As was the case last year during the beginning of the pandemic closures, this year’s Stations of the Cross (or Via Crucis) presided over by Pope Francis were held in the quiet and virtually empty St. Peter’s Square. This year, though, the mediations and prayers for each Station were prepared and read by children from Rome and other Italian cities. The faith and hope expressed by these children are profound and moving and are worthy of further reflection during this Easter season. As a complement to the text of the meditations and prayers provided here, you can watch a video of the Stations and hear the children’s sweet voices, as well as see several of the children greet Pope Francis with hugs after the Stations concluded.
The Stations of the Cross are a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth as a man. The 14 devotions, or stations, focus on specific events of His last day, beginning with His condemnation and ending with His tomb. The stations are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage as an individual or group moves from station to station. At each station, a specific event from Christ’s last day is recalled with a mediation. Specific prayers are recited, then the individual or group moves to the next station until all 14 are complete.
Tradition holds that the Stations of Cross began with the Blessed Mother visiting the sites of the Lord’s Passion, with pilgrims then coming to Jerusalem to travel the Way of the Cross as well. Over time, as access to the Holy Land has been blocked or limited, reproductions of the Stations arose at certain popular spiritual centers in Europe, eventually leading to Stations being erected at virtually all Catholic churches. The Stations of the Cross are commonly found in churches as a series of 14 small icons or images. They can also appear in church yards arranged along paths. The Stations are most commonly prayed during Lent on Wednesdays and Fridays, and especially on Good Friday, the day of the year upon which the events actually occurred.
May you be as moved as I am by this goodness, Jacquelyne.
THE WAY OF THE CROSS LED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Good Friday, April 2, 2021
Meditations and prayers presented by children and young people of Rome
|Introduction In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen |
Dear Jesus, You know that we children also have crosses to carry. Crosses that are no lighter or heavier than those of adults, but are still real crosses, crosses that weigh us down even at night. Only you know what they are, and take them seriously. Only you. Only you know how hard it is for me to learn not to be afraid of the dark and all alone. Only you know how hard it is to wake up every morning after wetting the bed. Only you know how hard it is to think quickly and to learn grammar and math. Only you know how hard it is to see my parents fight and slam the door and not talk to each other for days. Only you know how hard it is to be made fun of, and not be invited to parties. Only you know what it means to be poor and have to do without things my friends have. Only you know how hard it is to reveal a terrible secret, not knowing who to tell for fear of being betrayed, accused or not believed.
Dear Jesus, you once were a child like me. You used to play and maybe you would fall and hurt yourself. You also went to school and maybe some of your schoolwork was not exactly great. You too had a mom and a dad, and you know that there are times when I don’t want to obey them when they tell me to do my homework, to take out the trash, to make my bed and to tidy up my room. You too went to catechism and to prayer and you know that I’m not always perfectly happy to go there.
Dear Jesus, you more than anybody else know that there are children in our world who have nothing to eat, who cannot go to school, who are being used and forced to become soldiers. Help us to carry our daily crosses as you carried yours. Help us to become better and better, to become what you want us to be. I thank you, because I know that you are always close to me and that you never abandon me, even when I am most afraid. And thank you too, for sending my guardian angel to light and guard me every day. Amen.
First Station Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!”. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder… but Jesus he delivered up to their will (Lk 23:20-21.24-25).
Meditation When I was in the first grade, Marco, one of the children in my class, was accused of stealing his classmate’s snack. I knew it wasn’t true, but I said nothing. It was not my problem, and everyone said he was the guilty one. Why should I have gotten involved? Whenever I think about it, I still feel ashamed. I am sorry for what I did. I could have helped my friend; I could have told the truth and made things right. Instead, I acted like Pilate and decided to keep quiet. I chose the easier way and washed my hands of it. Now, I am so sorry for this. I wish I had had a bit of courage, followed my heart and helped my friend in need. Sometimes we only listen to the voices of those who think and do evil, while doing what is right is like an uphill road, full of obstacles and difficulties. But we have Jesus at our side, always ready to support and help us.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, give me a simple and sincere heart. That way I will have the courage and strength, even when it is hard, to do what you have told us is right. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me” (Ps 23:4).
