The Stations of the Cross St Alphonsus The way of divine mercy
Revised by Fr Jim McManus C.Ss.R.
All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY publishers to the holy see
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Contents The Way of the Cross Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 St Alphonsus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The Stations of the Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Prayers by St Alphonsus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Images courtesy of www.AgnusImages.com All rights reserved. Revised edition 2015; first published 1959 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042 Fax: 020 7640 0046. ÂŠ 2015 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.
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ISBN 978 1 78469 072 4
The Way of the Cross Today
ike all our Catholic devotions, the Way of the Cross is deeply rooted in the history of the Church. From the earliest centuries, Christians loved to visit the places in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his last days on this earth. They prayerfully retraced the steps he took from the Mount of Olives, where he experienced his agony in the garden, to the Mount of Calvary, where he died on the Cross. But only a very few privileged pilgrims could make their way across Europe to Jerusalem and experience the holy places for themselves. The devotion that we know as the Stations of the Cross began to evolve in the Middle Ages through the inspiration of great saints like St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Francis of Assisi. They realized that we don’t have to travel to Jerusalem to follow Christ on his way to Calvary. We can join him in spirit, in our local church or indeed in our own home. Our fourteen Stations of the Cross gradually evolved as the great means for prayerfully meditating on the Passion of Jesus. Each of these “stations” reminds us of some painful stop, or fall, or encounter which Jesus had as he walked the Via Dolorosa to his death on the cross. Not all of the “traditional stations” are mentioned in the Gospel account of Jesus’s final journey to Calvary. In 1991, Pope St John Paul ll, while leading the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good
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Friday, replaced those “stations” not mentioned in the Gospel with other “stations” that do appear in the Gospel account. So, he omitted the Lord’s three falls (the third, seventh and ninth stations), Jesus meeting his Mother (the fourth station) and Veronica wiping the face of Jesus (the sixth station). Instead of these traditional stations, we have Jesus’s agony in the garden, the unjust sentence passed by Pilate, the promise of paradise to the Good Thief and the presence of the Mother and the Disciple at the foot of the Cross. But the Holy See said, “With the biblical Way of the Cross, the intention was not to change the traditional text, which remains fully valid, but quite simply to highlight a few important stations which in the traditional text are either absent or in the background. And indeed this only emphasises the extraordinary richness of the Way of the Cross which no schema can ever fully exhaust”.1 St Alphonsus took up the practice of “making the Way of the Cross” with enthusiasm. It was the devotion in which he could in spirit personally accompany Jesus on his last painful and sorrowful journey. At the beginning of the Stations he prayed for that grace: “My Jesus, pardon me, and permit me to accompany you in this journey”. Alphonsus gives us the reasons why he loved the Stations of the Cross and why meditation on the Passion of the Lord is so beneficial for our spiritual growth and sanctification. Who can deny that, of all devotion, devotion to the passion of Jesus Christ is the most useful, the most
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tender, the most agreeable to God, one that gives the greatest consolation to sinners, and at the same time most powerfully enkindles souls? Whence is it that we receive so many blessings, if it be not from the passion of Jesus Christ?2 Making the Stations of the Cross gives us a systematic, structured format for meditating on the Passion of Christ as we accompany him on his last painful journey. Without such a format, it is much more difficult to remain focused on Jesus in his Passion and to see in it the greatest act of love. St Paul, in one line, sets the tone for our meditations. He said, “Jesus was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us”. (Rm 4:25) When we accompany Jesus to Calvary and stand beneath his cross, with his Mother, we do so in the awareness that the suffering and death of Jesus, while being the cruellest form of execution that a man could undergo, was also the greatest act of love that Jesus could make for our salvation. As he said of himself, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). Christ is the “divine bridegroom” and the Church is his bride. On the cross, as he poured out the last drop of his blood, Christ formed with the Church, his bride, an unbreakable and an everlasting “marriage bond”. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “It was from the
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side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the Cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church”.3 As we follow Christ along the Way of the Cross, we are accompanying him not just to his terrible, agonising death, but to the final consummation of his extraordinary love from which his Church, his mystical Body on earth, is born. We remember and celebrate the mystery of this love each time we celebrate the Holy Mass. Making the way of the Cross doesn’t end for us on Calvary. Rather, the sacrifice of his life, which Jesus offered for our salvation, becomes present to us as we celebrate Holy Mass. As Pope St John Paul II said: When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there.4 Making the Stations of the Cross prepares us for a more profound participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
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t Alphonsus Liguori, the Founder of the Redemptorist Congregation, who died in 1787, bequeathed to the Church a vast treasure of spiritual and theological writing. Pope St John Paul II summed up his life and mission in this way: St. Alphonsus is a gigantic figure, not only in the history of the Church, but for the whole of humanity as well. Even people who would not follow his vision, still see in him â€œthe teacher of the Catholic soul of the Westâ€?. He did for modern Catholicism that which Augustine accomplished in ancient times.5
Alphonsus was born in Naples in 1696. As a young man he studied law and very quickly became a well-known lawyer in that bustling city. God, however, had another plan for his life and by divine providence Alphonsus gave up his legal profession and began, much to the displeasure of his aristocratic father, to live humbly in the service of the poorest in Naples. He prepared for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of thirty in 1726. After six years of intense missionary work among the poorest in the city of Naples, he became convinced that the Lord wanted him to form a new missionary community to bring the Gospel to the most abandoned, especially to those who lived in the rural and mountainous areas outside the city of Naples. With a few companions he
