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The Way of the Cross, Stations of the Cross (Via Crucis)

THE WAY OF THE CROSS

An excerpt from The Metropolitan Magazine, Volume II. London, 1854...

THE HOLY WAY OF THE CROSS

THE Protestant who enters one of our churches may very probably have his attention arrested by a series of pictures, or colored prints, or may be prints uncolored, hung upon the walls on either side at regular intervals, and of which the artistic execution, in his opinion, will scarcely entitle them to such a place. If he vouchsafes to examine them, he will find that they are representations of certain passages or circumstances in the passion of Jesus Christ, beginning with His sentence of death — "And Pilate delivered Him to be crucified"—and ending with His sacred entombment. It is likely enough, if he be piously inclined, with some faint conviction in his heart or mind, that this event, the steps of which are thus depicted, was the fountain of human salvation, the transaction which reconciled our race to its Maker, that he will form a rather favorable opinion than otherwise of the devout intention of those by whom these pictures were so placed, at the same time that he cannot well suppress a curl of the lip at the artistic taste which selected them. Or, if his visit chance to occur at one of the hours when the church in question is frequented by devotees, he will be surprised and interested to observe a certain small number of persons, an old woman perhaps, or two, and some gray-haired laborer, quite likely a foreigner, a German perhaps, making the circuit of these pictures, kneeling in the aisle at each one, and saying to himself or herself some prayers.

These persons are performing the devotion called The Way of the Cross, and the pictures are put there, not for any aesthetical beauty that they can boast, for that is often, to say the least, extremely moderate, and by no means calculated to raise the enthusiasm of a lover of art, but simply to enable that devotion to be performed. Each picture is but a colored or outlined word, the object of which is to call up to the devotee's mind a scene, an event, deeply engraven by quite another instrument upon the tablet of his or her heart and memory, and if it were little more than a hieroglyphic in its rudeness, it would still serve that purpose, and, were it exquisite as Raphael's Holy Family, might serve it less.

At each of these pictures, called technically Stations, certain prayers are said, and the heart is directed to meditate on the event represented, in order to kindle suitable affections towards the Saviour of mankind in His sufferings. When the Stations have been erected by an authority competent to do so, the act of those performing the devotion is considered equivalent for certain purposes to a devout pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre itself, and has been enriched by the Sovereign Pontiffs with the same indulgences—to wit, a plenary one, each time it is performed. When our supposed Protestant friend had received this explanation he would probably be worse scandalized than by the unartistic character of the pictorial representations of which he will now have obtained a complete solution. The whole arrangement subserves not a purpose of ornament, nor is it even intended merely to excite pious emotion, but provides the means for the performance of an action recognized by the Church as penitential, satisfactory and meritorious.

As at this season many of our readers will, we hope, be performing the Stations of the Cross, we give on the following pages some of the exquisite though simple verses which have been written touching the sacred events they will commemorate, illustrating each with a cut of the Station from a little book in common use among Catholics in practicing the devotion, and called The Holy Way of the Cross. 

NOTE ABOUT THIS PAGE:

The Meditations and prayers below are from With God, by Rev. F.X. LaSance. Benzinger Bros. 1911.
As published with Nihil Obstat, Remy Laport, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur:  John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York, June 7, 1911.

The images and introduction above and article below are from Volume II of The Metropolitan, A Monthly Magazine Devoted to Religion, Education, and General Information.   John Murphy & Co. London 1854.

OPENING PRAYER

Most merciful Jesus! With a contrite heart and penitent spirit I purpose now to perform this devotion in honor of Thy bitter Passion and death. I adore Thee most humbly as my Lord and my God. I thank Thee most heartily, my divine Saviour, for the infinite love wherewith Thou didst make the painful journey to Calvary for me, a wretched sinner, and didst die upon the cross for my salvation. I am truly sorry for all my sins, because by them I have offended Thee, Who are infinitely good. I detest them and I am resolved to amend my life. Grant that I may gain all the indulgences which are attached to this devotion, and since Thou hast promised to draw all things to Thyself, draw my heart and my love to Thee, that I may live and die in union with Thee. Amen.

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First Station

Jesus is Condemned to Death

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

Jesus, most innocent and perfectly sinless, was condemned to death, and, moreover, to the most ignominious death of the cross. To remain a friend of Caesar, Pilate delivered Him into the hands of His enemies. A fearful crime — to condemn Innocence to death, and to offend God in order not to displease men!

