Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 24, 2003
Reflections on praying the way of the Cross
The New Stations of The Cross: The Way of the Cross According to Scripture, by Megan McKenna, Image Doubleday/New York, NY. 2003. 121 pages. Paperback original.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
Praying the Way of the Cross is a long-standing Christian practice. Since a pilgrimage to the Holy Land has never been possible except for a privileged few, Church leaders around the world have created local stations as a helpful substitute for ordinary pilgrims to visit and relive Christ's passion narrative.
Over time, some of the stops on the Way developed along the lines of popular piety rather than scriptural precedent. A decade ago, Pope John Paul decided that the classic fourteen stations needed alteration. He wanted to make them truer to the biblical narrative. He removed Veronica - wiping the face of Jesus - for example, and added a Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday station. More recently, the pope commissioned a number of reporters to write devotionals linking the classic pilgrimage path to contemporary human experience. He was particularly concerned that the faithful would be reminded of the many who today suffer violently for a just cause as Jesus himself had done.
This new scripture-focused approach to a portion of Christ's paschal mystery allows the pope's personal Good Friday devotional practice to become a model for all Christians.
Thomas Merton once suggested that any serious reading of the Bible means personal involvement in it and not simply mental agreement with abstract propositions. Such engagement is dangerous because it lays one open to unforeseen conclusions.
By participating in the Way, we engage fully and directly in the pain Christ suffered. We do this, not out of morbidity, but ultimately to experience healing from whatever ails us. Is it better that our whole lives speak for us rather than only our words. Through an engaged approach to the entire cycle of 15 steps, modern pilgrims are invited to personally identify with both the pain and the triumph of their Lord.
In The New Stations of the Cross, author Megan McKenna transforms an ancient spiritual discipline into a contemporary devotional exercise. Each selected step in Christ's passion narrative is introduced with several gospel references; illuminated with simple but profound reflections and supplemented by gripping anecdotes from the lives of victimized people worldwide. A concluding prayer rounds out every meditation.
Author Megan McKenna transforms an ancient spiritual discipline into a contemporary devotional exercise.
John Paul's contemporary model of 15 stations is beginning to appear in churches and other pilgrimage sites. McKenna's book provides a useful devotional resource for use in these settings and may be adapted to traditional settings.
The scripture selections can serve as a good discipline in and of themselves. The longer mediations will be appreciated by some devotees and community walks patterned after the stations can be attempted by others.
Parishes not currently providing a Way of the Cross might encourage members to fashion their own symbolic creations.
Catholic Christians will find in this book an opportunity to restore new life to a long-standing spiritual discipline. Non-Catholic Christians can discover a worthy spiritual activity they may have been avoided previously because it seemed unfamiliar or threatening.
(Wayne Holst is a writer who has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)