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founded the Redemptorist Congregation in 1732. Today, the Redemptorist Congregation numbers around 5500 priests and brothers and has missionary communities in seventy-nine countries. Alphonsus was a very popular preacher, always communicating the Gospel in simple and direct language. He insisted that the Word of God must be preached in a language that each person, especially the uneducated, can easily grasp and understand. He impressed on his companions that “the aim of each sermon is to leave the listeners bound to the love of Jesus Christ”. Alphonsus was a brilliant theologian. He wrote constantly to oppose the rigorism and legalism that were very prevalent in the moral theology of his day. Any theologian of his time, and there were many, who obscured the joyful message of Christ’s redeeming love, met with vigorous opposition from Alphonsus, the friend of the weak, the uneducated and the abandoned. His opponents gave him the scornful title of “the prince of laxists”. After his canonization, however, the Church honoured him with the title of Doctor of the Church, patron saint of moral theologians and confessors; he is known as the Doctor of Prayer. Alphonsus wrote over a hundred theological and spiritual books. His sole aim was to help the faithful grow in holiness of life by cultivating the affections of the heart while meditating on the mysteries of Christ, especially on his Passion and on the Eucharist. He gave this direction to his preachers:
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I recommend that you speak often of the love which God has shown us in the person of Jesus Christ, as seen especially in his Passion and in the institution of the Eucharist, also speak of the love that we must have for our most holy Redeemer, which we should often recall in these two great mysteries of love. It is certain that all that is done only out of fear, and not out of love, will have no lasting effect6 Alphonsus was the preacher of the love and the mercy of God in an age when many preachers had recourse to instilling the fear of hell as the motive for avoiding sin. As Alphonsus says in his Stations of the Cross, â€œIt is your love more than the fear of hell that causes me to weep for my sinsâ€?. His ardent devotion to the Passion of Christ led Alphonsus to most reverent adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Devotion to the Passion leads, by its very nature, to devotion to Jesus present in our midst in the Blessed Sacrament. In one of his most popular little books, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Alphonsus in his very first reflection reveals the reason for his devotion: Behold the source of every good, Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament, who says, If any man thirst let him come to me (Jn 7: 30). Oh, what torrents of grace have the saints drawn from the fountain of the Most Blessed Sacrament, for here Jesus dispenses all the merits of his Passion.
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St Alphonsus was one of the great Marian saints of the Church. His most popular book was The Glories of Mary. This book has been translated into over eighty different languages and appeared in over 800 known editions. In his introduction he tells us modestly, “I leave to other authors to praise the other prerogatives of Mary and I confine myself, for the most part, to her mercy and the power of her intercession”.7 In his devotion to the Passion, to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Blessed Lady, St Alphonsus was filled with an overwhelming sense of the inexhaustible love and mercy of God. When it came to choosing a motto for his Congregation he chose a line from psalm 30: With him there is plentiful redemption. There is more than enough to go round! He trained his preachers to see and understand that the mercy of God is limitless. This was the Gospel that they were sent forth to preach, the Gospel of God’s unfailing mercy for us poor sinners. Two hundred years before the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the universal call to holiness, St Alphonsus by his preaching and his writing was insisting that all the faithful, each according to his or her state in life, are called to holiness. Pope John Paul I, writing to his priests while still archbishop of Venice, said, A saint’s life is but the living translation of the Gospel, so I shall be explaining the Gospel when I speak about
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St Alphonsus Liguori. Of all the Doctors of the Church he is the one who has received the title “Most Zealous Doctor”. And he is a unique Doctor. Today, of course, we would regard him as a “pastoral” Doctor. But he was also a man of humour and easy joy8. As you use this little book to mediate on the Stations of the Cross, you will imbibe something of St Alphonsus’s great love and you will be invited into a deeper, personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
y Lord Jesus Christ, you willingly walked this painful journey to your death on the Cross with unconditional love for each one of us, and I, how often have I ungratefully abandoned you. But now I love you with my whole soul, and because I love you I am sincerely sorry for having offended you. My Jesus, pardon me, and permit me to accompany you on this journey. You are going to die for love of me, and it is my wish also, my dearest Redeemer, to die for love of you. My Jesus, in your love I wish to live. In your love I wish to die.
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FIRST STATION Jesus is Condemned to Death V. (genuflecting) We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. R. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Consider how Jesus, after having been scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the Cross.
y loving Jesus, it was not Pilate; no, it was my sins that condemned you to die. By the merits of this agonising journey, I implore you, help me on my journey towards eternity. I love you, Jesus, my love, above all things; I repent with my whole heart of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be to the Father.
Stabat Mater dolor贸sa, Iuxta crucem lacrym贸sa, Dum pend茅bat F铆lius.
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At the Cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last
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Jesus Receives the Cross V. We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. R. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Consider how Jesus, in making this journey with the cross on his shoulders, thought of us, and offered for us to his Father the death he was about to undergo.
y most beloved Jesus! I embrace all the sufferings and disappointments that will come my way in this life. By the merits of the pain you suffered in carrying your cross, help me to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. I love you, Jesus, my love, above all things: I repent with my whole heart of having offended you. Never permit me to separate myself from you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will. Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be to the Father.
Cuius ánimam geméntem, Contristátam, et doléntem, Pertransívit gládius.
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Through her heart his sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword has passed.