The Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus by Reginaldus

VIEWS: 27 PAGES: 20

									An introduction on how to pray the Stations of the
Cross with St. Alphonsus
St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross could well be the most popular form of the Stations of
the Cross currently in use. It may be that the Stations written by St. Alphonsus are
nearly as popular as every other set of Stations taken together!

Nevertheless, though The Way of the Cross which St. Alphonsus wrote is extremely
popular, it may be the case that many would like to learn how better to pray these
Stations with St. Alponsus. To this end, we will consider the Stations of St. Alphonsus in
several successive posts over the next two weeks. In this first article, we will take a more
general look at the structure and characteristics of St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross,
pointing out the elements which are most essential to St. Alphonsus’ understanding of
prayer and the spiritual life. In subsequent articles, we will consider the particular
Stations in themselves.

St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross is not Ignatian

It is often helpful, in order to come to a fuller understanding of a particular approach to
prayer, to compare that spirituality to another. In this regard, we may consider how
widely different is St. Alphonsus’ method of mediation from that which is most
commonly called “Ignatian Prayer.”

The prayer which is termed “Ignatian,” and is most clearly embodied in the Spiritual
Exercises of St. Ignatius, focuses largely on entering the biblical scene. Over and over
again, St. Ignatius directs the believer to imagine the original biblical setting (and
especially particular realistic details of the setting) and to “enter into” the moment
either as a biblical character or (perhaps) as oneself.

This Ignatian Prayer, valuable as it is, has little in common with the spirituality of St.
Alphonsus. The Doctor of Morals directs us not so much to imagine the scene, as to
consider the love which is manifested in the words and deeds of Christ. As we recognize
this immense love, we are then able to make an act of love in return. For St. Ignatius, the
imagination and the intellect hold a very high place; but, for St. Alphonsus, it is the will
and even the affects which are of greatest concern.

[please note: By no means do we intend to pit these two schools of spirituality (nor less
these two saints) one against the other. Rather, it is our intention simply to point out
the legitimate diversity which exists within the Church’s life.]

Key themes in St. Alphonsus’ doctrine of prayer (summarized from The Great
Means of Salvation and Perfection)
The necessity of the prayer of petition – For St. Alphonsus, the most necessary form of
prayer is the prayer of petition. Certainly, thanksgiving, adoration, praise, and
meditation are all very important. Still, the most necessary and truly essential form and
aspect of prayer is the prayer of petition. When we pray, according to St. Alphonsus, we
must ask for graces. All our prayer is directed to this end: That we might ask for the
right graces, that we might persevere in asking, and that we might ask with great
confidence.

Affective movements in prayer – While it is certainly true that St. Alphonsus allots a
healthy role to the intellect, it is also clear that the Doctor insists on the primacy of the
will in the spiritual life. By “affective movements,” we mean especially acts of hope and
love. Affectivity is not merely to be understood as emotions or feelings, but as
movements of the will (which must be in accord with reason). A good example of what
St. Alphonsus means by stressing affectivity in prayer is his regular use of ejaculations:
My Good and Loving Jesus, let me love you more and more!

Meditation as a means rather than the end – From these previous points, it follows that
mediation is only a means in the spiritual life. For St. Alphonsus, the principle goal of
prayer is the prayer of petition. But, we will only ask with confidence and perseverance if
we are convinced that God loves us and that we love God – thus, the importance of
affective movements. However, the primary motivation for our love is the Love of God
as expressed in the life of Christ and the other elements of Divine Revelation. Thus, St.
Alphonsus tells us that mental prayer and meditation are morally necessary – since,
without mental prayer, it will be very difficult for us to engage fully in the prayer of
petition (which is absolutely necessary to all).

The grace of final perseverance – Finally, first among those good things, for which St.
Alphonsus directs us to ask when we enter the prayer of petition, is the grace of final
perseverance. This is the goal of all our prayer: Salvation. This is the one grace needed
for salvation: Final perseverance. But, St. Alphonsus reminds us, the grace of final
perseverance is not merely that last grace which brings us into eternal life, but it is a
whole string of graces throughout our life which inspire us to good works and,
especially, to prayer. More than anything else, we must ask for the grace of final
perseverance, since it cannot be merited but can only be imprecated and begged for
from the almighty and merciful God.

