Via Crucis: what is it and how is it done?

On Good Friday, Catholics usually participate in the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) in which Christ’s path is spiritually traveled to Mount Calvary, while carrying the cross to be crucified.

The Via Crucis also receives the names of Stations of the Cross, Way of the Cross and Via Dolorosa, and brings together various moments of the Passion of Christ, as explained by the Catholic Encyclopedia (EC).

In the past, the number of stations varied, but now the Magisterium of the Catholic Church prescribes 14, which are also the number of stations that will be covered in the Via Crucis that Pope Francis will preside over in the Roman Coliseum this Good Friday, after two years of not have been held in this place because of the pandemic.

The seasons are:

1. Christ is condemned to death
2. Jesus is carried with the Cross
3. His first fall
4. He meets his Blessed Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Christ
7. His second fall
8. His meeting with the women of Jerusalem
9. His third fall
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. His crucifixion
12. His death on the cross
13. His body is taken down from the cross
14. Is placed in the grave

The EC explains that the purpose of the Via Crucis “is to help the faithful to make in the spirit, as it were, a pilgrimage to the main scenes of the suffering and death of Christ, and this has become one of the Catholic devotions More popular”.

The Way of the Cross is performed “by passing from one station to another, reciting certain prayers at each, and with devout meditation on the various incidents in turn.”

The CE specifies that the Via Crucis originates in the Holy Land, specifically in the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, which “was marked with reverence from the earliest times and has been the goal of pious pilgrims since the time of Constantine.”

“Tradition affirms that the Blessed Virgin used to visit the scenes of the Passion of Christ daily and Saint Jerome speaks of the multitude of pilgrims from all countries who visited the holy places in his day”, indicates the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The earliest use of the word “seasons” is found in the narrative of the English pilgrim William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in 1458 and 1462, “and who describes how it was then the custom to follow in the footsteps of Christ in his sorrowful ride”.

The EC highlights that there is no devotion like the Way of the Cross “that allows us more literally to obey Christ’s command to take up our cross and follow him.”

Participation in the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday allows a faithful Catholic to obtain a plenary indulgence, that is, the forgiveness of sins and the total remission of guilt.

You can get it for yourself or you can get it for someone else who has already passed away. A plenary indulgence cannot be obtained for a living person.

In other words, with the plenary indulgence the soul returns to the state it was in when the person received Baptism. If the deceased person for whom the indulgence is obtained is in purgatory, it allows him to go directly to heaven.

More information:

Holy Friday

fast and abstinence

Meditation of the 7 words of Jesus on the Cross

Let us glory in the Cross of Christ

The Sorrowful Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Why the cross?

Forensic examination of the “body” of Jesus

dogmatic exposition

historical exhibition

liturgical exposition

Easter special

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