How the Stations of the Cross Teach Us a “Way of Proceeding”

Stations of the Cross image by Steve Snodgrass under CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

In his book, Station to Station: An Ignatian Journey through the Stations of the Cross, author Gary Jansen tells the story of a noted psychologist who asked an audience, “If I squeeze an orange, what comes out?” After a hesitation, one person shouted out, “Orange juice!” The psychologist responded, “Orange juice. Yes. Why?” Again, after a hesitation, one person answered, “Because that’s what’s inside the orange.” The psychologist affirmed that and said, “We could say the juice is the orange’s essence.” The psychologist then asked, after a short pause, “So what comes out of you when someone puts the squeeze on you?” Jansen follows up the story by asserting that how we respond to life—our attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior—expresses who we are: it reveals our essence.

St. Ignatius and the order he established—the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)—speak of the need for a “way of proceeding” in all that we do, meaning that there are certain attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior that are to guide us and that we are to be known by (thus the phrase from the song “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”). Attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior don’t just happen; they are taught. During Lent, the Stations of the Cross can serve as a powerful tool for teaching us a “way of proceeding.” In Station to Station, Gary Jansen proposes that we look at and reflect on the Stations of the Cross as a primer for how Jesus responded when he faced his most difficult challenge: the suffering that culminated in his Crucifixion. By reflecting on the Stations of the Cross by way of various Ignatian exercises, Jansen proposes that we can learn to respond more as Jesus would when we face life’s challenges.

I find this approach to the Stations of the Cross to be very helpful. Too often, we approach this devotion as an exercise in making ourselves feel bad for all that Jesus did for us, thus motivating us to show him a bit more gratitude as though “we owe him one,” when, in reality, it is meant to serve as a teaching tool for learning and integrating the essence of Christ into our own being. You might consider using Jansen’s book, Station to Station, during Lent for your own reflection, for a small group book discussion, or to assist you in creating guided reflections or Living Stations for those you teach.

During this Lenten season, let’s reflect on what comes “out of us” when life squeezes us and pray that our way of proceeding will be recognized as worthy of the label, “disciple of Jesus.”

Station of the Cross image by Steve Snodgrass under CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

About Joe Paprocki 2345 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

3 Comments on How the Stations of the Cross Teach Us a “Way of Proceeding”

  1. You give me so many great ideas to help reach & teach my 4th & 5th graders. Makes so much sense. Thank you very much

  2. Beautiful lesson am a catechist at st.peters station of Arror St.Benedicts parish in Eldored Catholic Diocese.Kenya. can I have online lessons on cathecist tools

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