The Stations as we know them were born of tradition nearly as old as the Church. Who do we thank for this beautiful devotion? An Apostle? Or a saint?
Actually, we owe our thanks to the Blessed Mother. According to an ancient tradition, it was she who made the first Way of the Cross. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, one of the Church’s modern mystics and visionaries, relates to us some of the details, as they were revealed to her, of how this devotion came about.
After the Ascension, Our Lady immersed herself in the contemplation and remembrance of the Passion. Blessed Anne tells us that she went out daily and traced the route of the Cross through Jerusalem.
The Blessed Mother, relates Bl. Anne, was grave and shed “tears of compassion” as she walked the Way.
When the Blessed Mother moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus, she quickly marked a space for replicating the Way. Blessed Anne Catherine describes the new Way, saying:
Soon after her arrival at her new home [in Ephesus] I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord’s different sufferings. At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it. The way led into a wood, and upon a hill in this wood she had marked the place of Calvary, and the grave of Christ in a little cave in another hill.
Bl. Anne goes on to explain that at first, the Blessed Mother made this Way alone. Later, she brought her maidservant with her to meditate on the Passion and praise Our Lord for it. After her Assumption, the site became well-known by Christians. They made access to the Way easier, beautifying it with both material and spiritual attentions.
Our Lady, in making the first Way, gave us a tremendous gift. The Stations of the Cross that are erected in every Catholic Church, and which are traditionally prayed by Christians on Fridays—especially during Lent—are a spiritual heritage given to us directly from Our Blessed Mother!
This Lent, consider joining Our Blessed Mother in her daily contemplation of the Passion.
This is wonderful news. And it makes perfect sense that Mary meditated on her Son’s journey to the Cross. Thanks to the visions of Katherine Emmerich to reveal this to us.