The last things we do in life may be memorable to our loved ones as they mourn and remember what we did and how we died. I remember my father had been in the VA Hospital in Fort Wayne. He had an infection in his leg and they couldn’t get it stopped. Dad wanted to come home as the family was gathering for my brother’s wedding. He did come home and saw all his children and grandchildren the week before the wedding. We enjoyed being together, playing games, laughing and talking. We were (still are) a rather loud group! As the week wore on, Dad was feeling worse and decided he could not go to the wedding. My younger brother and his family, my family and I were all leaving following the wedding it was 2 hours in the direction we needed to go.
A few days later, my Mother let me know that Dad was now in the Indianapolis VA Hospital and they were doing more tests. After a few days, we came to realize that this infection was far worse than we had imagined. Unless Dad had a very extensive surgery, he was not going to have a chance of recovery. He had endured so many surgeries over the years that he felt he would die anyway. He decided not to have the surgery. I left for home again as soon as I packed and called my brother on his honeymoon to let him know. We gathered at the hospital to be with Dad. He asked me to pray the Rosary with him and my youngest daughter and I prayed. Dad asked about my two brothers who arrived the next day.
Dad liked seeing his children all together. We were there with him and each had an opportunity to talk to our Father alone. Dad had been a good father, and provider. He met Mom when he came home from WWII and they married in November of 1946. Together they had taken good care of us and given us values, faith, and love. What more could we ask!
Jesus gave himself to us at the Last Supper when he blessed and broke the bread saying “This is my Body.” And, he took the cup of wine, blessed it and said, “This is my Blood.” (Matt 26;26-29). Although the Apostles were not sure what this meant at the time, they would come to understand. Following the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and told them to do this, too. (John 13:1-16) Then, they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane . The Apostles did not understand that Jesus was going to die. When the soldiers came for Him, Peter responded with a sword, but then they seemed to disappear into the crowds of Jerusalem as Jesus began his steps to Calvary. (Mark 14:43-50)
The story of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was told over and over. Christians of the time, living in Jerusalem, walked from one place to another praying and remembering the Way of the Cross. When Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the empire in the year 312, the people marked the “stations” where the steps of Jesus took him to Calvary. People were making pilgrimages to Jerusalem to walk the path that Jesus walked known as the “Via Dolorosa” or sorrowful way. By the fifth century there was interest in reproducing the Way of the Cross so that the many people who could not go to Jerusalem could still pray and remember the steps of Jesus in their hearts. Chapels in monasteries were the first to have Stations of the Cross. This eventually spread to the Churches in the communities. In 1342, the Franciscan priests became the guardians of the shrines in the Holy Land. In 1462 the form of the stations became the way we pray them today. Pope Clement XII encouraged all churches to have a representation of the Way of the Cross and established 14 as the required number of crosses. There are many printed booklets of meditation on the 14 stations. This is a popular devotion meaning it came about because of the grass roots effort and actions of people wanting to give honor to the Way of the Cross. In 1975 a biblical version of the Stations was approved by Pope Paul VI and, during Pope John Paul II time as Pope, he wrote his own version.
The one I have included here is a traditional one that I have composed and not all the stations can be found in scripture. I have given references for those stations which are scriptural. It’s customary to start with the Sign of the Cross and to genuflect before the station. I’ve included a prayer that I say before or after each station. Meditate upon each station; contemplate what it might have been like to be there. This is a prayer that moved me as a little child when I first learned to pray the fourteen steps or Stations of the Cross. It has always been with me since!
In the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT, AMEN
PRAYER BEFORE EACH STATION “I love Thee, my beloved Jesus; I love Thee more than myself; (genuflect) I repent with my whole heart of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.”
+First Station: Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, when Judas betrays Him; He is arrested and taken before Pilate who condemns Him to death. ( Mark 15:1-15) My Jesus, I never want to abandon you. I know you are always there fo me. Lord Jesus, give me fortitude to stay with someone who is in need of a companion during a trial.
PRAYER AFTER EACH STATION: You may choose to pray: The Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary or Glory Be
+Second Station: Jesus has a crown of thorns pressed into His head and is beaten with a whip which surely tore His holy flesh to shreds. The soldiers give Him The Cross to carry. (Matt 17:24-31) My Bleeding Jesus, I wish to wash away the dirt and grime from your wounds. Your precious blood is shed for Me. Jesus, give me wisdom to know what to say to someone who is suffering.