Prayer

O innocent Jesus! Having sinned, I am guilty of eternal death, but Thou willingly dost accept the unjust sentence of death, that I might live. For whom, then, shall I henceforth live, if not for Thee, my Lord? Should I desire to please men, I could not be Thy servant. Let me, therefore, rather displease men and all the world than not please Thee, O Jesus. 

- Our Father...  Hail Mary...
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Second Station

Jesus Carries His Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

When our divine Saviour beheld the cross, He stretched out His bleeding arms toward it with eager desire, lovingly embraced it, tenderly kissed it, and, placing it on His bruised shoulders, joyfully carried it, although He was worn and weary unto death.

Prayer

O my Jesus! I cannot be Thy friend and follower if I refuse to carry the cross. O dearly beloved cross! I embrace thee, I kiss thee, I joyfully accept thee from the hands of my God. Far be it from me to glory in anything, save in the cross of my Redeemer. By it the world shall be crucified to me and I to the world, that I may be Thine, O Jesus, forever.

- Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

Our dear Saviour carrying the cross was so weakened by its heavy weight as to fall exhausted to the ground. Our sins were the heavy burden which oppressed Him; the cross was to Him light and sweet, but our sins were galling and insupportable.

Prayer

O my Jesus, I Thou didst bear my burden and the heavy weight of my sins. Should I, then, not bear in union with Thee my easy burden of suffering, and accept the sweet yoke of Thy commandments? Thy yoke is sweet and Thy burden is light: I therefore willingly accept it. I will take up my cross and follow Thee.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Fourth Station

Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

How painful it must have been for Mary, the sorrowful Mother, to behold her beloved Son laden with the burden of the cross. What unspeakable pangs her most tender heart experienced! How earnestly she desired to die in place of Jesus, or at least with Him! Implore this sorrowful Mother to assist you graciously in the hour of your death.

Prayer

O Jesus! O Mary! I am the cause of the great and manifold pains which pierce your loving hearts. O that my heart also would experience at least some of your sufferings! Mother of sorrows! pray for me that I may be truly sorry for my sins, bear my sufferings patiently in union with thee, and merit to enjoy thy assistance in the hour of my death.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Fifth Station

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry the Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

Simon of Cyrene was compelled to assist Jesus in carrying His cross, and Jesus accepted his assistance. How willingly would He also permit you to carry the cross. He calls, but you hear Him not; He invites you, but you decline His invitation. What a reproach it is to bear the cross reluctantly!

Prayer

O Jesus! whosoever does not take up his cross and follow Thee is not worthy of Thee. Behold, I will accompany Thee on the way of the cross; I will carry my cross cheerfully; I will walk in Thy blood-stained footsteps, and follow Thee, that I may be with Thee in life eternal.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Sixth Station

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

Veronica, impelled by devotion and compassion, wipes the disfigured face of Jesus with her veil. And Jesus imprints on it His holy countenance: a great recompense for so small a service. What return do you make to your Saviour for His great and manifold benefits?

Prayer

Most merciful Jesus! What return shall I make for all the benefits Thou hast bestowed upon me? Behold I consecrate myself entirely to Thy service. I offer and consecrate to Thee my heart: imprint on it Thy sacred image, never again to be effaced by sin.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Seventh Station

Jesus Falls the Second Time

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

The suffering Jesus, under the weight of His cross, again falls to the ground; but the cruel executioners do not permit Him to rest a moment. Pushing and striking Him, they urge Him onward. It is the frequent repetition of our sins which oppresses Jesus. Knowing and realizing this, how can I continue to sin?

Prayer

O Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me! Extend to me Thy gracious hand and support me, that I may never again fall into my old sins. From this very moment I will strive most earnestly to reform my life and to avoid every sin. Help of the weak, strengthen me by Thy grace, without which I Can do nothing, that I may carry out faithfully my good resolution.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc. 
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Eighth Station

The Daughters of Jerusalem Weep over Jesus

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

These devoted women, moved by compassion, weep over the suffering Saviour. But He turns to them, saying: "Weep not for Me Who am innocent, but weep for yourselves and for your children" Weep thou also; for there is nothing more pleasing to Our Lord, and nothing more profitable for thyself, than tears that are shed in contrition for sin.

Prayer

O Jesus! Who will give to my eyes a fountain of tears, that day and night I may weep for my sins. I beseech Thee, through Thy bitter tears, to move my heart to compassion and repentance, so that I may weep all my days over Thy sufferings and still more over their cause, my sins.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Ninth Station

Jesus Falls the Third Time

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

MEDITATION

Jesus, arriving exhausted at the foot of Calvary, falls the third time to the ground. His love for us, however, remains strong and fervent.

