Word on Fire’s Bishop Robert Barron offers us his own meditations on the Via Crucis, as a Lenten exercise to prepare for Holy Week.

One of the most popular Christian devotions is the Via Crucis. Also known as the Stations of the Cross, the Way of the Cross, or the Way of Sorrows, it consists of a series of images depicting Jesus on the day of his crucifixion that help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts, through the contemplation of the Passion of the Christ.

As Phil Kosloski explains in his article on the Via Crucis, early Christian traditions claim that Mary paid daily visits to the sites of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection after his ascension into Heaven. Many other traditions, Kosloski adds, “also claim that Mary followed Jesus along the road to Calvary.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that “a group of connected chapels were constructed as early as the fifth century, by St. Petronius, Bishop of Bologna, which were intended to represent the more important shrines of Jerusalem […] These may perhaps be regarded as the germ from which the Stations afterwards developed, though it is tolerably certain that nothing that we have before about the 15th century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense.”

As the situation in the Holy Land became more and more volatile during the Middle Ages, pilgrims were not given easy access to the shrines of Jesus’ Passion. Monks and friars throughout Europe thus began building chapels and shrines that replicated these sites in Jerusalem.

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