Following in the footsteps of Jesus and Mary Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

During Lent, many of us like to participate in the Stations of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross or, in Latin, the Via Crucis.

It consists of a number of “stations” along which we can retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ during his passion and death.

Mary visits sites

In researching the Stations of the Cross, I found something I hadn’t thought much about before: perhaps the first person who made the Stations of the Cross was the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Of course, Jesus’ mother is said to have followed Jesus along the road to Calvary. In fact, Mary is mentioned in the fourth and 13th of the 14 Stations of the Cross: when she meets Jesus and when Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in her arms.

But tradition also says that after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Mary visited the sites of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection on a daily basis. This is reported by Philip Kosloski on the website.

Kosloski says, “However, in performing this practice, the Blessed Mother did not create a popular devotion with prayers and specific ‘stations’ to follow. She simply was trying to relive the powerful events of Jesus’ passion and hold them ‘in her heart,’ contemplating the great sacrifice he made.”

I can imagine the tremendous sorrow Mary felt at the suffering and death of her son. The death of a child is one of the worst experiences — if not the worst experience — for any mother.

But I imagine Mary also felt some joy in knowing that Jesus had resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with his Father.

Stations developed later

It wasn’t until a few centuries later, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, 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 be regarded as the germ from which the Stations of the Cross developed, though it is believed that nothing that we have before about the 15th century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense.

By the Middle Ages, the Holy Land became a volatile area, and pilgrims were not given easy access to the shrines of Jesus’ passion. As a result, Franciscans and others throughout Europe began building chapels and shrines that replicated these sites in Jerusalem. In particular, a Dominican priest, Blessed Álvaro of Córdoba, spread the devotion in Europe, beginning in Cordoba, where he erected small oratories similar to modern day stations.

As we participate in the Stations of the Cross during Lent this year, we might remember that we are walking in the footsteps of both Jesus and Mary. We can make the stations on our own, or go to a parish church or chapel.

Note: Stations of the Cross are scheduled at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 338 W. Harrison St., Belleville, at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays, March 22, 29, April 5, and 12. The Family Stations of the Cross will be prayed at 7 p.m. on March 15.

Stations will be prayed in the Chapel of Holy Name Heights, Madison, on Wednesdays at 4:15 p.m., March 13 to April 10.

Check with your local parish for schedules of Stations of the Cross.