QUAERITUR: Stations of the Cross during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

From a reader:

In recent days, I have heard it said a couple of times that praying the Stations of the Cross (in common) during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is not allowed. Is that true? Where is such a directive given? Thanks.

The USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship has an non-authoritative opinion piece about this in which the writer argues that Exposition is a liturgical worship of Christ while Stations is a devotion focused on the Lord’s Passion. She writes, “As commendable as such a devotion may be, it can never fulfill the purpose of eucharistic adoration, that is to draw us more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, neither the Stations of the Cross nor any other devotion should be prayed during exposition of the Eucharist.”

Not as bad as the Fishwrap’s Richard McBrien who ridicules Eucharistic adoration as “a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward”.

The USCCB piece a clearly a personal opinion piece by some nameless person. Note that the last paragraph begins with the pronoun “I”, as in “I would strongly encourage…”.

I do not see any reason why, in a communal observance of the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, the priest or deacon leading them turning to the Blessed Sacrament each time he moves to each Station and each time he says “We adore Thee, O Christ…”.

In any event, I haven’t found any authoritative document which states in a clear way that Stations may not be prayed in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. When Stations is ended, there could be Benediction.

Is there some other document out there?

I am sure we could argue one way or another about this, but I think the argument against smacks of the same thinking by which people are assumed to be so thick that they will, in the presence of, say, more than one crucifix or more than one altar, or more than one statue of Mary, be struck by mental paralysis like Buridan’s Ass and maybe even fall to the floor racked by sobs of confusion.

On the other hand, in my experience, people who are used to Exposition and used to the Stations seem to be able to put it all together and grasp – mirabile dictu – that the Jesus they adore on the altar under the appearance of bread in the monstrance, is the same Jesus who suffered and died for them, the story of which Passion being related all around them during the Stations.

If there is some definitive document from the Congregation for Divine Worship on this, I would like to be corrected.  Otherwise, I think we are free to do this, whether we want to or not.

 

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24 Responses to QUAERITUR: Stations of the Cross during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

  1. Steve Cavanaugh says:

    At our Anglican Use parish, on the Fridays of Lent we have Stations, followed by a sermon, followed by exposition and benediction. While there may be no reason one cannot have the Blessed Sacrament exposed during Stations, it would seem strange to me to have my back to the monstrance all during the Stations; sequential services seem to me to allow for devotion and adoration without any difficulties.

  2. Wade says:

    “Therefore, neither the Stations of the Cross nor any other devotion should be prayed during exposition of the Eucharist.”

    This link provides additional background – but no definitive answer: http://www.cuf.org/faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=275

    I’m not sure that I agree with the statement from the USCCB site that no other devotion should be prayed during exposition of the Eucharist. The Rosary seems to be recommended in some of the relevant literature.

  3. “Therefore, neither the Stations of the Cross nor any other devotion should be prayed during exposition of the Eucharist.”

    The Congregation for Divine Worship addressed the issue of the Rosary vs. Eucharistic Adoration in Notitae (their official publication). In it they cite Pope Paul VI’s Marialis Cultus (“as a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centered on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation”) and conclude that it is an appropriate devotion during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. An unofficial English translation is on the USCCB website.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    In fact, isn’t there an indulgence attached to praying the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed?

  5. The La Crosse, WI Cathedral has done stations this way for years. In fact, the practice may have begun under direction of now Cardinal Burke.

  6. acardnal says:

    Legisperitus, et al,
    My experience is that Exposition and Benediction occur after the Stations of the Cross not during. I am unaware of anything from the CDF or Holy See confirming this though. I hope someone can post a document so I can make a copy.

    Regarding the rosary and indulgences: praying the rosary before the exposed Blessed Sacrament is allowed especially during a Holy Hour and Exposition. An indulgence is attached to the rosary whenever it is said in a family setting or in a church. The Blessed Sacrament does not have to be exposed. See Item 48 below.

    Issued by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, 1968
    + Joseph Cardinal Ferretto,
    Titular Bishop of the Suburban Church
    of Sabina and Poggio Mirteto,

    Originally published by Liberia Editrice Vatican,
    Vatican City, 1968
    This is a digest of the works and prayers listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences. [Okay, that's too long for a comment. How about a link?]

