Prayer in Lent: Stations of the Cross. One of the three principle forms of Lenten penance is prayer (the others being almsgiving and sacrifice). So I encourage all of you to “pray more” during Lent, either adding some extra prayer(s) to your daily and/or weekly routine, or praying the prayers you already pray with more attention, devotion and time. One excellent form of prayer during Lent is the Stations of the Cross (or Via Dolorosa, Via Crucis, Way of Sorrows, Way of the Cross), which can be prayed at home, but is most beneficially prayed in a place where “Stations” are physically erected, as they are in our church, and also along the perimeter of the woods behind our church.
Historically, this devotion goes back to the earliest days of the Church: tradition tells us that the Blessed Mother used to visit the places of her Son’s Passion every day. By the beginning of the 4th century the route from Pilate’s praetorium up the hill to Calvary was well worn and marked with the key stations of His suffering, and pilgrims came from all over the nascent Christian world to walk the “Via.” By at least the 5th century, the devotion spread outside of the Holy Land, as monasteries, chapels and churches erected their own set of Stations. The devotion particularly expanded in popular piety through the work of the Franciscans, and some say St. Francis of Assisi himself, beginning in the 13th century. The erection of Stations of the Cross in churches became widespread in the 18th century.
Today, virtually every Catholic church has a version of the 14 Stations. And while the devotion may be fruitfully practiced throughout the year, it is particularly fitting to Lent. So please, consider praying the Stations, especially in the church, either by yourself or with your family, and/or joining other parishioners on Friday evenings in Lent at 6:30 pm (except on March 24, when we start at 5pm).
There are many different booklets available to guide you in praying the Stations. The one we use here on Friday evenings is found in a small violet covered paperback entitled, “The Way of the Cross: According to the Method of St. Alphonsus Liguori,” which is available for purchase in our gift shop or on Amazon (listed there, for some reason, as “The Way of the Cross by Alphonsus de Liguori”). Of course, copies are available for use on Friday evenings for all participants.
It should be noted that a plenary indulgence is gained by those who make them before Stations lawfully erected (e.g., in a church), while devoutly meditating upon the passion and death of the Lord, while moving from one station to the other (at least the leader must move during public Stations), and fulfilling the other usual requirements for a plenary indulgence (i.e., the person must: 1) be free of all attachment to sin, even venial, 2) go to confession and receive Communion within several days before or after, and 3) pray for the Pope’s intentions).
Finally, I’d like to point out 2 very beautiful prayers found in “method” of St. Alphonsus that can be very helpful during Lent, and year-round. The first is the a very short but powerful prayer composed by St. Francis of Assisi: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” The second is what I call the “Prayer of St. Alphonsus,” which is repeated in slightly different forms at each station: “I love Thee, Jesus my love; I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.” Consider praying these every day during Lent.
Planned Parenthood Hypocrisy. You may have heard that the pro-lifers in Congress, supported by President Trump, are moving to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America, the largest provider of abortions in the country. In the past, Congress has given about $500 million a year to PPA, restricting the use of the funds to non-abortion related women’s “health care.” But, of course, all cash is fungible, meaning that if you give $5 to PPA to pay for band aids, that frees up $5 they raise from other donors to use that to pay for abortions. And if you give the $500 million to pay for women’s “health care” …
Even so, the Media Research Council reports: “the undisputable fact is that their clinics provide less than 2 percent of the nation’s breast exams and pap smears. They don’t offer mammograms at all. The vast majority of their non-abortion services include STD testing and birth control.” Moreover, only 19 of the 650 PPA clinics nationwide, less than 3%, offer “prenatal services”—and all 19 of those clinics are in only 2 states. Meanwhile, PPA provides “more than a third of the nation’s abortions, …more than 300,000 …every year.”
PPA claims that abortions make up only 3% of its business. That number is derived from a contortion of the numbers, so that even the Washington Post acknowledges this could be has high as 37 to 55%, and the Susan B. Anthony Fund estimates it to be 94%. But assuming it’s only 3%, consider this: last week President Trump offered to continue to give PPA the $500 million in federal funds if they would simply stop providing abortions. PPA refused. Hmmmmm….
There are plenty of other bona fide full service women’s health care clinics that do not provide abortions who would put our money to good and honest use.
St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. As you know, all Fridays in Lent are days of mandatory abstinence from meat, under pain of mortal sin. However, the Bishop of every diocese has the authority to dispense his subjects from this rule, if that would serve the genuine good of the faithful. This Friday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, a day that many observe with parties and other celebrations. Considering this, Bishop Burbidge has dispensed “the faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, as well as to any visitors or travelers who may be physically present within the territory of this diocese” from the obligation of abstinence from meat on this Friday. However, the Bishop exhorts us, “to undertake a work of charity, an exercise of piety, or an act of comparable penance.” I would also remind you that you that the dispensation does not mean you must eat meat, and that you are still free to keep the observance of Friday abstinence if you choose.
Cardinal Burke. I hope you are looking forward to Cardinal Raymond Burke’s talk at 7pm on Friday, March 24. His topic is: “Saint Raymond of Peñafort: The Inseparable Bond between Doctrine and Discipline.” It looks like we’re expecting a great turnout, so you might want to get there a little early to get a good seat. See you there!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles