Great provides insight as to why the “falls” are so powerful: “God our Father has made us His children by making us members of His Son’s own body. We are not saved on our own. We are saved by being incorporated into Jesus Christ together with everyone who believes in Him. This means that the way we live affects the whole church, just as healthy cells contribute to the vitality of the body, while diseased cells infect or weaken it. … Truly, we need each other, for as long as we are mortal, we shall be changeable. One day we may be walking steadily in the Spirit in joy and confidence; another day we shall feel that we have gone backward instead of forward. It is in these times of weakness and discouragement that we need the joy and confidence in our brothers who are walking in the strength of the Lord. And, on those days when we are walking in the strength of the Lord, we can encourage others not to give up hope. No matter how “Spirit-filled” Christians may be, they can never assume that that have finally arrived, until we finally meet Jesus and we hear: ‘Come, blessed by Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”
The Stations of the Cross were developed because many pilgrims could not journey to Jerusalem to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Even today, the Stations remind us that together we are pilgrims, continually journeying toward the new and eternal Jerusalem. There is reason for rejoicing. We are not alone on our journey; even when we fall, there is someone there to help us up. Why groan? We ought to smile when we hear someone say: “Get the book. It’s Lent. It’s time to pray the Stations.”
Father Fernandes is an assistant professor of moral theology and dean of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.