Just as we start to get back into the swing of ordinary time after the Advent and Christmas seasons are over——oh wait, it’s Lent already. Time to up our spiritual game once again and try to get back to a place of giving more time and attention to God and to what He’s trying to do in our lives.
Especially in years with an early Easter and a Lent that seems to sneak up on me somewhere in the middle of February, I often find myself scrambling to think of good ideas to put into practice for a fruitful Lent.
Of course, you could always just give up sweets again (a mighty big sacrifice indeed for some of us), but it’s also a good idea to try and add in some increased or deeper prayer aspect for a spiritually beneficial Lent.
Praying the Stations of the Cross can be a great Lenten activity for a lot of reasons, especially for those of us who are suffering in one way or another. And while this practice can be done privately as well, committing to attend your parish’s scheduled communal Stations of the Cross can be a really solid start to a great Lent.
Same Time, Same Place
I’m pretty sure I’ve never attended a parish that didn’t have a communal celebration of Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent (and I’ve attended my fair share of different Catholic parishes in my relatively short lifespan!).
For anyone who struggles with following through and setting time aside for more prayer in Lent, your parish is probably going to do a pretty thorough job of reminding you of their scheduled event. And having a consistent, set-aside time for that additional prayer can be a huge game-changer for any of us who tend to forget or procrastinate.
So when you hear the priest or lector mention this Friday’s Stations of the Cross in the “announcements” during Sunday Mass, make a mental note. And maybe a physical note on your calendar, if you think you’re likely to forget. Once you attend a couple times, it will hopefully start to become a spiritual habit and a special part of your Lenten Fridays.
Where Two or Three Are Gathered
I definitely can’t discount the fact that praying the Stations of the Cross can also be fruitful when prayed alone as well, but there is always something additionally beneficial in communal prayer.
Sometimes it’s only the promise that we must take on the faith of the increased efficacy of praying with others: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them,” (Mt. 18:20).
And sometimes it’s a little more obvious. For my husband and me, the Stations of the Cross actually played an important role in our relationship. It was after our parish’s Stations of the Cross on the second Friday of Lent one year that he came up to me and told me he had feelings for me, and that he wanted a deeper friendship with me (we were only slightly acquainted at the time). And our relationship began from there.
Though I doubt most people will have their love story specifically begin in such a way, most parish’s Stations of the Cross evenings do have a communal aspect very much built in with them, which makes it easier to find social fulfillment with other parishioners and to start to build friendships or deeper relationships.
Often, there is a soup supper of a fish fry following the celebration of the Stations. And even when there isn’t, I have often noticed a certain spirit of community among the participants afterward. The whole thing is very solemn, very different from a Mass, and for some reason, I tend to feel a little bit bonded with the other participants as we walk out together afterward, even those I’ve never met before.
The Reason for the Lenten Season
Perhaps the biggest reason of all to commit to praying the Stations of the Cross this Lent is because of their contents and their relevance to our lives.
The fourteen Stations of the Cross take us on a journey with Christ from His Condemnation, through his entire walk to Calvary, all the way to His being laid in the tomb.
Whether we’re suffering from loneliness, with feelings of desertion, with relapses into sin, with embarrassment, or with the inability to forgive those who have hurt us, there is probably at least one Station that will hit home and speak to our current situation.
Christ has suffered all, for us. No matter how much we might be hurting, He understands, because He has felt the same pain. And this special spiritual practice in honor of his sufferings can bring us closer to Him, help give us the strength to offer our sufferings to Him, and help us to carry our cross with His.
Looking Forward to Easter After
And the best part, the reason He wants us to unite our sufferings to His this Lent, is that He wants to bring us to a deep, meaningful Easter celebration, once these days of suffering are over.
So resolve to make this Lent your most fruitful yet by taking advantage of aids the Church offers to help us unite our sufferings more fully to Christ’s.