John Paul II Stations of the Cross

Fr. Peter Daly

Parish Diary

March 27, 2009


Fr. Peter Daly discusses Lent and the stations of the cross written by John Paul II.


            Lent is almost over.

            It has been a real renewal this year. Our parish has tried to keep the focus on the basics; prayer, fasting, and charity. But we also tried something new.

            At the suggestion of a parishioner, we used the Stations of the Cross composed by Pope John Paul II for our Friday devotions.   

            John Paul II was very traditional Catholic with a traditional piety. But in some ways he was an innovator.

            For example, he loved the recitation of the rosary, but he added the new “Luminous” mysteries to its recitation. Those new mysteries focused us more on the life and ministry of Jesus which had been absent from the other 15 mysteries.

            Some people don’t like even minor changes. When the Luminous mysteries of the rosary were first promulgated, I put out some pamphlets containing them in the back of church. One lady came to me, waving a pamphlet. She asked why we were pushing this “Protestant” version of the rosary.”

            Like the Luminous Mysteries, the Stations of the Cross promulgated by John Paul II are both an innovation and an ancient tradition. The church is ever ancient and ever new.

            Like the Luminous Mysteries, they are based more on scripture than tradition. Each station begins with a quote from the gospels.

            While there are still 14 stations but seven are new.

            Gone are the three “falls of Jesus” while carrying the cross. Also gone is the “encounter with Mary on the way of the cross” and “Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.” JP II also deletes the “stripping of Jesus’ garments” and “taking Jesus down from the cross.”

            Instead there are seven new stations.

            JP II starts with Jesus in the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

            Then Jesus is betrayed by Judas (two), condemned by the Sanhedrin (three) and denied by Peter (four).

            The trial before Pilate is still in the JP II version as the fifth station but “the scourging of Jesus” is added as station six.

            Seven through ten are the traditional stations. Jesus bears the cross (seven), is helped by Simon the Cyrenian (eight), meets the women of Jerusalem (nine), and is nailed to the cross (ten).

            But then JP II adds two important dialogues of Jesus. Added is the promising of a place in his kingdom to the Good Thief (eleven) and Jesus speaking to His mother from the cross and entrusting her to John (twelve).

            The last two stations are from the traditional ones; “death on the cross” and “burial in the tomb”.

            I miss some of the traditional stations, especially Veronica wiping the face of Jesus which is a  reminder of the power of simple deeds of compassion

            The mediations written by John Paul II for each station are very brief. Each one is only a sentence long, reminding us that prayer does not need to be long to be powerful. These meditations are like Japanese Haiku; short thoughts that focus the mind.

            They read for example:

            “Lord, grant us the gift of honesty, that we may not fear to speak the truth even when difficult.”

            “Lord grant us discernment that we may see as you see, not as the world sees.”

            “Lord grant us willing spirits, that we may be your instruments on earth.”

            These short meditations get to the heart of the matter quickly.

            This has been a good Lent. We got back to basics.

            And thanks to John Paul II we have walked the ancient way of the cross and seen it with new eyes.