The Stations of the Cross have a long history in the church, but didn’t become common until the end of the 1600s, likely due to the indulgences attached to the prayers.
The series of scenes corresponding to Jesus’ walk to his crucifixion were originally established as a substitute for those who were unable to travel to the Holy Land to walk the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which had been marked from the earliest times of Christianity.
Although today there are 14 stations, the number of stops has varied throughout the history of the Stations of the Cross. A book published by a Catholic priest in 1584 details 12 stations, however, that correspond with the first 12 stations used today.
According to New Advent, the online Catholic encyclopedia, some Stations of the Cross had Christ falling seven times. The contemporary version has Christ falling on the third, seventh, and ninth stations. The falls were likely dropped by four other stations of incidents that coincided with the falls: his meetings with his Blessed Mother, Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem.
The erection of stations in churches did not become common until the end of the 1600s after Pope Innocent XI, acting on a petition from the Franciscans, extended the indulgences formerly attached to the holy places of Jerusalem to the stations. That permission to erect Stations of the Cross in Franciscan churches was later given to all churches.
Pray the stations at the SLC
Nearly every parish prays the Stations of the Cross on Fridays of Lent, usually in the evening. Those who wish to pray during the day are invited to walk the outdoor stations at the Spiritual Life Center at 3:30 p.m. today and on March 22 and 29. The retreat center is located at 7100 E. 45th St. N., just off of North Woodlawn. In case of bad weather, prayer will be inside.
Can’t get out of the house?
Scriptural and audio Stations of the Cross are available at the U.S. bishops’ website: usccb.org. Go to Prayer and Worship, then to Devotionals.
What is an indulgence?
An indulgence is the remission of punishment due to sin that has already been forgiven. It is further explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1471.