QUAERITUR: No Stations observed on Fridays of Lent because that’s against Vatican II?

From a reader:

I am searching for a Church near me to pray the Stations of the Cross
this Lent. A few do not have the Stations during Lent until a week
before Holy Week. Another stated that while the Stations use to be
prayed every Friday during Lent, because of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum
Consilium #13) they are no longer in line with the liturgy and that we
should not focus during this time on Jesus’s Passion
. I am really
confused here. I have never heard this before. What do you say

In brief, I say that that is one of the dumbest things I have heard in a long time.

There is NO time of the year when we should not focus on Jesus’ Passion and Death. Some feasts and times ask for greater focus on some other mystery of our salvation but … NOT to focus on the Passion of the Lord during Lent is just plain goofy.

I wonder what the local bishop thinks about that. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the parish bulletin wherein the priest explains this.

I can understand a priest not having Stations at one parish if he has five parishes and no assistants. Even then, he could allow people to have Stations anyway.

But not to have Stations because of something in Sacrosanctum Concilium? I wonder what even the most liberal of the Council Father’s would have thought of that.

How long, O Lord?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Scott W. says:

    This sounds like it is from the same source (Gabe Huck by my guess) as the odious practice of emptying of holy water founts all through Lent.

    Yes, let the bishop know in a factual, polite, and non-crazy-person way that this is going on.

  2. anilwang says:

    Truth is stranger than fiction. This and the holy water fiasco sounds a lot like “Fasting from Lent for Lent”. Colbert did a skit a year or so back where he gave up Catholicism for Lent. It was funny precisely because it was absurd even to atheists..

    Such pastors need to be reminded that Jesus healed on the Sabbath and rebuked the Pharisees who said that he needed to “rest even from doing good works on the Sabbath”. It misses the entire point of the Sabbath these “creative innovations” miss the entire point of Lent.

  3. APX says:

    we should not focus during this time on Jesus’s Passion.

    So then, what are we supposed to focus on during this time? Happy Jesus as the soft and cuddly lamb of God that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside because he magically takes away the sins of the world?? Seriously, I grew up thinking this was why we referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God. During Lent last year, had my priest not explained the connection between the Paschal Lamb, Jesus’ Passion and him as Lamb of God, how it relates to what the priest does at the Altar every Mass, and we should be focusing on that instead of everything else, I would still be thinking the aforementioned.

    I agree with Father Z. This is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in a long time.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Say what? This sounds so dumb…..!
    Well, if the priest won’t allow Stations in the parish, then do them on your own.
    By yourself. In church.
    That’s what I do.
    Why does everything have to follow ‘the herd mentality’?

  5. Father K says:

    Where do they get these ideas from? Just when you think you have heard it all, something else comes along!

  6. Stations of the Cross “no longer in line with the liturgy and that we should not focus during this time on Jesus’s Passion”?

    Surely every Mass focuses on Christ’s Passion. For instance, chapter 1 of John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia restates and reemphasizes that the Eucharistic sacrifice “is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages. . . . . . The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross.”

    One must continually wonder how so many priests of a certain generation got ordained without a rudimentary knowledge of Catholic theology. (But I guess we really know; I recall one saying that the text for his only liturgy course in seminary was taught by a bitter ex-nun, using as text a slim paperback written by a Methodist laywoman.)

  7. Random Friar says:

    13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

    Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved.

    But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium, 13

    How are they getting that out of the text? I think think is more reading into the document what is not there, to the point of doing the opposite.

  8. It might be timely to mention also Father Z’s post last year:


    He also mentions the beautiful Angelus Press reprint of an old classic containing a dozen different “Stations of the Cross”, including the traditional ones of St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis of Assisi, etc. A 67-page color sample:


  9. Alice says:

    Was that Sacrosanctum Concilium 13 or the Spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium 13? Wait, who wrote Sacrosanctum ConSilium anyway? If it’s inappropriate to consider the Passion during Lent, what does this priest do on Ash Wednesday, draw sand dunes on people’s foreheads?

  10. Hieronymus in Canada says:

    Lord, Who threw out these forty days?

