How the Stations of the Cross Changed My Life

Jerusalem’s Old City was still and silent as we made our way through the narrow stone streets, praying and meditating on Jesus’ final journey to Golgotha.

The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem traces the footsteps of Christ to the cross.
The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem traces the footsteps of Christ to the cross. (photo: Shutterstock)

Walking the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Suffering,” was a life-changing experience for me. It was daybreak, and Jerusalem’s Old City was still and silent as we made our way through the narrow stone streets, praying and meditating on Jesus’ final journey to Golgotha.

As I walked in Jesus’ footsteps, I felt I could see him struggling under the weight of his heavy cross, weak and in agony from torture and rejection. From the first station, where he was condemned to death, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the sacred place where Jesus died, was buried and rose again, we stopped at each station to meditate and pray. Along the way, the reality of what Jesus had endured for my sake often brought me to tears.

Dana Scallon Gethsemane
Dana Scallon and her husband, Damien, touch the rock in the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane.(Photo: Courtesy photo)

With this sorrowful path in mind, when Vincentian Father Kevin Scallon and I first talked about recording The Stations of the Cross, we wanted it to bring the listener to the Via Dolorosa so that they could walk with Jesus on his last journey. We wanted it to be contemplative and atmospheric, with sung prayers and beautiful meditations and teachings. What we hoped to offer to the listener was an attempt to revive this profound traditional devotion, which many young people seemed unfamiliar with, and to restore a renewed appreciation of this wonderful meditation on the passion and death of our Savior.

‘The Stations of the Cross’ CD
‘The Stations of the Cross’(Photo: Courtesy photo)

In praying the Stations of the Cross, we also unite our prayers with those of countless pilgrims through the centuries, back to the time of Christ himself. And as I walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, I recognized that I was carrying on a practice of going on pilgrimage to this holy place that dates back to earliest years of our Catholic Church.

St. Jerome, who lived in the Holy Land around A.D. 386, wrote of the number of Christians who came on pilgrimage to visit the places associated with the life and death of Jesus.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, devotion to the passion of Christ became common practice beyond Jerusalem because former Crusaders erected representations of places they had personally visited in the Holy Land. In A.D. 1138, the Church of St. Anne was erected by the Crusaders and still stands near the start of the Via Dolorosa. It was built over the grotto believed to be the site where Sts. Anne and Joachim lived and where their daughter, Mary, the mother of Christ, was born in the cave under the basilica.

In the 14th century, the Franciscans began taking care of the holy places of Jerusalem. They promoted devotion to these places and to the passion of Christ. So the Stations of the Cross, as we pray them today, centering on 14 representations, or “stations” of Christ on his final journey to Calvary can be traced back to the inspiration of the Franciscans. I know that would have made Mother Angelica very happy. She also had a great love for the Stations of the Cross.

Father Kevin’s beautiful spirit lives on in our recording of The Stations of the Cross, as it does in the Rosary recordings we did together. He had a special gift of writing prayers and meditations that not only teach, but deeply touch people’s hearts.

His prayer for the First Station of the Cross deeply moves me:

How easy for Pilot to wash his hands of you. How many Pilots wash their hands of you, as you stand before firing squads, in gas chambers, in prison camps, as you disappear never to be seen again; as you are reduced to being a choice, or a burden on society; as you are stigmatized by public opinion. Lord, we do not wash our hands of you with water any more, but with indifference. Jesus, please do not let me turn from you, or walk away, when I see you condemned.”

And at the 11th Station, as we hear the distant sound of the nails being hammered into Jesus’ sacred hands and feet, Father Kevin prays, “Lord Jesus, is sin really so evil in the sight of God that you should pay such a price? Oh, please help me to think of you, to look at you, so that I may never offend you again.”

It was the hope and prayer of Father Kevin — and me — that in making the Stations of the Cross with us, you would accompany Jesus on his last journey as if you were walking with him on the Via Dolorosa itself and that, at each station, we might make relevant today the suffering he endured, for love of each of us and for our salvation.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Irish singer Dana Scallon has appeared regularly on EWTN. At World Youth Day 1993, she wrote and sang the theme song, We Are One Body, for Pope St. John Paul II. Today, Dana, as she is known worldwide, continues to sing and speak at events, affirming Catholics in their faith.