A Stations of the Cross pilgrimage in Old North St. Louis
Deaconess Anne House Director Rebecca Ragland with a bit of history and an invitation
I’d like to invite you to a very special opportunity we’re hosting at Deaconess Anne House. It’s a very special devotional opportunity using the Stations of the Cross, but first let me refresh your memory on this ancient tradition.
The Stations of the Cross evolved over millennia. Those first years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, believers retraced the path Jesus walked from his condemnation to his crucifixion. In the mid-300s, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Emperor provided money and resources to honor many points along that route. During the Crusades (1400s, as a way of recruiting Christian crusaders (aka soldiers) to recapture Palestine from Muslim rule, the church gave an indulgence to each “soldier-pilgrim” who completed this arduous trip and walked the stations of the cross.* Over the following centuries, all types of Christians made pilgrimage.
The Stations of the Cross evolved under the leadership of the Franciscans (1500s) to include niches on church grounds or in the woods. Devotion happened by prayerfully moving through these 14 stations. While the sites differed, requirements remained the same: the stations had to number 14, they needed to include an image from the story and a cross, and walking from one to the next was encouraged. Reading of the Gospel account and prayer was also recommended but not required.
After the Reformation, the few protestants who still practiced this devotion, removed those stations that were not described in the Bible. Pope John Paul II followed suit by creating the Scriptural Stations of the Cross, still numbering 14. For example, there is no wiping of Jesus’ face by St. Veronica. Pope Benedict approved these scriptural stations in 2007. In the Episcopal tradition, we honor the original 14 stations including the extra-Biblical accounts inherited from lore. Suggested readings and prayers are offered in our Book of Occasional Services.
Perhaps your church has images of the Stations of the Cross in your worship space. If so, please consider spending time with them. But if you are able, please journey to Old North St Louis to join us! On April 8 at 10 AM, we will walk the stations in a very special way. If it’s your first or fifteenth time, this will be an opportunity to unite the past with the present.
We’ll be walking to fourteen places in our neighborhood. These are locations that map onto Jesus’ way of suffering. At each station, we’ll have a reflection by a Deaconess Anne Intern about how Jesus meets us in modern places of suffering. We’ll read a scripture and pray. We will walk, pray, and encounter our suffering savior in the streets.
Stations of the Cross at Deaconess Anne House, 1416 Sullivan, St Louis, will begin at 10 AM on Saturday, April 8th. We’ll walk the neighborhood even in light rain, so wear comfy shoes and dress appropriately. A soup and salad lunch will be provided, as desired.
For more information: call the Rev. Rebecca Ragland. DAH Director, 314-556-2585. NO RSVP NECESSARY.
• Indulgences were a reward the church gave for acts of righteousness. They were believed to cut time off from the soul’s sojourn in purgatory after death.
Deaconess Anne House online: esc-stl.org
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First published in the February issue of Seek: voices of the Diocese of Missouri. Read online here, read past issues, or subscribe.