What an oppressive burden our sins must be to cause Jesus to fall so often! Had He, however, not taken them upon Himself, they would have plunged us into the abyss of hell.

Prayer

Most merciful Jesus! I return Thee infinite thanks for not permitting me to continue in sin and to fall, as I have so often deserved, into the depths of hell. Enkindle in me an earnest desire of amendment; let me never again relapse, but vouchsafe me the grace to persevere in penance to the end of my life.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Tenth station

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy Holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

When Our Saviour had arrived on Calvary, He was cruelly despoiled of His garments. How painful this must have been, because they adhered to His lacerated body and with them parts of His bloody skin were torn away. All the wounds of Jesus are renewed. Jesus is despoiled of His garments that He might die possessed of nothing; how happy shall I also die after casting off my evil self with all its sinful inclinations!

Prayer

Help me, Jesus! To conquer myself and to be renewed according to Thy will and desire. I will not count the cost, but will struggle bravely to cast off my evil propensities; despoiled of things temporal of my own will, I desire to die, that I may five to Thee for evermore.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Eleventh Station

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

JESUS, after He had been stripped of His garments, was violently thrown upon the cross, to which His hands and His feet were nailed most cruelly. In this excruciating pain He remained silent, and perfectly resigned to the will of His heavenly Father. He suffered patiently, because He suffered for me. How do I act in sufferings and in trouble? How fretful and impatient, how full of complaints I am.

Prayer
O JESUS, meek and gentle Lamb of God! I renounce forever my impatience. Crucify, O Lord! my flesh and its concupiscences. Punish me, afflict me in this life, as Thou willest, only spare me in eternity. I commit my destiny to Thee, resigning myself to Thy holy will: Not my will but Thine be done!

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
B. Have mercy on us!

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Twelfth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

BEHOLD Jesus crucified! Behold His wounds, received for love of you! His whole appearance betokens love! His head is bent to kiss you, His arms are extended to embrace you, His Heart is open to receive you. O superabundance of love! Jesus, the Son of God, dies upon the cross, that man may live and be delivered from everlasting death.

Prayer

O MOST amiable Jesus! If I cannot sacrifice my life for love of Thee, I will at least endeavor to die to the world. How must I regard the world and its vanities, when I behold Thee hanging on the cross covered with wounds? O Jesus! receive me into Thy wounded Heart: I belong entirely to Thee; for Thee alone do I desire to live and to die.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

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Thirteenth Station

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world!

MEDITATION

JESUS did not descend from the cross, but remained on it until He died. And when taken down from it, He, in death as in life, rested on the bosom of His blessed Mother. Persevere in your resolutions of reform and do not part from the cross; he who persevereth to the end shall be saved. Consider, moreover, how pure the heart should be that receives the body and blood of Christ in the adorable Sacrament of the Altar.

Prayer

O LORD Jesus! Thy lifeless body, bruised and lacerated, found a worthy resting place on the bosom of Thy virgin Mother. Have I not often compelled Thee to dwell in my heart, despite its unworthiness to receive Thee? Create in me a new heart, that I may worthily receive Thy most sacred body in holy communion, and that Thou mayest remain in me and I in Thee, for all eternity.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us !

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Fourteenth Station

Jesus is Laid in the Sepulcher

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and praise Thee:
R. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world !

MEDITATION

THE body of Jesus is interred in a stranger's sepulcher. He Who in this world had not whereupon to rest His head would not even have a grave of His own, because He was not of this world. You who are so attached to the world, henceforth despise it, that you may not perish with it.

Prayer

JESUS! Thou hast set me apart from the world: What, then, shay I seek therein? Thou hast created me for heaven; what, then, have I to do with the world? Depart from me, deceitful world, with thy vanities! Henceforth I will follow the way of the cross traced out for me by my Redeemer, and journey onward with courage and fortitude to my heavenly home, my eternal dwelling place.

Our Father, etc.; Hail Mary, etc.
V. Lord Jesus, crucified:
R. Have mercy on us!

Image of the Holy Sepulchre from The Metropolitan magazine

CONCLUSION

ALMIGHTY and eternal God! merciful Father! Who hast given to the human race Thy beloved Son as an example of humility, obedience, and patience, to precede us on the Way of the Cross and on the Way of Life, graciously grant that we, inflamed by His infinite love, may take upon us the sweet yoke of His Gospel and the mortification of the cross, following Him as His true disciples, so that we may one day gloriously rise with Him and joyfully hear the final sentence: "Come ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. xxv. 34).

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