Prayer Lord, loving Father,
Fill us us with your Holy Spirit
and grant us your strength.
Only in this way will we find the courage
to bear witness to your truth,
which is the path to justice and reconciliation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Second Station Jesus takes up his cross
Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”. And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him (Lk 22:63-65).
Meditation In class, we took turns reading the book The Seagull and the Cat. When it was Martina’s turn, she began to mix up the letters and so none of it made sense. At every word, I would laugh, and the others with me. I still remember Martina all red in the face, her voice cracking and her eyes full of tears. Maybe it wasn’t our intention to make fun of her, but how much pain we caused by our laughter! Persecution is not just something that happened two thousand years ago. At times some of our actions can judge, mistreat and hurt one of our brother or sisters. Perhaps there were times when hurting someone made us feel good, because seeing their suffering could make us hide our own unhappiness. Jesus taught us to love, and in his love we find the answer to all our suffering. We should make every effort not to hurt others, but to be good to them.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, nothing will ever separate us from your love. Make us able to love our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
Prayer Lord, loving Father, you sent us Jesus,
who was obedient unto death.
May the power of your love
enable us courageously to take up our own cross.
Give us your hope so that we can know that you are there
even in the darkest moments of our lives.
Through Christ our Lord.
Third Station Jesus falls for the first time
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities (Is 53:4-5).
Meditation In the fifth grade, I was the best student in math. I finished the tests in a few minutes and the mark I received was always the same: “Excellent”. But the first time I received a failing mark, I felt upset and worthless. This unexpected failure was too much for me. Suddenly I felt alone, with no one to comfort me. But that moment made me grow. At home my parents comforted me and showed me their love. I picked myself up and continued to study hard. Now I realize that we can stumble and fall daily, but Jesus is always there to hold out his hand to us, to help us bear the weight of our crosses and to give us new hope.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, you fell beneath the heavy cross you were carrying. I too often fall and get hurt. Keep me on the right path and grant me the strength I need to bear my burdens together with you.
Prayer Lord, you took upon yourself our sufferings
and shared in them, even to carrying the cross,
its burden and its humiliation.
Do not abandon us under the weight of our own crosses
that sometimes seem all too heavy for us to bear.
Who live and reign forever and ever.
Fourth Station Jesus meets his Mother
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”. And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come”. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:3-5).
Meditation When I think of my mother, I see her gentle face, I feel the warmth of her embrace and I realize how much love she has for me. She takes me everywhere: to football practice, to language classes and to catechism on Sunday mornings. In the evening, even if she is tired, she helps me do my homework. When I have nightmares, she sits with me, calms me down and waits for me to go back to sleep. If I have a problem, a question or just some unpleasant thoughts, she is always ready to listen to me with a smile. At my worst moments, I don’t need to say anything; one look is enough. She understands immediately and helps me to work through all my problems.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, make us experience the loving embrace of Mary, our Mother in heaven.
Prayer Lord, loving Father,
may we feel the gentle gaze of Mary
so that, realizing that we are no longer alone,
each of us may find rest in her maternal embrace,
for she embraced and loved everyone in Jesus,
who lives and reigns forever and ever.
Fifth Station Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
As they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus (Lk 23:26)
Meditation During the summer, I played with my friends from the neighbourhood in the park in front of our house. A new family had moved into the neighbourhood, with a son the same age as myself. But he didn’t play with us; he did not really speak our language well. One day, I noticed that he was watching us at a distance; he wanted to play with us but he didn’t have the courage to ask. So I went over to him, introduced myself and invited him to play a game of football with us. Since then, Walid has become one of my best friends and the goalkeeper for our team as well. Looking at people from afar, first we only see their silhouette, then we realize that it is a man or a woman. Then, slowly, we begin to make out the details of their face. But only when we see him or her as a brother or a sister, do we open our hearts to Jesus.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, help me to welcome with love our brothers and sisters who feel lonely and excluded, whenever I happen to meet them.
Prayer Lord, enable us to recognize you
in the poor whom we encounter on our way.
Give us the holy courage
to give food to the hungry,
to offer drink to the thirsty, to welcome strangers,
to clothe the naked and heal the sick,
to see and welcome you in each of our brothers and sisters.
You live and reign forever and ever.