Characteristics of St. Alphonsus’ meditations on the Stations of the Cross

Affective: Over and over again, St. Alphonsus directs us to consider the love which
motivated Christ on his sorrowful journey and also to make multiple acts of love for our
adorable Jesus.
My Lord Jesus Christ, You have made this journey to die for me with unspeakable love
[…] I love You will all my heart […] You go to die for love of me. I want, my beloved
Redeemer, to die for love of You. (from the Preparatory Prayer)

Petitionary: Throughout the Stations, St. Alphonsus leads us to ask for graces from
our loving Savior. These petitions are at the heart of the Doctor’s spirituality.

Grant that I may love You always, and then do with me as You will. (the conclusion to
nearly every Station)

Brief meditation: Notice that St. Alphonsus does offer a simple meditation on the
mystery kept at each Station. However, it is striking to note that the affective prayer
which follows each meditation is almost always substantially longer than the meditation
itself. Consider how brief is the meditation offered for the Twelfth Station (“Jesus dies
upon the Cross”):

Consider how your Jesus, after three hours of agony on the Cross, abandons Himself to
the weight of His body, bows His head, and dies.

Tropological, or moralizing: By this we mean to indicate that St. Alphonsus
regularly offers a spiritual interpretation of the historical event – usually focusing on a
moral implication signified by the reality itself. The mysteries of Christ’s life are re-
interpreted spiritually along moral lines.

My beloved Jesus, Your face was once beautiful before You began this journey; but,
now, it no longer appears beautiful […] Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it
received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. (from the
Sixth Station, “Veronica offers her veil to Jesus”)

Marian: It is good to recall that St. Alphonsus is the “Marian Doctor.” Thus, it is no
surprise that the Blessed Virgin Mary plays a central role in several of the Stations.
Beyond the obvious Fourth Station (“Jesus meets His afflicted Mother”), she is also
mentioned with great devotion and tenderness in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth
Stations (“Jesus is taken down from the Cross” and “Jesus is placed in the sepulcher,”
respectively)

Focused on final perseverance: The one essential grace for which we must daily ask
is the grace of final perseverance. But, as we have mentioned above, this grace
(according to St. Alphonsus) is really a whole string of graces by which the good Lord
directs us in our daily perseverance, especially in the life of prayer. Considering the love
of our Savior, witnessed and realized in his dolorous Passion, the believer is inspired to
beg the good Lord for perseverance.
By the merits of this new fall, give me the grace to persevere in Your love until death.
(from the Seventh Station, “Jesus falls the second time”)




“Meditation is nothing more than a converse between the soul and God; the soul pours
forth to him its affections, its desires, its fears, its requests, and God speaks to the heart,
causing it to know his goodness, and the love which he bears it, and what it must do to
please him. I will lead her into solitude, and speak to her heart.” (from The Way of
Salvation and Perfection)
The first three Stations of the Cross, with St.
Alphonsus
In an earlier article, we have discussed some of the general themes of St. Alphonsus’
approach to the Stations of the Cross and also what makes his spirituality different from
others (in particular, from Ignatian prayer). In this article, we will begin our
commentary on St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross itself – a project which will extend over
at least the next two weeks.

We turn to the preparatory prayer and the first three Stations: Jesus is condemned to
death, Jesus is made to bear his Cross, and Jesus falls the first time. Considering each of
these in detail, it is our hope that we may all be able to enter more fully into the Way of
the Cross and so increase in love for our Savior who has so loved us!

The preparatory prayer

My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable,
and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my
whole heart, and because I love Thee, I repent sincerely for ever having offended Thee.
Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to
die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus,
I will live and die always united to Thee.

Notice how St. Alphonsus begins by directing us to recall to our Savior his “unutterable”
love – a love so great as to lead him to die for us! Considering the great love of Christ our
God, we are then impelled to make an act of love in return. Indeed, for the Teacher of
Prayer, the way of the Cross is principally an act of love which the Christian soul makes
for Christ, who has so loved her.

Yet, it will not be enough for the soul simply to love her Savior, it is also most necessary
that she ask him for graces – indeed, according to St. Alphonsus, the prayer of petition
is the goal and end of all meditation. For this reason, we are directed to ask our Savior
for pardon and the gift of final perseverance: “My Jesus, I will live and die always united
to Thee.” If only we die united to Christ, we shall surely attain eternal life!

The First Station: Jesus is condemned to death

Consider how Jesus, after having been scourged and crowned with thorns, was
unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the Cross.

