What is the Holy Way of the Cross? It is a devotional exercise by which we meditate upon the passion and death of Jesus, and particularly upon His last way of sorrows, from the house of Pilate to Mount Calvary. Tradition testifies that after Christ’s ascension the Christians living in Jerusalem were accustomed particularly to venerate the holy places which had been sanctified by the passion of the divine Redeemer. But after Jerusalem fell into the hands of the infidels, so that it became dangerous, and often impossible, to pass over the ground which Our Lord had trod, the children of St. Francis of Assisi began to erect in their churches the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross, by meditating on which the faithful might, in spirit, accompany the pilgrims to Jerusalem on the way to Calvary, dwelling in thought on what Christ had suffered for men. Station here means a place to pause, a resting-point for meditation. This devotion has been examined and approved by many Popes, enriched with indulgences, and earnestly recommended to Christians. It may be found in any prayer-book. No exercise is more profitable to our souls than this. What can bring before us the love of God and the abominableness and frightfulness of sin in a more vivid manner than the sufferings of the God-man? How can we any longer indulge in hate when we hear Jesus pray for His enemies? How can we give ourselves up to sensuality and lust when we see the divine Savior scourged, crowned with thorns, and hanging on the cross? How can we murmur at our trials when we think that Jesus innocent takes up the cross for us guilty? In truth, we should see our coldness and indifference disappear, as ice melts in the heat, we should grow more and more zealous in the way of virtue, if we would but rightly meditate upon the passion of Christ.
How are visits to the Stations of the Cross to be made? Rightly to visit the Stations of the Cross, and to draw there from real benefit, we should at each station consider with attention, with devotion and sorrow, what Jesus has done and suffered for us. We should not content ourselves with merely reciting at each station the proper prayers and meditations, but should pause, to impress upon our hearts what is there represented, that we may be moved and quickened to wholesome resolutions. In order to gain the indulgences we must endeavor to be in the state of grace, and therefore at least, by way of beginning, we must have perfect contrition for our sins.