Sixth Station A woman wipes the face of Jesus
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me” (Mt 25:37-40).
Meditation That day, I was playing in the most important game of the championship. It was a chance to display all my talent. In the locker room, I was nervous and on edge but, on entering the field, I saw among the spectators Marco, my best friend. Although he did not like football, he had come to support me. It was the first time he had ever come to see me play; unfortunately, we lost. While taking a shower, I was sad and discouraged, but, after leaving the locker room, there was my friend, holding a soft drink and waiting for me. We spent some time together. That time together, and that little gift, made everything more bearable. Losing the game became less of a bad memory. An encounter, a look, a small gesture can change our day and warm our hearts. In the face of a friend, or even a stranger, who is upset, we can see the face of Jesus walking alongside me… Will I have the courage to get close?
Children’s Prayer Jesus, may my eyes meet yours in times of difficulty, so that I can find comfort in your love.
Prayer Lord, may the light of your face,
so full of mercy, soothe the pain
of the rejection and sin that afflict us.
Who live and reign forever and ever.
Seventh Station Jesus falls for the second time
He committed no sin; and no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet 2:22-24).
Meditation In fourth grade, I desperately wanted to be the star of the school play at the end of the year. I did my best to be chosen for the role. I repeated the lines over and over in front of a mirror, but the teacher decided to give the part to Giovanni. He was a boy who kept to himself. At the time, I felt humiliated. I was angry with myself, with the teacher and with Giovanni. The play turned out well, and from that point on, Giovanni opened up more with our class. My disappointment had served to help another person. The teacher’s choice had given an opportunity to someone who really needed it.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, make me a channel of your love. Help me to hear the plea of those who are suffering or experiencing difficult situations, and to comfort them.
Prayer Lord, you fell to the ground like any other person.
Give us the strength to keep getting up,
even when we no longer want to.
In times of weariness and despair
may we be ever more convinced that,
with you at our side, we can always set out anew.
Who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Eighth Station Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us”. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Lk 23:27-32).
Meditation My brother and I were playing video games all afternoon. When evening came, Mom asked if we had done our homework. We both replied, “Yes, Mom”. I immediately went to my room and did my homework, while my brother kept watching TV on the sofa. The next day he did not go to school. He said he was sick and claimed that he had a stomach ache. When I came back home, I went to his room and we talked about what had happened. It was wrong for us to lie to our mother and for my brother to pretend to have a stomach ache. I suggested that we do our homework right away, and so I helped him catch up on what he missed the day before. Once we finished, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing. Correcting a brother or sister is difficult but necessary. It requires courage, simplicity and sensitivity.
Children’s Prayer Jesus, you filled our hearts with sweetness and sensitivity. Help us to look after our little brothers and sisters.
Prayer Lord, our Good Father,
make us credible witnesses of your mercy.
May our words and actions always be
a sign of true love, freely given,
for each of our brothers and sisters.
Through Christ our Lord.
Ninth Station Jesus falls for the third time
[Jesus said:] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn 12:24-25).
Meditation Last year our family could not visit our grandparents any more. My parents told us that it is dangerous, since we could make them sick with Covid. I miss them! I also miss my friends from volleyball and scouts. Often I feel lonely. School is also closed. There used to be times when I didn’t want to go, but now I would just like to get back to class to see my classmates and teachers again. This miserable feeling of loneliness at times becomes unbearable. We feel “abandoned” by everyone, no longer able even to smile. Like Jesus we find ourselves flat on the ground.
Children’s prayer Jesus, everlasting light, please shine on me, whenever I get lost in gloomy thoughts and feel far away from you.
Prayer Lord, as a sacrificial lamb, you went up to Calvary.
Give us light in this dark night,
Lest we lose our way in these troubling times.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.
Tenth Station Jesus is stripped of his garments
[The soldiers] crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. This was to fulfil the Scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Mk 15:24; Jn 19:24).
Meditation On the shelves in my room I had many dolls, each one of them different. I would receive a new doll as a gift on special occasions, and I was very fond of all my little friends. One Sunday, during the announcements at the end of Mass, the priest mentioned a collection of toys for refugee children from Kosovo. When I got back home, I looked at my dolls and thought: “Do I really need them?”. Somewhat reluctantly, I chose a few of them, the oldest ones, the ones I liked the least. I prepared a box to bring them to church the following Sunday. That evening, however, I felt I had not done enough. By the time I went to sleep the box was full of dolls and the shelves were empty. Getting rid of things we don’t need lightens the soul and frees us from selfishness. Giving makes us happier than receiving.
