ROME, 19 FEB. 2008 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father
Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Q: Are wooden crosses on top of depictions/paintings of each Station of
the Cross required? These have been removed from our church.
P.C., Laplace, Louisiana
A: The principal document relating to the external form of the Via
Crucis, or Way of the Cross, is the Enchiridion of Indulgences, No. 63.
The Church grants a plenary indulgence to a member of the faithful who
practices the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross.
In order to obtain this indulgence the exercise must be fulfilled before
legitimately erected stations.
For the legitimate erection of the Via Crucis, 14 crosses are needed, to
which may be added images or sculptures that represent the station.
According to the most common custom, the pious exercise consists of 14
pious readings to which are added some vocal prayers. However, in order
to fulfill the pious exercise all that is required is a meditation on
the Lord's passion and death without having to make a particular
consideration of each station.
It is necessary to move from one station to the next. But if the
stations are done in a large group where moving is difficult, it is
sufficient for at least the guide to move from station to station.
The faithful who are legitimately impeded from making the stations may
gain the same indulgence by dedicating about 15 minutes to meditating
and spiritual reading on the Passion.
Therefore, to answer the specific question at hand: A legitimate Way of
the Cross consists of 14 crosses. These may be wooden, stone, metal or
some other suitable material. The images are an optional, albeit very
The crosses may be relatively small compared to the images or
representations, but they should be visible. They may also be located at
any suitable place near the images
above, below, beside or even incorporated within the frame.
Possibly the local parish church could be encouraged to restore the
crosses to its Way of the Cross. It could also be a wonderful teaching
moment to explain the Church's doctrine on indulgences as well as foment
the practice of the Via Crucis.
As No. 133 of the Directory of Popular Piety says:
"The Via Crucis is a journey made in the Holy Spirit, that divine fire
which burned in the heart of Jesus (cf. Lk 12, 49-50) and brought him to
Calvary. This is a journey well esteemed by the Church since it has
retained a living memory of the words and gestures of the final earthly
days of her Spouse and Lord.
"In the Via Crucis, various strands of Christian piety coalesce: the
idea of life being a journey or pilgrimage; as a passage from earthly
exile to our true home in Heaven; the deep desire to be conformed to the
Passion of Christ; the demands of following Christ, which imply that his
disciples must follow behind the Master, daily carrying their own
crosses (cf Lk 9, 23)."
* * *
Crosses on the 14 Stations [3-4-2008]
Several readers asked further questions regarding the practice of the
Via Crucis (see Feb. 19 column), such as if there were any norms
regarding alternative stations and the extension of the indulgence. Some
of these questions were addressed in our columns of March 1 and 15,
An Ohio reader wrote, "Each year on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, my
older students present the Living Stations of the Cross for the parish.
This consists of individual meditations on the 14 stations read by the
pastor or a lay leader while the students silently portray the stations.
I am very pleased that the students take the project seriously and they
have received many compliments on their maturity and the quality of
"My question: The cross is present for all 14 stations
would this qualify for the indulgence? One of my focuses in my ministry
is to acquaint the children with traditions that have faded ...
introducing them to indulgences would be something new for this year."
The Enchiridion, No. 63.2, requires 14 crosses for a legitimate Way of
the Cross to be set up. But No. 63.5 grants the indulgence to those who,
legitimately impeded, meditate or engage in spiritual reading on the
Passion for about 15 minutes.
Any legitimate impediment is sufficient, such as not having reasonable
access to a legitimate Via Crucis. For example, in one of his apostolic
visits Pope John Paul II made his habitual Friday Way of the Cross in a
helicopter during the trajectory from one meeting to another.
No. 63.6 says that other approved pious exercises commemorating the
Passion, and divided into 14 stations, also qualify for the indulgence.
The practice described by our correspondent, and similar public Via
Crucis, would fall within either of the above-mentioned categories for
the sake of obtaining the plenary indulgence.
A reader from Malta asked if the Resurrection may be added as a 15th
station. While this is not required, it is a possibility. The Directory
for Popular Piety (No. 134) specifically states that "the Via Crucis is
a pious devotion connected with the Passion of Christ; it should
conclude, however, in such fashion as to leave the faithful with a sense
of expectation of the resurrection in faith and hope; following the
example of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem which ends with a station at the
Anastasis, the celebration could end with a commemoration of the Lord's
There might be days, such as Good Friday, when adding such a specific
station commemorating the Resurrection could be less appropriate, due to
the specific character of each moment of the Easter triduum.