Who first prayed the Stations of the Cross?

Did you know:

  • Christian pilgrims used to say the Stations in reverse order: from the tomb to Calvary to Pilate’s praetorium.
  • While the Franciscans deserve full credit for popularizing the Stations, the devotion predates the Franciscans by centuries.
  • At one point in history, there were 42 Stations. At another, five.


Fish Fry at 6:00. Stations at 7:00. Sounds like Friday, right?

What’s more Catholic than eating fish on a Friday and praying the Stations of the Cross?

The Church of Saint Mary glows with light every Friday evening during Lent. Parishioners crowd into Beckerle Hall for a meatless meal then process into the church for Stations. Very few events during the week draw a larger congregation than Stations of the Cross.

The Stations invite us to meditate on God’s goodness to us, then we consider our response to that goodness. When we pray the Stations, we challenge ourselves to think about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

A short history

Some said that Saint Mary often retraced Jesus’ steps on His way to Calvary. We could say that she was praying the Stations of the Cross.

For the next twelve centuries, countless pilgrims traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to visit the holy city of Jerusalem and walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Locals showed the pilgrims the historical, sacred sites.

By the Twelfth or Thirteenth Century, the holy land became a dangerous place to visit. Much like today, strife dominated Jerusalem’s news. The Franciscans encouraged fearful pilgrims to pray the Stations from their home churches.

By the Eighteenth Century, the Church granted the same indulgence to those praying at home as to those who made a pilgrimage to the holy land. The devotion has continued to grow.

The Stations at the Church of Saint Mary

Our Stations are beautiful hand-carved wood set upon marble and are mounted on the west wall. Kathy Desruisseau, our Business Manager and resident photographer, took photos of each station. Our seven priests or deacons each wrote reflections based on the stations. The photos and reflections are combined in custom Stations of the Cross booklets that we pray on Fridays of Lent.

In this Year of Hospitality, I invite you to come pray Stations with us next Friday. I challenge you to invite a friend – perhaps a non-Catholic who might appreciate seeing our church and praying with us.

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