This brief meditation recalls the history of the event, and directs our minds to the end:
“To die on the Cross.”
My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate, no, it was my sins that condemned Thee to die. I
beseech Thee, by the merits of this sorrowful journey, to assist my soul in its journey
towards eternity. I love Thee, my beloved Jesus; I repent with my whole heart for
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.

St. Alphonsus will not allow the guilt to remain with Pilate, but brings us to acknowledge
our own part in Christ’s death: “It was my sins.” Recognizing our sinfulness, but also
recalling the Savior’s love for us, we beg the Good Lord for the daily graces which will
lead (by God’s mercy) to the ultimate grace of final perseverance: “I beseech Thee to
assist my soul in its journey towards eternity.”

Considering the great love that Jesus has shown in walking the way of the Cross for us,
how could we refrain from asking him for the gift of salvation? Indeed, the love of Christ
compels us to ask for this gift, for salvation will be the consummation of our love!

The Second Station: Jesus is made to bear his Cross

Consider how Jesus, in making this journey with the Cross on His shoulders thought of
us, and for us offered to His Father the death He was about to undergo.

St. Alphonsus desires to call our attention to the historical fact that Christ was thinking
of you and of me as he carried his Cross. He loved each of us (all together and
individually) with an intense love – he offered his death to his Father, for our salvation.

My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations Thou hast destined for me until
death. I beseech Thee, by the merits of the pain Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy
Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and
resignation. I love Thee, Jesus my love; 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.

According to the tropological or moral sense, St. Alphonsus connects Christ’s carrying of
the Cross with our daily bearing of sufferings and trials. The Saint is inspired by the
Savior’s own words: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).

Again, we are directed to ask for grace and help! We petition the Lord for graces; in
particular, we now ask for the grace to carry our daily crosses and to unite them to that
of our Savior. How prideful it would be for us to look upon our Lord, suffering for our
salvation, and yet refrain from asking for this gift which he so longs to give us!

The Third Station: Jesus falls the first time
Consider this first fall of Jesus under His Cross. His flesh was torn by the scourges, His
head crowned with thorns, and He had lost a great quantity of blood. He was so
weakened that he could scarcely walk, and yet he had to carry this great load upon His
shoulders. The soldiers struck Him rudely, and thus He fell several times in His
journey.

In this meditation, St. Alphonsus provides more detail than in the first two Stations.
Considering the particular pains which our Lord suffered, our hearts are excited to
compassionate our Savior.

My beloved Jesus, it is not the weight of the Cross, but my sins, which have made Thee
suffer so much pain. Ah, by the merits of this first fall, deliver me from the misfortune
of falling into mortal sin. I love Thee, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; 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.

As in the first Station, we acknowledge that the sufferings which Christ endured in the
way of the Cross are not merely the external and historical sufferings inflicted upon him
by the Romans and the Jews, but (even more) are the offenses which our sins have been
to him. “It is not the weight of the Cross, but my sins, which have made Thee suffer so
much pain.”

Yet, confident in the love of Christ – a love which is shown in that he loved us and died
for us, while we were yet in sin – St. Alphonsus directs us to petition for a fitting grace.
As Christ suffered a physical and bodily fall, we beg that, by the merits of this fall, we
may be preserved from the spiritual fall which is mortal sin. How important is this
prayer of petition! If only we begged ardently for this grace – the grace to ever more
avoid all mortal sin – we would certainly be saved!
The 4th, 5th and 6th Stations of the Cross, with St.
Alphonsus
Having already considered St. Alphonsus general approach to the Stations of the Cross,
as well as the first three Stations of his Way of the Cross in particular, we know turn to
the fourth, fifth and sixth Stations.

In these three Stations, we see Jesus interact with three individuals: His Mother, the
Cyrenian, and the holy woman Veronica. We too come to meet Christ and accompany
him on his sorrowful journey. Let the love which the Savior shows us in this dolorous
way, inflame our hearts with a true and holy love in return.

The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his afflicted Mother

Consider, the meeting of the Son and the Mother, which took place on this journey.
Jesus and Mary looked at each other, and their looks became as so many arrows to
wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly.

St. Alphonsus is the Marian Doctor – he wrote numerous tracts on Our Lady, both
proclaiming her central and indispensible role in the mystery of salvation and directing
the faithful to a true devotion of the Blessed Mother. Here, in this short meditation for
the fourth Station, St. Alphonsus’ love and devotion for the Queen of Heaven expresses
itself in profound compassion and sorrow.

