Stations of the Cross: A spiritual pilgrimage

The Stations of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross or Via Crucis, commemorate Jesus’s passion and death on the cross. There are 14 stations that each depict a moment on his journey to Calvary, usually through sacred art, prayers, and reflections.

The practice began as pious pilgrims traced the Lord’s path through Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa. As many wanted to pass along the same route as Jesus, but could not make the journey to Jerusalem, a practice developed that eventually took the form of the 14 stations currently found in almost every church throughout the world.

This devotional prayer is recited throughout the year and tends to concentrate on the Fridays during the Lenten Season. The Stations can also be done in the form of a reenactment, or Living Stations, on Good Friday. Pope Francis took part in the annual Living Stations of the Cross at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday, April 15, 2022. The devotion allows the Faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage and meditate on the Passion of Christ.

For the Faithful at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, the annual Living Stations is something this Hispanic community takes seriously. In the parking lot and field behind the Parish Hall, stages were erected, and a reenactment of the Stations took place, complete with Jesus crowned with thorns, as well as dozens of actors dressed in centurion garb or playing key figures in the retelling of the Passion. Upwards of a thousand Faithful first watched the opening scenes before following the 14-step procession as it wound its way through the Parish parking lot, stopping along the way to relive the suffering Christ endured with a narrator recounting the Gospel readings.

The reenactment of the Lord’s Passion at Jesus the Worker included: the Last Supper, the betrayal of Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane by Judas; Christ’s appearance before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year; His appearance before Caiaphas; ending before Pontius Pilate in the praetorium. Next came the scourging before His sentencing to death.

Earlier in the day, priests and deacons from numerous Parishes in Sarasota and Manatee counties took part in the Sarasota Ministerial Association’s-sponsored Stations of the Cross along Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Nearly 1,000, representing numerous Christian denominations, took part in this event which returned after a two-year absence because of the pandemic.

The Stations of the Cross took place on Good Friday at many Parishes throughout the Diocese, whether it was inside a Parish Church or outside. In addition, many schools host their own Passion plays as an educational tool for students of all ages.

Lent transforms into Holy Week

In the waning days of Lent and at the opening of Holy Week, the faithful across the Diocese of Venice prepared for the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

On Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022, the Mass opened with a blessing of the Palms and entrance into the Church, reminiscent of the Lord’s Messianic entrance into Jerusalem.

Some Parishes, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee and St. Michael in Wauchula, to name a few, started the opening of the Mass outdoors with an empty Church. This opening included a reading from the Gospel of Luke (19-28-40) and was followed by a procession of the palms.

The Passion of the Lord is a key component of the Palm Sunday Mass. During the 40 Days of Lent, Parishes and Diocesan Catholic schools actively learn about and recite the Stations of the Cross, typically on the Fridays of Lent.

Each Diocesan Catholic school offered a “Living Stations of the Cross,” typically with older students leading the reenactment of the Passion of Our Lord.

Students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples created a Stations of the Cross for the Prayer Garden.

At Incarnation Catholic School and Parish in Sarasota, the outdoor Stations received an upgrade with staining, bronzing, and rebuilding some of the parts that were needed. The “new” Stations were completed just in time for the Passiontide.

At Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, the religious education program had their young charges (grades 1-5) participate in an interactive Stations of the Cross. Students were selected to portray key characters bringing the stations “to life,” while Msgr. Phil Hill, an assisting priest, provided the narration and background for each Station. This enabled the children to better understand Jesus’ journey to Calvary. Catechists and parents were on hand to listen to the story leading to Christ’s crucifixion.

Using Legos to create the Stations

Eighth grade students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota benefitted from using multiple skills, including thousands of Lego bricks, to build the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Maria Beall, St. Martha’s religion teacher and technology integration specialist, challenged her students to develop innovative ideas to celebrate Holy Week.

“My students worked on this project four days a week for six weeks,” Beall said. “The class broke into smaller groups to give each Station a three-dimensional aspect that offered viewers a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.”

The students used existing Lego bricks they have as part of an ongoing STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) initiative. In addition, the Zuniga family donated thousands more Lego pieces from their own collection which offered enough of a variety of bricks to allow the project to succeed.

“My family was very excited to support this creative collaboration in honor of Holy Week,” said Emma Zuniga, an eighth grader who helped build the ninth Station, Jesus Falls for the Third Time. “(My classmates) and I enjoyed mixing Lego pieces from various collections to create realistic depictions of every Station.”

Students supplemented their masterpieces with a pair of QR codes. These codes can be scanned from a phone or smart device which then automatically links to numerous articles, images and videos that offered the history and reflections for each Station. For each Station, one QR code contained resources tailored to kindergarten through third grade, while the other code offered information for fourth through eighth grade.

“This was the biggest challenge for the class,” Beall said. “They had to think back to their days in elementary school on how they taught and understood the Stations. They also needed to show the connection between how an event so sad and painful could turn out to be the most joyful event in Christianity.”

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, and Jennifer Falestiny, Curriculum Coordinator, visited St. Martha Catholic School on April 11, 2022, to see the results of the project and how it integrated several key many STREAM components into the project.

The Lego Stations of the Cross were on display at St. Martha Catholic School throughout Holy Week. After Easter, the students will preserve the collection in shadow boxes, while the QR codes will be placed on display in the school prayer garden.

“This was something more than a class project,” Emma Zuniga said. “We created a legacy by presenting the Stations of the Cross that inspired our school to pray, reflect, and share Catholic values and teachings with their friends and family.”

The activities listed above are just a fraction of the examples of how Diocesan Parishes and Catholic schools not only transitioned from the Lent Season into Holy Week, but also instilled lasting memories and lessons that build Catholic values.

John L. Carkeet IV, contributed information to this story.

Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Easter Sunday (April 17) Mass, for a full hour. The Mass can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Parish Easter Mass times online

The Easter Sunday Mass times at Parishes and Missions throughout the Diocese of Venice are available online. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/diocese-of-venice-2022-holy-week-mass-times/.

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