Tour Guide to the Via Dolorosa

Step by Step to Calvary: Praying Through the Stations of the Cross

by Angela M. Burrin

The Word Among Us, 2004

112 pages, $12.95

To order:

or (800) 775-9673

“As the vast majority of Christians could never travel to Jerusalem, the stations were a way to recreate that experience wherever they lived. One time, probably by the sixteenth or seventeenth century, the fourteen stations developed as we know them today and as we find them in Catholic churches and chapels all over the world.”

So begins Angela Burrin’s guided tour of the Stations of the Cross — from station to station and from the pages of history to our very lives.

By offering her meditative journey in book form, The Word Among Us Press opens the Via Dolorosa to those of us for whom leaving the house is not an easy option. Being confined to a wheelchair, I can vouch for how much of a grace this beautiful and insightful offering will be from here on in — especially during Holy Week.

No matter your station in life, walking with Jesus in spirit as he makes his way to Golgotha can only draw you closer to him, allowing you to unite your suffering with his for the salvation of the world. When you do so, you live St. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church …”

In Step by Step, each station is introduced by a thoughtful explanation of the scene and illustrated in full color by 18th-century Italian artist Giandomenico Tieoplo. Then follow reflections on Christ’s incomparable qualities, such as his obedience or his strength in weakness, along with calls to repentance, healing and prayer.

As I made my way through these pages, I thought: What a blessing this book could be if parishes made it available, through extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, to shut-ins, nursing-home patients and prisoners. It could go a long way in reassuring those who suffer daily that, far from being a burden to the Church, they are an important part of the tapestry that is the Body of Christ.

By focusing on this book’s appeal to the infirm and incapacitated, I hope I have not made it sound as though those who are of healthy body will find little to feed on here. On the contrary.

“The stations seem to have originated in the pious practice of pilgrims in the Holy Land who visited the sites of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus,” writes Father Jude Winkler in an enlightening article following the book’s introduction. “Among other sites, pilgrims would visit Golgotha and the tomb, both of which were soon enclosed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These pilgrims found that there was something powerful in actually touching the place where Jesus died and rose.”

Elsewhere we read: “While suffering tends to separate and isolate us, commemorating Jesus’ suffering as a community tends to bind us together. It makes us more fully one with him and each other.”

Forgive me for repeating myself, but is for that very reason that I feel closer to the Church and more united with Christ’s suffering during Holy Week than any other time of the year. I especially like to join in the recitation of the Stations as a community, at least when someone is able to transport me.

From now on, thanks to Step by Step to Calvary, it won’t be so much of a problem if I can’t find a ride.


Bill Zalot writes from

Levittown, Pennsylvania.