Q: I have two questions about the Stations of the Cross. When I make the
Stations on my own, are there any set prayers I must use? And what must
I do in order to gain whatever indulgences are attached to the Stations?
A: I am sure many people wonder about the matters you have raised.
The first thing to remember about the Stations of the Cross is that this traditional devotion does not form part of the liturgy of the Church.
The liturgy is the Church’s official forms of worshipping God. It includes the Mass, the Sacraments, funeral rites, Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.
In all of these forms of worship there is an official rite or set of prayers approved by the Church which must be followed.
Since the Stations of the Cross are not part of the liturgy, there is no official rite for them. As I mentioned in an earlier column, the Church has approved the devotion of the Stations and has recommended the traditional 14 Stations, but there are no official prayers that must be said.
Over the years, various saints and others have composed prayers and reflections on the different Stations that the faithful have found helpful. Some of them, like the Stations of St Alphonsus Liguori and those of St Josemaría Escrivá, have proven especially popular.
When parishes and other groups do the Stations together, they usually choose one or another of the many published versions.
These usually begin with the announcement of the Station, followed by the prayer “We adore you O Christ and we bless you”, which is answered by “Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world”. Then a reflection on the Station is read, which may include a prayer, after which an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be are said by all.
When someone does the Stations on their own, they are free to reflect on the Stations in whichever way they prefer. Many people will have a booklet with a version they like, and will say the same prayers that would be used by a group.
Others may prefer to read only the reflection, followed by their own prayers, or simply to meditate silently on each Station. Since the Stations are a matter of popular piety, each person can live the devotion in the way that most suits them.
In regards to your second question, over the centuries the Church has granted numerous indulgences for those who make the Stations of the Cross. Indulgences were first granted for those who made the Stations in Jerusalem itself, but later they were extended to the devotion done wherever the Stations were erected in churches throughout the world.
At the present time, according to the fourth edition of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, or list of indulgences, published in 1999, a plenary indulgence is granted under the usual conditions (cf. J. Flader, Question Time, Connor Court 2008, n. 81) for those who make the Stations of the Cross.
In order to gain the indulgence the following norms must be observed.
The pious exercise must be made before Stations of the Cross legitimately erected. For the erection of the Stations 14 crosses are required, to which it is customary to add 14 pictures or images, which represent the Stations of Jerusalem.
According to the more common practice, the pious exercise consists of 14 pious readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. However, nothing more is required than a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the Stations.
A movement from one Station to the next is required.
But if the pious exercise is made publicly and if it is not possible for all taking part to go in an orderly way from Station to Station, it suffices if at least the one leading the exercise goes from Station to Station, the others remaining in their place.
Those who are legitimately impeded can gain the same indulgence if they spend at least some time, for example a quarter of an hour, in pious reading and meditation on the Passion and Death of our Lord.
The Church, by granting a plenary indulgence for this devotion, is obviously encouraging the faithful to practise it regularly. It is truly a source of many blessings.
Fr Flader: email@example.com