Children’s prayer Jesus, watch over my heart. Free it from enslavement to material goods. Help me to give away not only the things I don’t need, but also some of those I do.
Prayer Lord, loving Father, bridge our distances,
make us generous in sharing the gifts of your providence
with all our brothers and sisters.
Through Christ our Lord.
Eleventh Station Jesus is nailed to the cross
And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Lk 23:35-37).
Meditation One Christmas Day we went to Rome with the scouts, to visit the Missionary Sisters of Charity and to distribute food to the needy, instead of celebrating the day with our families. On the train as we went there, I thought of all the things I was missing: my grandmother’s homemade pasta, the games we would all play, the Christmas cake, the opened gifts in front of the fireplace… On the way back, I thought of the faces of all the people I had served, their smiles and the stories they told… The thought of having brought those people a little happiness made that Christmas unforgettable. Offering ourselves and serving others with love is the teaching that Jesus gives us from the cross.
Children’s prayer Jesus, free us from our pride and our prejudices. Open our hearts to the people around us.
Let us pray. Lord, give us the grace
not to be nailed to our sins,
but to see in each of our shortcomings
a new possibility
for revealing the power of your cross,
the source of life and hope.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.
Twelfth Station Jesus dies on the cross
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last (Lk 23:44-46).
Meditation Not long ago, after discussing the topic in class, I wrote a paper about children caught up in organized crime. I thought: how can they do such terrible things? Is it right to forgive those things? And what about me? Would I be able to forgive them? Dying on the cross, Jesus offered salvation to everyone. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners who have the humility and the courage to be converted.
Children’s prayer Jesus, give us the strength to forgive. For you have told us that: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance”.
Let us pray Lord Jesus,
you died on the cross for us.
Accept our lives
as we cling to yours,
a sure and everlasting offer of grace.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.
Thirteenth Station Jesus is taken down from the cross
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him (Mt 27:57-58).
Meditation People jumped out of the ambulance dressed like astronauts, wearing protective suits, gloves, masks and face shields. They took away my grandfather, who had been having difficulty breathing. That was the last time that I saw my grandfather. He died a few days later in the hospital. I think of how lonely he must have felt. I could not be near him physically, to tell him goodbye and to comfort him. I prayed for him every day. That way I was able to be there with him during his final journey on this earth.
Children’s prayer We thank you, Jesus, for having given us, by your death on the cross, the power of hope.
Let us pray Lord, loving Father,
grant that we may feel your closeness
as a consoling and reconciling presence,
until the time when, by a gift of your providence,
you call us to be one with you.
Through Christ our Lord.
Fourteenth Station Jesus is placed in the tomb
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (Jn 19:41-42).
Meditation Dear Jesus, my name is Sarah and I am twelve years old. I want to thank you, because today you taught me to do good for the sake of your love. You taught me to overcome my troubles by trusting in you, to love others as my brothers and sisters, and to get up every time I fall. You taught me to serve others; to get rid of my prejudices; to recognize what is important and, above all, to unite my life to yours each day. Today, thanks to your act of infinite love, I know that death is not the end of everything.
Children’s prayer Jesus, help us to keep praying, even when our hearts feel as heavy as the stone before your tomb.
Prayer O Lord, loving Father,
when we encounter painful events along the journey of life,
give us the hope of Easter,
the path leading from death to resurrection.
Through Christ our Lord.
Final Prayer Lord, merciful Father, once again this year we have followed your Son Jesus on the way of the cross. We followed him by listening to the voices and the prayers of the children whom you yourself set before us as the model for entering your kingdom. Help us to be like them: little, in need of everything, open to life. May we regain our purity of heart and our ability to see things in a clear light. We ask you to bless and protect every child in our world. May all children grow in wisdom, age and grace, and so come to know and follow your special plan for their happiness. Bless too all parents, and those who assist them in raising these, your children, so that they may always feel one with you as givers of life and love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.