My most loving Jesus, by the sorrow Thou didst experience in this meeting, grant me
the grace of a truly devoted love for Thy most holy Mother. And thou, my Queen, who
wast overwhelmed with sorrow, obtain for me by thy intercession a continual and
tender remembrance of the Passion of thy Son. I love Thee, Jesus, my love; I repent of
ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may
love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Here, and again at the thirteenth Station, St. Alphonsus addresses his words also to the
Blessed Virgin in addition to Christ. Notice, throughout the Stations, the Saint directs us
to speak principally to the Lord, but, as all true devotion to Christ passes through Mary,
we call out also to the Mother of Sorrows.

For St. Alphonsus, what is most important in our meditation on the Passion, is to
recognize the love and zeal for souls which compelled Christ to offer himself upon the
Cross. As Mary knew this love most intimately, she will instruct the faithful in tender
love and devotion. Through her prayer, we who entrust ourselves to her motherly
protection will gain “a continual and tender remembrance of the Passion of [her] Son.”
The Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus to carry the Cross

Consider that the Jews seeing that at each step Jesus, from weakness, was on the point
of expiring, and fearing that He would die on the way when they wished Him to die the
ignominious death of the cross, constrained Simon the Cyrenian to carry the cross
behind Our Lord.

Notice that St. Alphonsus states that the “Jews” forced Simon into service. This, of
course, is not quite accurate – since, it was the Roman soldiers who pulled Simon from
the crowd. Nevertheless, it may be true insofar as certain Jews are the remote cause of
all the events of the Passion. It was their hatred of Jesus which forced Pilate’s hand (not
that he really cared much at all about the Lord anyways), and therefore it is their ill-will
that led to the events which also “constrained Simon the Cyrenian to carry the cross
behind Our Lord.”

Moreover, we must emphasize that it was by no means the case that all the Jews hated
the Savior: Mary, John and Veronica were all Jews. However, it is worth noting that the
Greek term used could also be rendered “Judaeans,” which would indicate the diversity
between the Jews of Judea and the Jews of Galilee – this is also evident in the fact that
Peter was recognized as a follower of Jesus through his Galilean accent.

My most sweet Jesus, I will not refuse the cross as the Cyrenian did; I accept it, I
embrace it. I accept in particular the death that Thou hast destined for me with all the
pains which may accompany it; I unite it to Thy death, I offer it to Thee. Thou has died
for love of me, I will die for love of Thee, and to please Thee. Help me by Thy grace. I
love Thee, Jesus, my love; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend
Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.

St. Alphonsus accepts the tradition that Simon was truly “constrained” and forced to
carry the Cross – not that he did so willingly, but rather out of compulsion. We, on the
other hand, join the Lord on his Way not through external compulsion but by the
internal impulse of love.

Among the many ways in which we are able to accompany the Lord on his sorrowful
journey, St. Alphonsus directs us in particular to accepting “the death that [Christ] has
destined for [us] with all the pains which may accompany it.” This preparation for a holy
death was extremely important in St. Alphonsus’ thought. The grace of final
perseverance is THE GRACE which we must ask for each day, it is the only grace that
really matters. However, final perseverance is (according to the Doctor of Morals) not
merely the last grace but also the whole string of graces which led us to the point of
turning to the Lord in our final hour.
Considering that Christ has died for love of us, we are filled with confidence in his holy
and divine love. Turning to the Savior we beg him for the grace to die for love of him and
to please him.

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Consider that the holy woman named Veronica, seeing Jesus so afflicted, and His face
bathed in sweat and blood, presented Him with a towel with which He wiped His
adorable face, leaving on it the impression of His holy countenance.

Veronica does not appear in the earliest martyrologies and her cult of veneration
developed quite late. The event on the way of the Cross is not found in the Scriptures,
and even St. Charles Borromeo excluded her feast from the Milan Missal. The name
“Veronica” may come from the combined Latin and Greek: vera (true) and icon (image),
referring to the impression of Christ’s Holy Face upon the cloth. Still today, the image is
often called “The Veronica.”

Nevertheless, both the strong witness of numerous oral traditions as well as of the
mystical visions granted to countless saints confirm that this act of compassion did
occur. “The holy woman,” whom the Church has “named Veronica” was moved by the
great love which Christ our Savior was showing in the Passion and, inspired by grace,
“presented him with a towel.” The cloth which bears the image of our Lords holy
countenance is said to be kept in Rome at the Basilica of the Vatican, being displayed
each year after Palm Sunday vespers for the veneration of the faithful.

