Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures — and that’s true also of Catholics who wish to keep up with their Lenten practices and devotions in a time of pandemic and social distancing. With church services curtailed in many areas in the name of public safety, you might find yourself watching Mass on television or the web and making a spiritual communion rather than receiving the Eucharist in person.
As for the weekly Stations of the Cross, that’s probably canceled at your local parish too. So why not pray the Stations at home? It’s a nice communal devotion and very meaningful when you can literally walk the stations at church with your fellow parishioners, but you certainly can do the prayers and meditations from your own home as well, whether with your family or by yourself.
Here are a few quick ideas and resources for praying the Stations of the Cross at home:
Read and pray. There are several versions of the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, and you might find one in a prayer book or devotional on your shelf. Ideally, everyone who prays with you should have his or her own copy so they can recite the prayers and responses as well. So go online and download this booklet published by the Knights of Columbus’ Catholic Information Service. This booklet contains two complete sets of prayers: the traditional version composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and a set of modern meditations (including a 15th station, the Resurrection) written by Father Stefano Penna, a Canadian priest.
Listen and pray. Check our your local Catholic radio stations. They likely have a broadcast of the Stations of the Cross that you can tune in to and pray along with. It might be tougher to recite along without a copy of the meditations and prayers being used, but you can still join silently in the prayers being vocalized.
Watch and pray. Check out EWTN-TV if your service offers it, or else search online or on YouTube for prerecorded versions of the Stations. You can watch these on your phone, tablet or PC, or you can gather the family around and cast the program to your television. You will find some of the Way of the Cross offerings online more elaborate, with music or extended meditations, while others are more concise. A recorded version of the Stations from the Holy Land, from EWTN, may be especially interesting at this time when pilgrimages are postponed to the place where the first Via Crucis took place.
Although the Stations of the Cross are most often prayed on Fridays, the devotion can be prayed any day of the week. If you use a modern version that has a 15th station, just be sure not to pray that final station on Good Friday.
A final suggestion for families: If you have children in the house and still wish to walk the stations, why not get them involved in the preparations? Give them paper and a set of markers or crayons and let them draw versions of each of the Stations using the traditional images as a model. When they are done, post them around the house and in various rooms so you can experience the Via Crucis at home. Your kids might not prove themselves to be budding Caravaggios or Fra Angelicos, but you might find they enjoy the task and thereby enter more fully into the devotion itself.
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana.
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