THE WAY OF THE CROSS
Marie Rutledge interviewed Carl Schafer OFM on Macarthur Radio
1. What exactly is the Way of the Cross, and what are the Stations of the Cross?
Way of the Cross commemorates the way that Jesus trod in
Stations of the Cross, as we know them today, are fourteen stops along the Way
of the Cross that are clearly marked in the streets of
Way of the Cross evolved slowly out of a combination of veneration of the holy
was a popular devotion in
of the present Stations derive directly from a widespread European veneration
of seven or more
another practice developed in
the Way of the Cross as we have it is the product of a long evolution of
popular piety in
2. How accurate
historically are the fourteen stations in
can’t say that an eyewitness who followed Jesus from Pilate’s palace to
3. Have you seen Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ”? (Yes.) Is that an accurate presentation of the Way of the Cross?
It’s an accurate presentation of the traditional Way of the Cross, which includes the incidents that are not scriptural, that is, the falls under the weight of the cross, Jesus meets his mother, and a woman wipes his face. The movie is based on the gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus, but the gospels have little to say about the violence of his scourging and crucifixion, which were nonetheless horrific. Mel has added other dramatic effects which are neither scriptural nor traditional. But the movie’s essential message is the same as that of the gospels. It’s the good news of God’s love for us all, expressed in the voluntary sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son. Like the scriptures, Mel concluded his presentation of the Passion of the Christ with his resurrection.
4. What would a strictly scriptural Way of the Cross look like?
1975, Pope John Paul II introduced a Way of the Cross that is based totally on
the gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. He replaced those
Stations that had developed in
Scriptural Way of the Cross begins with the Last Supper, and proceeds to the
This set of Stations is more appropriate for ecumenical services, where all Christians join in making the Way of the Cross, since we all share the same gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. The pope gave only the titles of the Stations, with no set gospel texts or prayers.
Scriptural Way of the Cross is similar to the traditional Way of the Cross,
except that there are three stations before “Jesus before Pilate”. They are: “The
Last Supper”, “The
5. Why is it that Catholic churches have the Stations of the Cross erected on the inside walls?
Christians in every country had a great desire to make the pilgrimage to
the Seventeenth Century, the fourteen Stations of the Cross as we know them had
been reproduced in Franciscan churches throughout
Today, the Stations of the Cross have been erected in practically every Catholic church throughout the world. They have been erected also in many sanctuaries in the open air, as at “Maryfields”.
6. Franciscans seem to have a special interest in the Way of the Cross. Why is that?
pilgrims flocked to
In the 1400s, the friars made visits to the Holy Places connected with the suffering and death of Jesus. They were similar to our Stations of the Cross. They had evolved from the places venerated by Christians from the earliest times. So the Franciscans venerated many of the spots commemorated in our present Way of the Cross.
the Seventeenth Century, the Franciscans in
7. You have the Way of
the Cross set up in the grounds of Maryfields, on
The plan of the Stations at “Maryfields” came from two groups: one a group of Catholic laymen; the other, the Franciscan friars at “Maryfields”.
laymen wanted to create a sense of religious pilgrimage outside the city area
At the same time, the friars were seeking a way to counterbalance the tendency in Australian society, to secularize Holy Week.
Crowds of over 10,000 and up to 37,000 came regularly to attend the Stations of the Cross. Gradually the numbers dwindled owing to several factors: (1) the convenient train service to Maryfields ended in 1963 with the building of the new Narellan Road; (2) finding sufficient space for the hundred of cars proved a problem; and (3) in 1983, the Franciscan novitiate moved to Victoria, which meant that the burden of preparing the grounds for the Stations of the Cross and cleaning up after the event, fell on the few friars who remained. After 1989, the Stations were no longer held on Good Friday.
In 1999, “Maryfields” Stations of the Cross were listed as part of the Heritage of Campbelltown.
In 2000, the friars of “Maryfields” decided to hold the Stations of the Cross at on the Sundays of Lent, and on Palm Sunday, but at on Good Friday to avoid conflicting with the church ceremonies that are held in every Catholic church at on Good Friday.
Groups, including Hispanics, Italians, Croatians, Filipinos, Koreans and Tongans, make the Way of the Cross at other times in their own language.
We hold the Stations also on the Sunday closest to 2 November, when we remember our deceased friars and nuns, relatives and friends.
8. How would you guide us to pray as we make the Way of the Cross?
If we are following the Scriptural Way of the Cross, we begin by recollecting our minds and situating ourselves in the gospel scene of Jesus at the Last Supper or of Jesus before Pilate. We stand in front of the representation of the scene. We recall that Jesus the Risen Lord is present among us and accompanies us while we remember his last hours before his death.
We read or listen to a relevant passage from the gospel or other sacred Scripture. We speak to Jesus by joining others in a common prayer, and by praying silently.
We process from station to station, singing appropriate hymns, or in silent reflection. We are moved to compassion for Jesus and for all who suffer. We admire his forgiving his enemies. We feel compunction for our poor following of him. We want to imitate his patience, and we thank him for what he did for us. We hope and trust in his power to save us. Above all, we ask for the grace to love God, who gave Jesus to us as our brother and Saviour.