My most beloved Jesus, Thy face was beautiful before, but in this journey it has lost all
its beauty, and wounds and blood have disfigured it. Alas! my soul also was once
beautiful, when it received Thy grace in Baptism; but I have disfigured it since by my
sins. Thou alone, my Redeemer, canst restore it to its former beauty. Do this by Thy
Passion, O Jesus. I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee
again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.

St. Alphonsus directs us to a highly tropological or moral understanding of this holy
event. As Christ’s Face has been disfigured by blows and pains, so too I have disfigured
my soul through sins. Through my own fault, I have lost that baptismal grace which
beautifies my soul, but I pray that – as Veronica cleansed the Lord’s Holy Face – the
Good Jesus may purify and raise my soul by renewed graces.

Notice that the contemplation of the historical event is meant to lead us immediately to
the petition of graces. Again, how different this is from Ignatian prayer (and from many
other forms of prayer)! Following St. Alphonsus’ method, we do not so much intend to
enter the scene or focus on our imaginative powers, but rather we work to excite our
heart to acts of charity. Filled with this holy love, we are then able to implore God’s
mercy and ask for his grace.
The 7th, 8th and 9th Stations of the Cross, with St.
Alphonsus
We now turn our attention to the next three Stations, in which our Savior falls twice and
meets the women of Jerusalem. We have already considered St. Alphonsus’ approach in
general, his meditations on the first three Stations, and also on the second set of three.
Hence, we now turn to the middle three Stations: The second fall, the encounter with
the sorrowful women, and the third fall.

In these Stations we see clearly the humanity of our Lord, insofar as he fell several times
on his journey; but also we recognize that his divinity is presented to us as well, since he
tells the women to weep not for him but for their children. How great indeed is the love
of our Jesus, who in the midst of such terrible suffering directs us not so much to pity
for himself, but rather to conversion of heart.

Let us take counsel from the lesson our Savior has delivered us on this Via Dolorosa. In
the Passion of Christ we will find instruction in all the virtues. Inspired by the love of
our Lord, we are filled with sorrow and we weep for our sins and for those of the whole
world.

The 7th Station: Jesus falls the second time

Consider the second fall of Jesus under the cross—a fall which renews the pain of all
the wounds of the head and members of our afflicted Lord.

In his characteristic brevity and simplicity, St. Alphonsus calls to mind the essence of
the Station. Notice that the Teacher of Prayer does not dwell extensively on all the
details of the Passion – rather, he is content to briefly mention the sufferings endured
and to then pass immediately to the acts of love and sorrow. How different is this
method of meditation from the Ignation method presented in the Spiritual Exercises!

My most gentle Jesus, how many times Thou hast pardoned me, and how many times
have I fallen again, and begun again to offend Thee! Oh, by the merits of this new fall,
give me the necessary helps to persevere in Thy grace until death. Grant that in all
temptations which assail me I may always commend myself to Thee. I love Thee, Jesus,
my love, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to
offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what
Thou wilt.

We are not surprised to find the Saint offer a moralistic interpretation of the second fall:
As our Savior fell many times physically, so we have fallen many times morally.
Moreover, as is characteristic of Alphonsian spirituality, we are directed to implore the
grace of final perseverance: “Give me the necessary helps to persevere in thy grace until
death.”

St. Alphonsus is convinced that, as we consider the sorrowful passion which our Lord
endured, we will be inspired to ask with the greatest confidence for the grace of heaven.
But this grace – the grace of final perseverance – is not merely turning to the Lord at the
last second, but includes also the many graces throughout our lives which maintain that
fundamental relationship with the Lord. Final perseverance is more about living a good
life than about a deathbed conversion. In this respect, the Doctor of Morals shows his
eminent practicality.

The 8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Consider that those women wept with compassion at seeing Jesus in so pitiable a state,
streaming with blood, as He walked along. But Jesus said to them, "Weep not for Me
but for your children."

As we consider the weeping women, we recognize in them the symbol of ourselves as we
accompany Christ on his sorrowful journey. Looking upon the sufferings of our Savior,
we cannot help but weep; but the Lord directs us, together with these women, to weep
more on account of our sins (which he calls your “children”) which caused the Passion
than for the reality of the Way of the Cross itself. Indeed, by this Holy Way, our Lord
gained for us the remission of all sin – hence, it is a most blessed path.

