Friday, February 12, 2016

Stations of the Cross

Yesterday I reminisced here about the Lenten stational churches of Rome, recalling my own privileged opportunity to participate in most of them four years ago. Today, this 1st Friday of Lent, my attention shifts to the more familiar Lenten stations - the ever-popular (but never more so than in Lent) devotion of the Way of the Cross. It is a common custom in the Catholic world to celebrate the Stations of the Cross as a community on the Fridays in Lent - in many places preceded (or followed) by a Lenten Friday Fish dinner.

I think the dinner tradition may be originally a midwestern custom. In any case, it was not common in New York when I was growing up - perhaps because of the size of the parishes there or because there were other preferred ways of building and expressing community. As for the Stations themselves, unless I happened to be assigned to serve at the 8:00 p.m. "adult" Stations, my experience of the annual Lenten Stations was with my fellow students, since all but the lowest grades were required to attend the Stations in the church at the end of the school day. Not quite (but almost) filling up that large church, we stood, knelt, and genuflected at the prescribed times as the priest and altar servers stopped and prayed at each station, and we sang the Stabat Mater as lugubriously as possible in between stations.Together with Benediction after the Stations, that meant we got to do lots of singing, which I always enjoyed in those days

An apparently quaint custom that could easily have been killed off in the craziness of the late sixties and seventies, the Stations somehow survived, sometimes admittedly with verbose texts that sounded more like a political ad than a meditation, but they survived to re-emerge triumphant another day. 

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