By Sharon Wilson
I have a confession to make. Since it is Ash Wednesday, it seems like a good day to lay out the truth.
Here goes: For as long as I can remember, I have never liked praying the Stations of the Cross! I mean I never “got” it. As a child, I remember waiting out the time repeating words I didn’t understand. Later, when I taught physical education at a Catholic school, I jokingly called it “Catholic aerobics.” Stand, genuflect, kneel, repeat.
I suppose, as with other beautiful Catholic devotions I didn’t immediately take to, I needed to explore the stations more deeply and see how God could make them personal for me. And that’s exactly what He did last year.
On Good Friday, my husband and I attended the Stations of the Cross at our parish, Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, MN. Fr. Kevin Finnegan, our previous pastor, had compiled beautiful reflections from various Catholic authors and saints that fit each station perfectly. My husband and I were in tears at the end of the service. The journey of Christ’s passion, through the stations, finally became personal for me.
The Stations of the Cross are Christ’s journey to the Cross. We follow in His footsteps with each station, and reflect on our own journey through life and the specific trials we have encountered.
After my experience with the Stations of the Cross, coupled with the beautiful reflections Father compiled, I set out on another journey: to share these stations with others. After Easter, I approached Father about the possibility of publishing these stations as a book. Perhaps if I struggled with the Stations of the Cross, maybe others did, too. Perhaps these additional reflections could assist them in growing in their love of this timeless devotion, like they helped me.
Well, I am happy to share that these stations are now available in a book called A Walk of Mercy: The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross. Inspired by the prayers of St. Faustina, it includes reflections from various Catholic saints and writers, and is a moving devotional for personal or communal use. Along with the stations, Fr. Finnegan gives instruction on how to pray the stations. Also included in the book are striking photographs of the 100-year-old Stations of the Cross from the old German Catholic Church in our community.
Here is an excerpt from Bishop Andrew Cozzens’ foreword in the book:
This Walk of Mercy is meant to draw us more deeply into the merciful love of Jesus. It is meant to teach us that our own sufferings and failings are places of mercy, not places of condemnation. It is meant to show us that the merciful love of Jesus knows no limits. This is what allows us to surrender our whole lives to him: we know the depth of his mercy for us, so we can pick up our cross and follow him. As you pray these stations and meditate on Jesus’ mercy poured out for you, I pray you will be able to say in every circumstance what Jesus himself said the night of his passion, “for his mercy endures forever.”
Thankfully, I don’t hate the Stations of the Cross anymore! And I am recommitted to exploring other Catholic traditions that haven’t penetrated my heart yet. (The key word here is yet.)
This Lent, consider exploring a devotional tradition that has slipped away from our modern lives. Maybe it is the daily Rosary, a particular novena, lectio divina, Eucharistic Adoration, or Stations of the Cross. Maybe it is recommitting to the practice of fasting and abstinence. Maybe it is answering that question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” in a way that allows real commitment to journey with Christ in the desert.
Our Catholic Church is rich in so many traditions, and we are blessed to have God working in our hearts in so many ways.
A Walk of Mercy: The Divine Mercy Stations of the Cross can be purchased on Amazon.com. Proceeds for the book go to the Garden of Mercy at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault, MN.