My Jesus, laden with sorrows, I weep for the offenses that I have committed against
Thee, because of the pains which they have deserved, and still more because of the
displeasure which they have caused Thee, Who hast loved me so much. It is Thy love,
more than the fear of hell, which causes me to weep for my sins. My Jesus, I love Thee
more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee
again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

St. Alphonsus directs us to make a perfect act of contrition: Weeping for our sins not
merely because they ought to have gained for us eternal damnation, but even more
because they have caused sorrow to him whom we ought to love above all else. The Saint
does not speak of our love for God so much as an obligation, but as a response to his
infinite love – on this account he directs us to invoke the Lord as “thee, who hast loved
me so much.”

Far more than for fear of punishment – which is itself extremely great – we weep
because we have offend the love of God, because we have rejected this love many times.
The only response to such love is an act of perfect love in return. This St. Alphonsus begs
of the Lord as he says, “Grant that I may love thee always; and then do with me what
thou wilt.”
The 9th Station: Jesus falls the third time

Consider the third fall of Jesus Christ. His weakness was extreme, and the cruelty of
His executioners excessive, who tried to hasten His steps when He had scarcely
strength to move.

In his entirely unsentimental approach, St. Alphonsus imitates the Gospels which relate
our Lord’s Passion in the simplest of terms. The Saint does not so much enter the scene
through extensive use of his imagination, but simply states that Jesus’ “weakness was
extreme, and the cruelty of his executioners excessive.”

Ah, my outraged Jesus, by the merits of the weakness Thou didst suffer in going to
Calvary, give me strength sufficient to conquer all human respect and all my wicked
passions, which have led me to despise Thy friendship. I love Thee, Jesus, my love, with
my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee
again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Here St. Alphonsus directs us to immediately petition the Lord for graces. Rather than
lingering in the construction of the biblical scene or even so much considering the love
of the Lord which led him to undergo such suffering, we are moved to petition for the
graces necessary to overcome all sins. Both external struggles (“all human respect”) and
internal struggles (“all my wicked passions”) can be conquered through the grace
merited by our Savior’s Passion.

Moreover, the Doctor recalls that we have a “friendship” with God, and this is something
most important to recognize. In his own time, St. Alphonsus’ spirituality was
characterized by his insistence that we humans must approach the Lord not simply as
our Creator and Judge, but also as our true friend and father. Certainly, we must bow
humbly before the divine majesty, but St. Alphonsus emphasized the necessity of
“continual and familiar conversation with God.” In this regard, his work How to
converse continually and familiarly with God is an excellent introduction to his
particular spirituality.

Considering that our Savior has suffered so much in our behalf, and that he did not
hesitate to take on our sinful flesh and come among us as a man, how could we remain
far from him? No, indeed, the love of Christ compels us to enter into a most intimate
relationship of friendship with the Lord. True prayer is characterized by this
communion of hearts: Our heart united to his most Sacred Heart.
The 10th, 11th, and 12th Stations of the Cross, with
St. Alphonsus
In these three Stations, we have all the events immediately surrounding the Crucifixion
presented to us: Jesus is stripped of his garments, he is nailed to the Cross, and he dies.
Certainly, these three Stations, and especially the 12th Station, are the heart of the Way
of the Cross. Now more than ever, we witness the infinite love of our Savior, and we are
inspired to make an act of perfect love in return.

In previous articles we considered the first, second, and third sets of three. It will be
particularly helpful to recall what we said in our introduction to St. Alphonsus’ Way of
the Cross. The Doctor of Morals generally has only a brief meditation in which he does
relatively little to “construct the scene” with his imagination, but instead tends to focus
upon the affective elements (the internal movements of the will toward love, contrition,
compassion, etc.). To this end, St. Alphonsus often gives a tropological or moral
interpretation of the Station and then directs us to petition for some grace. Among the
graces to plead, the grace of final perseverance (which is the grace of being admitted to
heaven) is of highest importance and deserves special prominence.

My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable
[…] permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I
wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die
always united to Thee. (From the Preparatory Prayer)

The 10th Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments

Consider the violence with which the executioners stripped Jesus. His inner garments
adhered to His torn flesh and they dragged them off so roughly that the skin came with
them. Compassionate your Saviour thus cruelly treated, and say to Him:

This is certainly one of the most vivid of the meditations which St. Alphonsus offers –
speaking of how the “torn flesh” our Christ was torn off together which the garments.
How excruciating this pain must have been! The Teacher of Prayer, considering the
terrible pains which our Savior endured, breads his usual practice and directly addresses
the faithful who are making the stations.

