What are the Stations of the Cross?

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 fifteenth 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 fourteen stations:
Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus takes up his cross
Jesus falls the first time
Jesus meets his mother
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Jesus falls the second time
Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem
Jesus falls the third time
Jesus is stripped of his garments
Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus dies on the cross
Jesus is taken down from the cross
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.