+Third Station: Jesus is weak from his beating and has lost much blood. He falls the first time. (John 19:17) My Jesus, falling down with the weight of the cross, have mercy on me. I adore you with all that I am. I pray, Lord, that Through your grace, I will be able to counsel someone who has fallen and needs a friend.
+Fourth Station: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is able to get close to Him and they can see each other. (John 19:25) How difficult it must have been to see your Mother’s sorrow as she looked at you. She had cared for you and loved you with all her heart. Lord, many people do not have the experience of a Mother or Father that they needed growing up. Give me “awe of the Lord” to speak of Mary and God the Father’s love and compassion.
+Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene is pulled from the crowd to help Jesus carry His Cross. (Mark 15:21) We don’t know at what point in the ordeal that Simon was called upon to help. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:4) My Jesus, give me the meekness to reach out to those who are suffering and humbly offer assistance during a difficult time.
+Sixth Station: A woman called Veronica comes out of the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus of the sweat and blood. Jesus left the imprint of his face on the towel. (Identified as 1st Century St. Veronica, seen as an act of Charity). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt 5:6) My Jesus, when I see injustice, give me your grace to understand what I need to do to stop it.
+Seventh Station: Jesus falls the second time. How he must hurt and suffer just carrying the Cross! ( it is “tradition” that Jesus fell.) He would have been very weak. Jesus is losing blood, on this hot and dusty walk while the noise of the crowd and the whips of the soldiers crackle around Him. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8). My Jesus. My Jesus, you are giving your all to complete this walk. Help me to follow your example of giving my all to God.
+Eighth Station: Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem who are weeping for Him, when he said to them, “Weep not for me but for your children.” (Luke 23:27-31) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt 5:4) My Jesus, weeping for those I love, my consolation is I think of them with You. The hope we have of resurrection from the dead inspires deep piety in my heart. I offer you everything I have, My Lord.
+Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time. (Again, tradition) The walk would have been about a mile and the last part was uphill. Jesus has been awake all night, probably without any nourishment since the Last Supper with His Apostles. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:9). Your love for us, Jesus, is beyond our comprehension. I want to pick you up dear Jesus and hold you in my arms. How much God must love us! My Jesus, forgive me of all my sins.
+Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments. (Mark 15:24) Even though we see Jesus with a loin covering, the Romans crucified people without any covering. It was a form of humiliation. My Jesus, you are strength, love and righteousness. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3). My Jesus, cover me with your love. It is all I need.
+Eleventh Station: Jesus Is nailed to the Cross. (Luke 23:32-38) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7) My Jesus, the pain and agony of nails going through your skin, muscles and bones and still you do not cry out. My heart is breaking for you, Oh my God! Instill in me a deep and abiding gratitude for all that you have done.
+Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross. (John 19:25-37). Jesus I see you in agony upon the Cross while John and your Mother stand nearby. You speak to them asking them to care for each other as Mother and son. And, after a loud cry, My Jesus, your agony comes to an end. I see your limp body and see Love personified, but still I grieve. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:10) (kneel silently for a moment)
+Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ body is removed from the Cross. (Luke 23: 48-56) Nicodemus had permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross. Climbing up to take Him down with utmost care, handing him down to John and another to lay him on the linen burial cloth, the women did not have time to prepare Jesus for burial. They planned to come back after the Sabbath to anoint him with oils of frankincense and Myrrh. They wrapped his body and carried him to the tomb. Losing a family member or a friend, reminds me that we are not made for this world. My Jesus, give me knowledge to help others prepare for the burial of their loved ones.
+Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. Luke 23:50-56. The men carry Jesus’ body to the tomb and lay him gently on the ground. The face cloth was tenderly laid in place. As they finished, the guards arrived and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. The small group walked away somber and weeping with each other. My Jesus, it is so hard to walk away from the cemetery leaving a loved one there in the cold ground. My Jesus, you have given us your time, your Love, instruction and everything we have. Help me to share my time and love with everyone I meet. My Jesus, help them see you in me for your sake.
+15th Station: The Resurrection. (Matt 28:1-29). The women went back to the grave to anoint the Body of Jesus. Upon arrival, they found the rock rolled away and the linen cloth folded neatly. An Angel told them that Jesus was not there; He is risen. I gaze upon the Altar where the Blessed Sacrament rests in the Tabernacle. My Jesus, I adore thee in the Most Holy Sacrament. Come into my heart, body and blood, soul and divinity, and reign as my God and my King every minute of every day for the rest of my life. Amen
CLOSING PRAYER: AN ACT OF CHARITY, oh my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, Because you are all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.