Here alone, during the consideration of the tenths Station, does St. Alphonsus direct us
to speak to our Savior during the mediation portion of the Station. Only this one time
does St. Alphonsus instruct us, “and say to him:”

My innocent Jesus, by the merits of the torment which Thou hast felt, help me to strip
myself of all affection to things of earth, in order that I may place all my love in Thee,
Who art so worthy of my love. I love Thee, O Jesus, with my whole heart: I repent of
having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love
Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Immediately, inspired by the affective movements of compassion and love, St.
Alphonsus offers a moral interpretation of the event: As Christ was stripped of his
garments, so may we be stripped of our attachments to the world. Being freed from the
consolations of the secular world, we are then able to love the Lord more perfectly. All
our efforts are directed to this one end: that we may place all our love in Jesus, who is so
worthy of our love.

The 11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Consider that Jesus, after being thrown on the cross, extended His hands, and offered
to His eternal Father the sacrifice of His life for our salvation. These barbarians
fastened Him with nails; and then, raising the cross, left Him to die with anguish on
this infamous gibbet.

In the meditation on the 11th Station, we cannot help but recall St. Alphonsus words in
contemplating the 2nd Station (Jesus is made to bear the Cross). There he had said,
“Consider that Jesus […] offered for us, to his Father, the death that he was about to
undergo.” Here again, in the only other time the Father is mentioned, St. Alphonsus
reminds us that Jesus “offered to his eternal Father the sacrifice of his life for our
salvation.”

As the 2nd Station begins the actual journey itself, since it is only at that time the Jesus
takes up the Cross and starts along the Via Dolorosa; so too the 11th Station marks the
end of that journey, since in his earthly existence the Savior will walk no more, having
been firmly fastened to the Cross.

The barbarous soldiers nail the Savior and leave him to die, but we do not now abandon
him. Rather, considering the great love of Christ, we remain close to the Savior and offer
him acts of compassion and love.

My Jesus, loaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain
there to love Thee, and never quit Thee again. I love Thee more than myself; I repent of
having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love
Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

Here we have the most moving sentiments of love, “nail my heart to thy feet, that it may
ever remain there to love thee, and never quit thee again.” This is the whole petition of
the 11th Station; after this, St. Alphonsus returns again to repeat his lines of love which
come (with some slight variation) at the end of each Station.
The 12th Station: Jesus dies on the Cross

Consider how thy Jesus, after three hours of agony on the cross, consumed at length
with anguish, abandons Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head, and dies.

Notice again the incredible simplicity and brevity of St. Alphonsus’ meditations.
Suggesting to our minds the core realities of the mystery of Christ’s death, the Teacher
of Prayer does not dwell on details – yet, his concise words fill us with such grief!

“After three hours of agony on the Cross” – St. Alphonsus follows the tradition, which is
rooted in the Gospels, that the Lord hung upon the Cross from twelve until three in the
afternoon. Mark states that Christ was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25), which
would seem to be around nine or ten o’clock.

St. Thomas Aquinas, whom St. Alphonsus followed as a sure guide, tells us that the
crowd crucified Christ in their hearts at that hour, for it was then that they cried out,
Crucify him! Crucify him! But, it was not till noon that the soldiers actually nailed him
to the tree. The Douay-Rheims commentary, on the other hand, states that the period
named after the third hour of the day extended till nearly noon – in this way reconciling
the Gospel accounts.

O my dying Jesus, I kiss devoutly the cross on which Thou didst die for love of me. I
have merited by my sins to die a miserable death, but Thy death is my hope. Ah, by the
merits of Thy death, give me grace to die, embracing Thy feet and burning with love of
Thee. I commit my soul into Thy hands. I love Thee with my whole heart; I repent of
ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may
love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

St. Alphonsus pours forth little acclamations of love. Considering that Christ our Savior
died for us, we cannot help but be moved to similar sentiments. Though we deserved to
die the death which Christ endured – indeed, we deserve to die a much more horrible
death – the death of Jesus is our “hope.”

As we contemplate the Savior’s final moments of life, it is no surprise that St. Alphonsus
is moved to petition the grace of final perseverance: “Give me the grace to die,
embracing they feet.” Moreover, the Lord’s words to his eternal Father are meant to be
internalized by us and offered back to Jesus: “I commit my soul into thy hands.”

