The Via Dolorosa, the road to Calvary, was traveled by Christ 2000 years ago on the way to His crucifixion. Since that time, we, as Christians, have attempted to travel along the path of the Lord in spiritual imitation. An ideal way to practice this during Lent is through the observance of the Stations of the Cross.
Even the youngest child can be taught to appreciate the journey our Lord lovingly made for us. By utilizing resources and using our imaginations we can increase this experience.
1. Read books on the Stations of the Cross such as The Stations of the Cross for Children, by Julianne Will or even online printable coloring booklets available from Stations of the Cross Resources at CatholicMom.com. These resources can help little ones see and understand the Church’s teachings and Traditions on the death of Christ.
2. Act out the Living Stations during Lent. Have the older children or teens take part in this beautiful recreation of Christ‘s Passion. Some churches even make this part of Confirmation preparation. As the church darkens and the stations are acted out in earnest, all the viewers and participants have a profound new vision of Christ’s journey. I personally have been especially moved at Mary’s Way of the Cross. In this version the stations are told from the perspective of the Blessed Mother as she watched her son travel to Calvary.
3. View movies such as The Passion. These can be used to drive home the reality of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Although too graphic for some (and not recommended for children), the realism portrayed in this film helps us to experience Christ’s death in way that cannot hide the brutality of what He suffered out of love for His people. RCIA programs or high school youth groups may benefit from viewing a movie such as this.
4. Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. This another way to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord. Focusing on the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, can draw us nearer to this holy journey. As we ponder the sufferings of Christ, we can then look at the difficulties in our own lives and discover how we can unite them to Christ.
5. Meditate on the Crucifix. I am always inspired by the story of Joan of Arc. When she was about to be burned to death, it is said that she asked for a crucifix. She then stared at it while she burned. When my children were little during the Mass when the gifts were carried up to be offered at the altar, I used to point out the corpus on the crucifix and tell them, “Imagine that you could wipe away every one of Christ’s cuts, bandage it and give it a kiss.” This simple mediation brings us closer to the suffering of Christ and helps us to visualize our love for him in a very concrete way.
Whatever the tools, prayers or meditations we employ to contemplate Christ’s journey and crucifixion, the end result is a deeper understanding of His loving sacrifice made for all of us. God bless you.