  7. edm says:

    In our Episcopal parish the practise is as Steve (above) described, usually minus the sermon. I too would feel very strange walking around the church with my back to the Blessed Sacrament exposed. I have a friend, however, who is an organist in a Roman Catholic parish in Connecticut. He was told that in his diocese it was not permitted to have Benediction following Stations. “It is two different devotions and it confuses the faithful”. Apparently the decree came from a nun at the diocesan liturgical office. She cited some documents from Rome (something which I thought said the exact opposite from what she was suggesting). It was all very confusing to my friend, who was trying to encourage his pastor to have Stations and Benediction. Father did not allow it.

  8. digdigby says:

    “Could you not watch one hour with Me?” The hours the faithful of our oratory spend with Christ demand a full presence, a simple openness sitting in silence. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has an eternal dimension is an ‘hour of eternity’.
    The Stations haves a narrative structure, a journey we take with Our Lord each step. These are two very different ‘ways’ of being with Jesus Christ. Certainly you cannot do both at once, but I can understand some who are ‘keeping the watch’ with Our Lord while others are making step by step the journey of the passion. In medieval churches many such activities would be going on at once.

  9. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z,
    sorry for excessively long comment post above. Won’t happen again.

    Here is a link citing a Vatican document that permits praying of the rosary during Adoration and Exposition. http://www.adoremus.org/EuchAdor_Rosary.html

    Here is a link to the Enchiridion of Indulgences, referenced above, see page 33, Item 48 for explanation of indulgences for praying the Rosary.
    http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/eb/indulgences_Enchiridion.pdf

    Regarding the Stations of the Cross while the Blessed Sacrament is Exposed, I offer the following quote from paragraph 165 of the DIRECTORY ON POPULAR PIETY AND THE LITURGY, PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES, CDWDS, December 2001:

    ” . . . the faithful should be encouraged NOT (my emphasis) to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament(180). Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”

    [That helps! Thanks!]

  10. dans0622 says:

    Thanks Father. Thanks also acardnal. Regarding the Popular Piety document, the rationale for allowing the Rosary (“since it contains meditation…”) would seem to apply to Stations of the Cross. It would have been nice to have some indication as to what, precisely, is meant by “other devotional exercises” since the document allows the Rosary, singing hymns, reading Scriptures (I presume that could be done “out loud” by someone)… I suppose I am looking for a justification for the practice since I have done it myself and thought it was appropriate.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    Amy Welborn has some news for Fr. Richard McBrien in her comments on a book by Augustine Thompson, O.P. to be published April 30:

    From Francis of Assisi: A New Biography: (the last paragraph)

    This is very important, and perhaps will be the most revealing and one of the more controversial aspects of the book: He places the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the proper and reverential celebration off both squarely at the center of Francis’ concern.

  12. acardnal says:

    dans0622,
    There is a format for Exposition and Benediction and Holy Hours called the “Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction.” It contains hymns such as O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo, prayers, periods of silence to adore, possibility of a clergyman reading scripture and giving a short meditation, the Divine Praises, etc. These would be the appropriate devotions – together with the rosary said silently or aloud as a group – because they are done purposely and directly to adore Jesus truly present before them. All eyes on the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. I suspect that as digdigby said above, performing the Way of the Cross while the Real Presence is exposed would be a distraction to His Real Presence and take something away from adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

    You may find helpful the “Order for Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist” and “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass” as sources for information on this topic

  13. frjim4321 says:

    So moderates and liberals are not the only cafeteria Catholics? [Where is your citation of the conclusive document concerning Stations?]

  14. pm125 says:

    ” I am sure we could argue one way or another about this, but I think the argument against smacks of the same thinking by which people are assumed to be so thick that they will, in the presence of, say, more than one crucifix or more than one altar, or more than one statue of Mary, be struck by mental paralysis like Buridan’s Ass and maybe even fall to the floor racked by sobs of confusion. ”

    Funny. And sadly so.

  15. The Cobbler says:

    Okay, I’m bored tonight, so here goes something I should know better than…

    @frjim:
    1) When was the last time someone here denied it? Actually denied it, not merely focused more on cafeteria Catholics who are liberal or moderate?
    2) What did someone say in this thread to suggest non-liberal, non-moderate Catholics picking and choosing which doctrines they’ll believe or which moral or Church laws they’ll follow?

    (…If the answer is that you meant to comment in another post, perhaps in a discussion about old form and new form infighting… then I retract my interrogation.)

    (And yes, the wording deliberately avoids reducing the options to “liberal”, “moderate” and “conservative”. If I may quote movies… “He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.” Okay, so the spectrum of liberal to conservative is actually one-dimensional… it’s still the best quote I can find. Unless you want another from the same movie — “KAAAAAHN!” That one is relevant to just about any situation.)

