Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
For all that’s happening around us in the world, from the Church's papal election to national and international concerns, it’s been easy this Lent for many of us to forget about the Way of the Cross.
But perfectly timed for the rest of Lent comes one of the most beautifully illustrated and thoroughly spiritually-inspiring booklets that I’ve ever seen: Way of the Cross at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
Readers do not just "walk" the 14 Stations in a single way. This prayerful booklet is the first I’ve seen that has two versions of the Way of the Cross, plus a third section of meditations.
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., were surely inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The first set of stations invites us to walk along “St. Faustina’s Way of the Cross.” It’s a natural for the shrine, since the Marian congregation is devoted to spreading the message of Divine Mercy as Jesus gave us through St. Faustina Kowalska.
While this version begins with the traditional opening prayers and at the end each station has a verse from the Stabat Mater, the meditations also bring us the words of Jesus to St. Faustina, as recorded in Divine Mercy in My Soul, plus her words in reflection or response. They’re also compiled from Scripture.
This is such a stirring and encouraging way to show us the connection between Jesus’ passion and death and his Divine Mercy. It moves one into a whole other realm of prayer and meditation. It’s a real soul-uplifter.
Marian Father Kazimierz Chwalek said last year that the Stations of the Cross “are at the very heart of the devotion to the Divine Mercy.”
For example, part of the Sixth Station’s meditation says:
Jesus: Know that whatever good you do to any soul I accept it as if you had done it to me (Diary, 1768).
St. Faustina: I am learning how to be good from Jesus, from him who is goodness itself, so that I may be called a [child] of the heavenly Father (669). Great love can change small things into great ones, and it is only love which lends value to our actions (9303).
The facing page for each meditation and prayer has a stunning picture of that station from the magnificent, new, life-size outdoor Way of the Cross at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy.
Right after “St. Faustina’s Way of the Cross” comes the “Traditional Way of the Cross.” It’s based on, but not exactly like, the familiar version by St. Alphonsus Ligouri that the faithful have known and prayed for generations.
These also help us make the journey with Jesus to Calvary.
For instance, the Eleventh Station’s meditation says:
Recall how Jesus lies down upon his Cross and how he extends his arms to offer up the sacrifice of his life for our salvation. The soldiers nail him, hands and feet, to his gibbet. And then they raise it, leaving him to die upon it in terrible anguish.
Again, the magnificent photos of the same outdoor stations at the shrine on Eden Hill keep us focused visually, but, for this version, each photo shares the same page as the mediation for that station; in addition, each photo is from a different view or perspective of that same station seen earlier.
The same is true for the extreme close-up photos that accompany the “Meditations on the Stations of the Cross.”
Written in narrative form, a Marian priest, brother or seminarian gives insight throughout most of these stations.
Part of the Fourth Station goes this way:
“When Mary sees Jesus on the way to his crucifixion, she is brokenhearted with sorrow,” Father Ken (Dos Santos, rector of the national shrine) says. “She must have remembered him as an infant, a boy, and all the tender moments they shared as mother and Son. St. Faustina no doubt felt the same supreme bitterness of this moment. She agonized over what it must have done to Jesus to see his mother there, with so many angry, scornful people taking delight in her Son’s humiliation and punishment.”
The booklet has bonus articles on the making of the shrine’s outstanding outdoor Stations of the Cross, a recent monumental work and its sculptor, plus some smaller photos of the stations and their installation.
All this comes in high-glossy resolution, in a 4-by-5-inch booklet that fits easily into your pocket so you can pray the stations anywhere.
It’s available in English and Spanish from the Marians at (800) 462-7426 or Marian.org.
This version of the Way of the Cross will surely get us back on track for the rest of Lent. Lenten blessings!