The Holy Spirit inspired me to combine spiritual meditation with physical exercise by envisioning the Stations of the Cross in my neighborhood. I walk approximately 10 blocks with stops at places that suggest the 14 locations associated with the Passion of Jesus.
The selection of 14 places has become part of my spiritual contemplation. I offer you a description of locations I chose along with short prayers. You can choose your own special places and formulate your own prayers, or use prayers from other versions of the Way of the Cross.
Station One: Jesus Is Condemned to Death
I chose a tree a few blocks from my house. Four teenagers lost their lives there one night when one drove the car in which they were riding into the tree. After the accident, parents and friends painted a cross on a bare spot on the trunk. I continue to walk a half-block and stand outside the hospital emergency room where the youngsters were taken before being pronounced dead. Here at the hospital many people enter into eternal life as did those teens. Others may accept as a cross such challenges as long-term illness or permanent loss of a limb or faculty.
Lord, forgive us for condemning you through our failure to love others. Sometimes we feel that life is against us and we fail to realize that challenges are as much a part of life as rewards. Lord, we love you and thank you for undergoing your passion to save us.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross,
you have redeemed the world.
(I repeat this refrain after each station. As you walk between stations, you may want to add an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.)
I walk two blocks to a care center for people who have fallen victim to some long-term illness. Many, like Jesus, will fall with the weight of their crosses.
Lord, all of us have crosses in our lifetime, large and small crosses. Please help me shoulder mine. Thank you, God, for giving me my guardian angel in order to help me bear these crosses. May I learn from these experiences and be able to love myself and others better as a result.
Station Three: Jesus Falls the First Time
I cross the street to a public park located near the care center. In the park I spot the ramp from the street where I once observed a Boy Scout assist an elderly lady who could not manage to force her wheelchair up the incline.
Lord, I have fallen victim to sin so many times that I cannot recall the first occasion. Please help me resist Satan and his associates as I attempt to avoid those occasions of sin which have been habits over a period of time.
Station Four: Jesus Meets His Mother
In the park, I can nearly always spot a mother playing with her child, offering love that only a mother can give.
How heartrending it must have been for Mary to meet her beloved son covered with blood and saliva. How hard it is for mothers today who meet their children in jails, hospitals and detention homes for drug and alcohol addiction. Lord, help those mothers who are challenged by the actions of their offspring.
Station Five: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
Near the park where I have been walking is Temple B'Nai Jehudah, a Jewish place of worship. I walk to the bench beside the door. I think of the Holocaust and how the Nazis made my Jewish brothers and sisters fall under their yoke just as the Romans had tortured and crucified Jesus the Jew two millennia ago.
Lord, would that I had been there to assist you to carry your cross! Help me to assist others who have crosses such as illness, confusion, poverty and prejudice to bear. Let me not fail to assist them in bearing their heavy weight.
Station Six: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
I walk to a small fountain where I reach out for some water. I make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead and lips. This is a reminder of the cooling water on the cloth of Veronica.
Jesus, at times I feel depressed because of my own weaknesses. Lord, at those times help me remember that, like Veronica, I can reach out to the rejected in our society. I, too, can wipe a face by extending a smile, a handshake, cheering words or funds.
Some public workers are digging a hole to install new pipes under the street. As I spot the hole, I think about falling into holes. I doubt that Jesus fell on soft dirt like what I see before me.
Jesus, how we humans have made each other suffer over the centuries. Forgive us for the ways in which we have hurt others. Forgive us for the terrible suffering visited upon your people in just the past century, like the world wars, the famines in Bangladesh and the Horn of Africa, oh so many terrible happenings. As you fall for the second time, I am aware of the many times I have fallen due to my sins.
Station Eight: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Ambulatory women from the care center spend some time every day in the park. I ponder their fragility and wisdom. Most, no doubt, are mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. How much they are like the women of Jerusalem who were comforted by Jesus on his way of the cross!
Jesus, even in your very personal torment, you were willing to speak to the troubled women of your city. Grant that I may never be so beset with misery that I am unable to comfort others who are hurting. Help me to share my sympathy and thus gain support with and from those who also are in distress.
Station Nine: Jesus Falls the Third Time
As I start toward home, I take my rosary from my pocket. I sit on a wall and trace the lines of the crucifix. Oh, how much Jesus suffered for us, so much that he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" When I feel as if I'm falling or feel the weight of a great burden, I beg, "My God, my God, do not forsake me."
As Simon assisted you, dear Jesus, in regaining your stance, so may I find assistance when I am down. May I also take advantage of opportunities to help others. When we work together to assist one another, life becomes bearable as challenges arise.
Station Ten: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments
It is a brisk, windy day and flags are flapping in the gale. How much they seem like clothes being torn from human bodies! I'm reminded of how much Jesus was hurt as the garments were snatched off his body.
Lord, help us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Let us always be aware of the beauty of the human body and do nothing to bully or soil it. Help us cover one another, whether with clothing or the comfort of a smile and kind words.
As we suffer our challenges and setbacks like little crosses, let us not forget your Cross. You need not have accepted being nailed to a cross. With each spurt of your blood, we are saved, we are redeemed.
Station Twelve: Jesus Dies on the Cross
The hospital also reminds us that the one certainty of our lives is that they will end in death. Your death, particularly painful, however, was chosen by you, for our sake. With it, O Lord, you secured our redemption. Our death has meaning if we can connect it to yours. Help us to leave this mortal life to enter into eternity.
O my Jesus, I pray for those dying at this moment. I place myself at the foot of your cross with Mary and John. As you expire, my head falls against your feet, and I whisper with the good thief, "Jesus, remember me as you enter into your Kingdom."
Station Thirteen: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross
As I start down the slope beside the hospital, I see a mortuary in the distance. It is at such a place that my earthly body will rest before I am placed in the ground. As I go down the hill, I feel I am helping to take our Lord's body from the cross.
Lord, when our earthly lives have ended, may we too breathe, "It is finished," before our family, relatives and friends pray for our souls in departure rituals. Lord, may I be supportive of others who have lost loved ones recently.
Station Fourteen: Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb
On my return home, I pass tombstones in a cemetery and think of my final resting place. As a Catholic Christian, I am aware that my innermost soul will have gone away from this tomb. You showed us, Lord, on that first Easter how the real person does not stay in the ground or vault but resurrects with you in eternity.
Lord, thank you for being with me as I meditate on your passion and look forward to eternity. Help especially those who are most in need of your mercy. Grant that we may resurrect with you in paradise. Help us to conquer the grave and rise to discover the beauties of heaven. No more will there be sin, hurt or evil; all will be love with God.