  16. I am sure we could argue one way or another about this, but I think the argument against smacks of the same thinking by which people are assumed to be so thick that they will, in the presence of, say, more than one crucifix or more than one altar, or more than one statue of Mary, be struck by mental paralysis like Buridan’s Ass and maybe even fall to the floor racked by sobs of confusion.

    As a side note, those who subscribe to that kind of thinking seem to see no problem with the Eucharist being divided and dispersed throughout the church in the hands of about 50 EMHCs…

  17. Father P says:

    It seems as though we want “hard and fast” rules but so many various circumstances exist that perhaps that is not a good thing and we should relish the freedom that Church gives us in our devotional life whether individually or communally.

    So, here’s just one more opinion…

    Given all the documentation, it would seem that it is probably contrary to the mind of the Church that the devotional exercise of the Stations of the Cross begin with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and conclude with Benediction BUT it would not be contrary to the mind of the Church if, in the presence of the exposed Sacrament, such as in a perpetual adoration chapel or during the 40 hours devotions that ONE of the public devotional exercises scheduled or a private devotion for some of the faithful would be the Stations. For example, I could forsee a situation in a parish where only a small number attend the Stations on a Friday in Lent but that the church is exteremely large that a smaller perpetual adoration chapel would be used and I don’t think in this case it would be necessary to repose and re-expose the Blessed Sacrament for this devotion.

  18. plaf26 says:

    Up until the revised rite of exposition and benediction, we always had Stations followed by exposition and benediction. But the revised rite said that you couldn’t expose just to have benediction, so you had to have other prayers, readings, etc. along with it. A lot of us figured why not the Stations, esp. if they were scriptural and liturgical, such as the ones put out by St. John’s Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN) years ago.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Z,

    Hilarious. Yes, progressives think we’re all so stupid that our churches have to be unadorned cardboard boxes and we can’t take more than one activity at a time, lest we all fall down in unison in jerking fits of dumbfounded perplexity like Buridan’s Ass. The mental picture is wonderful, no?

    However, as touching as their tender concern for us is, progressives should also know that most of us who are not progressives miraculously have no problem with ornamentation, even exuberant ornamentation and yes, even Baroque (!) Ornamentation. [GASP!] I myself have stood in that most Jesuit of Churches in Rome, the Gesu, and I have lived to tell about it. Amazing, no?

    Not only that, but many non-progressives can also summon up the tiny bit of internal fortitude that it actually requires to withstand the barrage of having two (!) things happen at one and the same time. Imagine that. What perspicacity! What moral prowess! What towering courage! We can even drive halfway decently on the freeway most days if the weather cooperates.

  20. rtjl says:

    While OTHER devotions are discouraged, it seems clear that the saying the Rosary is acceptable since “the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption”. But this is also true of the Stations of the Cross, at least with respect to Redemption, if not so much with respect to the Incarnation. If the Rosary is acceptable on this basis, the same must be true of the Stations which may be considered as being even more venerable than the Rosary given that it is a devotion that predates the Rosary considerably.

  21. irishgirl says:

    From the late 1970s until the mid 1980s, I used to belong to a group called ‘The Fatima Apostolate of Reparation’, and every month between April and November we would put on a ‘Five Hour Vigil’ at one or other of the local parishes (always on a Friday night, and usually near the end of the month). I helped out by singing in the choir.
    Starting out with Mass, the next thing was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Then we had the Stations of the Cross. As the evening went on, there were other prayers, and then we’d have a candlelight Rosary procession, with the priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, and closed with Benediction back inside the church.
    Why am I relating this? It’s just that I never even heard of a liturgical prohibition against having the Stations of the Cross with the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar.
    Of course, when it’s only the Stations and Benediction, yes, then I can see the reason.

  22. Giuseppe says:

    Add me to the list of those who like Stations of the Cross followed by Exposition/Benediction.

  23. dans0622 says:

    I got my hands on Msgr. Elliott’s “Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite” (2005) and he says: “Other possibilities during the time of adoration include: Scripture readings (from the ambo or elsewhere), homilies related to the Eucharist, appropriate hymns, reflective music, litanies, intercessions, a para-liturgy, a novena, popular devotions in harmony with the season, and the Holy Rosary. However, there should always be generous provision for silent prayer before the Lord” (p. 250). He cited a few documents to back this up but I checked the citations and his comment is much more expansive and specific than any official document he cited.