Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and the Franciscan Friars at Holy Evangelist Friary, Chicago, Illinois recently collaborated for a Zoom Stations of the Cross. To begin the evening Franciscan Friar of the Assumption Province Fr. Gregory Plata explained the beginnings of the Stations of the Cross as a devotion begun by St. Francis of Assisi. We share Fr. Greg’s words here.
The Stations of the Cross became a popular devotion when Jerusalem fell to the forces of Saladin and his Muslim army on October 2, 1187. Thirty two years later, the founder of our order, Francis of Assisi, tried to make peace between the Christians and Muslims to no avail. However, the sultan at that time, al Malik al Kamal, recognized the authentic holiness of Francis, and allowed the Franciscans to minister to the Christian pilgrims who would venture to the Middle East. But because it was still a hazardous journey to travel from Europe to Jerusalem, the friars began to erect shrines throughout Europe that depicted the via Dolorosa, meaning “the way of sorrow,” as Jesus walked from the judgement seat of Pilate to Calvary.
There is no set way to pray the Stations, although many people are familiar with the reflections and prayers composed by St. Alphonse Liguori.
Using several sources, the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday this year are probably more meaningful. Many of us continue to either live with the restrictions or consequences of the COVID–19 pandemic. You may have been personally affected by someone who died this year from Covid. Many still attend Mass online, and even during Holy Week, liturgical services are being offered virtually.
As Franciscans, we believe God is not restricted to a specific place, such as our churches, but comes to everyone and in all places. Our prayers will be focused on the reality of what we are experiencing in our communities and around the world, and also on the beauty of our Franciscan call and discernment.
At this moment, we are in communion together on the journey Jesus took during His Passion. There we taste God’s love and realize all He has done to bring salvation to us. Even during this pandemic, God is working to help us overcome our own suffering.
So, let us ask the Holy Spirit to unite us across the nations and around the world as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery together.
We now begin to walk with Jesus in his Passion.
The Lord bless you this Holy Week! The 13th Station of the Cross from the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Motherhouse appropriately images St. Francis of Assisi behind the Blessed Mother in the background.