Seven years ago this month, a cardinal from Argentina named Jorge Bergoglio came out onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square and greeted the crowd as Pope Francis. One of his earliest public acts was to lead the traditional Way of the Cross liturgy at the Colosseum in Rome two weeks later.
Although the liturgy at the Colosseum is held every year on Good Friday, the devotion is practiced every Friday evening of Lent in many churches throughout the archdiocese — and around the world.
To participate in this Lenten devotion even from home, study each Station, then read and meditate on the accompanying prayer. The prayers are taken from Pope Francis’ first Way of the Cross liturgy, and each Station was photographed in a church within our archdiocese.
I: Jesus is condemned to death
Lord Jesus, do not allow us to be among those who act unjustly. Do not allow the strong to take pleasure in evil, injustice and tyranny. Do not allow injustice to condemn the innocent to despair and death. Confirm them in hope and illumine the consciences of those with authority in this world, that they may govern with justice. Amen.
II: Jesus takes up the cross
Lord Jesus, who accepted humiliation and stood alongside the weak, we entrust to you all who are humiliated and suffering, especially those from the tormented East. Grant that they may find in you the strength to be able to carry their cross of hope with you. We place into your hands all who are lost, so that, thanks to you, they may find truth and love. Amen.
III: Jesus falls for the first time
Lord Jesus, raise us from our own falls, lead our wandering spirit back to your Truth. Do not allow human reason, which you created for yourself, to be satisfied with the partial truths of science and technology without seeking to pose the fundamental questions of the meaning of our existence (cf. “Porta Fidei,” 12).
Grant, Lord, that we may open ourselves to the action of your Holy Spirit, so that he may lead us to the fullness of Truth. Amen.
IV: Jesus meets his mother
Lord Jesus, in our families we, too, experience the sufferings caused to children by their parents and to parents by their children. Lord, grant that in these difficult times our families may be places of your presence, so that our sufferings may be turned to joy. Support our families and make them oases of love, peace and serenity, in the image of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Amen.
V: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
Lord Jesus, you have involved man in the carrying of your cross. You have invited us to share your sufferings. Simon of Cyrene is like us and he teaches us to accept the cross that we encounter on the paths of life. Following your example, Lord, we, too, carry the cross of suffering and illness today, but we accept it because you are with us. It can nail us to our chair, but it cannot prevent us from dreaming; it can obscure our vision, but it cannot touch our conscience; it can deafen our ears, but it cannot prevent us from listening; it can bind our tongue, but it cannot suppress our thirst for truth; it can weigh down our spirit, but it cannot rob us of our freedom.
Lord, we want to be your disciples so as to carry your cross every day; we will carry it with joy and hope because you are carrying it with us, because you have triumphed over death for us.
We give you thanks, Lord, for every sick or ailing person who knows how to bear witness to your love, and for every “Simon of Cyrene” whom you place on our journey. Amen.
VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Lord Jesus, it is your face that we seek. Veronica reminds us that you are present in every person who suffers and goes forward along his or her path to Golgotha. Lord, grant that we may find you in the poor, in the least of your brethren, in order to wipe away the tears of those who weep, to take care of those who suffer and to support those who are weak.
Lord, you teach us that a wounded and forgotten person loses neither worth nor dignity and remains a sign of your hidden presence in the world. Help us to wipe away from his or her face the marks of poverty and injustice, so that your image in him or her may be revealed and may shine forth.
We pray for those who are seeking your face and who find it in those of the homeless, the poor and children exposed to violence and exploitation. Amen.
VII: Jesus falls for the second time
Lord Jesus, in your second fall, we recognize so many of our situations from which there seems to be no way of escape. Among them are those that derive from prejudice and hatred, which harden our hearts and lead to religious conflicts. Enlighten our minds so that they recognize, despite “human and religious differences,” that “a ray of truth shines on all men and women,” called to walk together — with respect for religious freedom — towards the truth that is in God alone. Thus, the different religions can “join one another in service to the common good and contribute to the development of each person and the building of society” (“Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” 27-28).
Come, Holy Spirit, to console and strengthen Christians, especially those from the Middle East, so that, united in Christ, they may be witnesses of your universal love in an area torn apart by injustice and conflicts. Amen.
VIII: Jesus meets the women
Lord Jesus, by your incarnation from Mary, “Blessed among women” (Lk 1:42), you raised the dignity of every woman. With the Incarnation you united the human race (cf. Gal 3:26-28).
Lord, may the encounter with you be the desire of our hearts. Let our path, filled with sufferings, always be a path of hope, with you and towards you who are the refuge of our life and our salvation. Amen.
IX: Jesus falls for the third time
Lord Jesus, the Church, born from your open side, is oppressed under the Cross of the divisions that distance Christians from one another and from the unity that you willed for them; they turn away from your desire “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21) as the Father is with you. This cross bears down with all its weight on their lives and on their common testimony. Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the humility to rise once more and to move forward along the path of unity, in truth and love, without succumbing to the temptation to have recourse merely to the criteria of personal or sectarian interests, in the face of our divisions (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 11).
Grant that we may renounce the mentality of division, “lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17). Amen.
X: Jesus is stripped of his garments
O Jesus, Son of Man, who were stripped so as to reveal to us the new creation raised from the dead, tear in us the veil that separates us from God and weave in us your divine presence. Grant us to conquer fear before the events of life that strip us and leave us naked, and to put on the new man of our baptism, in order that we may announce the good news, proclaiming that you are the only true God who guides history. Amen.
XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross
Lord Jesus, you were crucified for our sins. You pray to God the Father and you intercede for humanity. Each hammer blow echoes like a beat of your immolated heart. How beautiful upon the mount of Calvary are the feet of the One who proclaims the good news of salvation. Your love, Jesus, has filled the universe. Your pierced hands are our refuge in distress. They embrace us whenever the abyss of sin threatens us, and in your wounds we find healing and forgiveness.
O Jesus, we pray to you for all those young people who are overcome by hopelessness, for young people who are the victims of drugs, of sects and of perversions.
Free them from their enslavement. May they lift up their gaze and accept Love. May they find happiness in you; save them, our Savior. Amen.
XII: Jesus dies on the cross
May every one of us be able to cry out: “Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with him. Yesterday I died with him; today I live with him. Yesterday I was buried with him; Today I have risen with him” (Gregory Nazianzen).
In the darkness of our nights, we contemplate you. Teach us to turn towards the Most High, your heavenly Father.
Today, let us pray that all those who promote abortion may become aware that love can only be a source of life. Let us think also of those who defend euthanasia and those who encourage techniques and procedures which endanger human life. Open their hearts to know you in the truth and to work for the building of the civilization of life and love. Amen.
XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his mother
Let us pray for the victims of the wars and of the violence which in our days devastate various countries in the Middle East, as well as other parts of the world. Let us pray that the displaced and the forced migrants may soon return to their homes and lands. Grant, Lord, that the blood of innocent victims may be the seed of a new East, ever more fraternal, peaceful and just, and that this East may recover the splendor of its vocation as the cradle of civilization and of spiritual and human values. Star of the East, show us the coming of the Dawn! Amen.
Lord Jesus, make us children of the light who do not fear the darkness. We pray to you today for all those who search for meaning in life and for all those who have lost hope, that they may have faith in your victory over sin and death. Amen.