The Journey Of Jesus To The Cross As Basis For Prayer Service

A visitor to St. Mary Basilica at 5:30 pm or to Holy Family or Assumption Catholic churches at 6:00 pm on any Friday during Lent would find groups of people gathered in each for a prayer service called the Way of the Cross. During this prayer service, participants meditate on the final hours of the earthly life of Jesus Christ and remember specific things that happened on his journey to the place of execution.

This prayer service does not include a Communion rite. It is not limited to Roman Catholics. The Way of the Cross prayer service is offered at St. Mary Basilica also at 12:05 on Fridays and at St. Ann in Fayette at 6:00 pm on the Wednesdays of lent.

A service booklet is available to all participants in order that they can participate in the prayers and responses. Every Catholic Church has a set of fourteen pictures/paintings on the church walls depicting scenes from Jesus' journey to crucifixion. These are known as the Stations of the Cross and are in the following order.
  1. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate
  2. The cross is placed on the shoulders of Jesus
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets his sorrowful Mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his sorrowing mother
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb
The prayer service is usually led by one of the congregations lay leaders. That person is accompanied by a cross bearer and two candle bearers. This prayer team pauses before each 'station,' and at each there is a description of each of the scenes, a responsive reading and a meditation on each scene.

This form of prayer service grew out of the experience of travelers to Jerusalem who would prayerfully follow the road to Calvary that Jesus walked. After returning to their home areas, they wanted to repeat the experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The practice began from the insights of St. Francis of Assisi who lived in the twelfth century and was developed in its present form by the fifteenth century. It is now practiced world-wide in Catholic Churches. In addition to the Way of the Cross for a group, many individual Catholics pray the Way of the Cross on their own. While it is mostly associated with the season of Lent, many Catholics observe their own Way of the Cross on a weekly basis throughout the year.

Eight of the 'stations' listed above have a biblical foundation. In 1991, Pope John Paul II promulgated a new form in which all fourteen stations had a biblical foundation. The traditional and contemporary forms are in use in our time. In fact, the 12:05 pm Friday prayer at St. Mary Basilica is based on the contemporary form and the 5:30 pm Friday service follows the traditional form. John Paul II also added a fifteenth station, namely the Resurrection. An invitation is extended to all interested individuals in the Natchez area to participate in this weekly prayer service during Lent.