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Neela Kale Answers:
The Stations of the Cross (sometimes also called the “Way of the Cross” or Via Crucis, in Latin) are a traditional devotion tracing the events on the way to Christ’s crucifixion. The devotion has its roots in the practice of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, especially to sites along the way to the cross. In the 15th century, as it became difficult for Christians to visit Jerusalem, the Franciscans began to erect outdoor shrines in Europe to recall these holy places, and in later centuries the devotion took root throughout the entire Church.
Traditionally, there are 14 stations:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes up his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets his mother
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Not all of these stations are found in scripture; they are based on extra-biblical traditions surrounding the passion of Christ. (In 1991 Pope John Paul II released a “Scriptural Way of the Cross” which closely follows the gospel accounts of the passion.) Traditional prayers that accompany this devotion allow us to meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross. It is often prayed on Fridays, especially during the season of Lent, sometimes accompanied by live actors portraying the events of the passion.