“My most sweet Jesus […] Thou hast died for love of me, I will die for love of thee, and
to please thee. Help me by thy grace.” (From the 5th Station)
The final two Stations of the Cross, with St.
Alphonsus
In his consideration of these last two Stations (in which Jesus is taken down from the
Cross and laid in the tomb), St. Alphonsus’ love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin
Mary becomes most evident. And this should be no surprise to us; he is, after all, the
“Marian Doctor.”

Having already discussed all of the previous Stations of St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross,
here, here, here, here, and here; we now turn to our final post on the Via Dolorosa. This
article on the 13th and 14th Stations will conclude our series.

The 13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross

Consider that, our Lord having expired, two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus,
took Him down from the cross, and placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother,
who received Him with unutterable tenderness, and pressed Him to her bosom.

Once again, for the first time since the fourth Station, we return to our Lord’s most
Sorrowful Mother. Separated from Christ by the crowd and the soldiers, she is at last re-
united to her son.

Here, the words which Archbishop Fulton Sheen addresses to our Lady are quite
moving: “Bethlehem is Jesus, as you, his sinless mother, gave him to the world; Calvary
is Jesus, as the sinful world gave him back to you. Something intervened between your
giving at the manger and your receiving at the Cross, and that which intervened is my
sins. Mary, this is not your hour; it is my hour – my hour of wickedness and sin. If I had
not sinned, death would not now hover on its black wings about his crimsoned body […]
Mary, it is I who stand between his birth and his redemptive death.” (taken from The
Seven Last Words)

O Mother of Sorrow, for the love of this Son, accept me for thy servant and pray to
Him for me. And Thou, my Redeemer, since Thou hast died for me, permit me to love
Thee; for I wish but Thee, my Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never
permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with
me what Thou wilt.

For the second and final time, St. Alphonsus addresses the Blessed Virgin directly. He
calls her the “Mother of Sorrow,” and indeed she is. According to a moral interpretation,
St. Alphonsus implores our Lady to receive him just as she received the dead Jesus,
holding him in her arms and pressing him to her bosom.
Only through his prior consideration of the “unutterable tenderness” of the Mother and
the “love unutterable” of her Son, can St. Alphonsus dare to ask this great favor.
Trusting not in our own merits, but in the love and mercy of almighty God which is
communicated to us through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we beg the Good Lord’s
pardon and make some small act of love in return.

The 14th Station: Jesus is laid in his tomb

Consider that the disciples carried the body of Jesus to bury it, accompanied by His
holy Mother, who arranged it in the sepulchre with her own hands. They then closed
the tomb and all withdrew.

While the Gospel accounts relate that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared the
body of Jesus for burial and laid it in the tomb, St. Alphonsus recalls the venerable
tradition that the Blessed Mary was central to this activity as well. Indeed, it is most
reasonable to suppose this: How could a mother stand by as her own beloved son is
buried?

Recalling, in this final Station, the significant role which Mary played in Christ’s life, the
Marian Doctor brings us to consider her tender actions in burying her son and her
Savior: “[She] arranged [his body] in the sepulcher with her own hands.” Those hand
which first wrapped the Christ in swaddling clothes, now wrap him in burial bands.

“Is there one who would not weep, whelmed in miseries so deep? Christ’s dear mother to
behold.” (from the Stabat Mater)

Oh, my buried Jesus, I kiss the stone that encloses Thee. But Thou didst rise again the
third day. I beseech Thee, by Thy resurrection, make me rise glorious with Thee at the
last day, to be always united with Thee in heaven, to praise Thee and love Thee
forever. I love Thee, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to
offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee; and then do with me what Thou wilt.

St. Alphonsus invokes the dead body of Jesus directly, “Oh, my buried Jesus.” Indeed,
he is right to do so, since the divine person of the Eternal Word remained united to the
lifeless body which was laid in the tomb. Just as we may rightly plead the mercy of the
blood and water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus (in the chaplet Divine
Mercy), so too we may pray to the entombed body of our Savior. Though his soul is no
longer present, the person of Jesus, which is the Eternal Word himself, lay dead (i.e.
personally united to a corpse) within the tomb.

And, although the practice of adding a 15th Station for the Resurrection is to be ignored
and, when possible, rooted out; the Doctor of Morals cannot help but call to mind our
faith in Jesus’ Resurrection. It is the bodily Resurrection of our Savior which is the
efficient cause of our own glorification in the general resurrection on the Last Day. Thus,
the Teacher of Prayer leaves us looking toward Heaven, toward the great hope to be
fulfilled in Life Everlasting.

								
To top