  11. pm125 says:

    or to skip the practice due to ‘lack of interest’ …

  12. NoTambourines says:

    I think I’m noticing a pattern: if it’s loopy, historically incorrect (better yet, revisionist), abolishes centuries-old practices, and it will make a bunch of people mad, just invoke Vatican II*, and you might be able to pull it off.

    * Disclaimer: your mileage may vary if you’re dealing with people who’ve actually read what’s in V-II and won’t let you just ascribe things to its “spirit.”

  13. Legisperitus says:

    A lot of well-meaning priests thought that SC 13 meant popular devotions should not take place prior to or following Mass because they supposedly detracted from the Mass.

    But as I look at the text, the third sentence seems to be directed at the second sentence, about “devotions proper to individual Churches.” Things like the Stations (or the Rosary) don’t fit that category.

  14. JLCG says:

    I am suspicious of these complaints about the Church, they are always ahead of the line of reader’s contributions and seem to want to indicate a failure or a stain in the liturgical integrity of the Church.
    It would be very very helpful if the writer would give us the address of the church and perhaps the name of the priest where those events take place.
    Among some bloggers there is a clear hatred of the Church .

  15. acardnal says:

    If only Sacrosanctum Concilium and the other Vatican II documents were less ambiguous and more specific it would have prevented the “spirit of Vatican 2” types from inferring what was not intended by Holy Mother Church.

  16. acardnal says:

    Blessed John Paul II read the Stations every Friday – and maybe even daily – as a personal devotion.

  17. anilwang says:

    acardnal, ambiguity isn’t the issue. You can chose to read anything into the most clear text.

    Look at Protestantism today. There are many sincere Protestants out there that love the lord, went to Protestant seminary to get deeper into their faith, mark up their Bibles with notes so that there are almost no blank spaces on it, can many parts of the Bible when given a chapter and verse, and regularly read the Bible at least once a year. Yet place two of these sincere devout Protestants together, and you will likely find that there are many “clear verses” which they interpret in exactly opposite ways.

    How can this be? They have different hermeneutics (interpretive models) and presuppositions. If you go to scripture expecting that Jesus was a highly elevated creation of God, you will interpret everything in the Bible as supporting Arianism. If you believe that we are totally depraved, you will read the Bible as fully supporting Calvinism. If you believe that materialism is true, you will read the Bible so that miracles are metaphors and true prophecies are later additions by various documentary authors that allowed Jews and Christians to make sense of their history.

    The Bible can only be read one way, through the hermeneutic of continuity, meaning through the eyes of Church Tradition. Ambiguity must *always* be resolved in the favour of this hermeneutic. Anyone that tries to read it another way will go into error.

    The documents of Vatican II can only be read one way, through the hermeneutic of continuity, meaning through the eyes of Church Tradition. Ambiguity must *always* be resolved in the favour of this hermeneutic. Anyone that tries to read it another way will go into error.

  18. wmeyer says:

    anilwang: With respect, if your assertion were true, that the documents can only be read in one way, then we would not see so many variations today, from one parish to another, and form one diocese to another. The reality is that the documents do allow too much latitude, and much damage has been done by those who choose to understand the Council as one of change. Read Michael Davies, Msgr. Wrenn, and others.

  19. Charles E Flynn says:

    If true, I suppose the Passionists should just go on vacation until Holy Week.

  20. Hieronymus in Canada says: Lord, Who threw out these forty days?


    I agree with Irishgirl: do the Stations on your own (hopefully, you can find an unlocked church). This is what I plan on doing myself, because while the Stations are “in line with the liturgy,” many alleged “Stations” in my neck of the woods are not in line with Christianity (e.g., the “Peace Stations of the Cross”). My personal preference is the St. Alphonsus Liguori Stations.

  21. robtbrown says:


    I disagree with most of what you wrote.

    1. It is not true that any text, no matter how clear, can be rationally interpreted in any way. Can “The sky is blue” be rationally interpreted to say that that it’s yellow or red? I think not.

    A good example is found in SC:

    In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office.

    This is indeed very clear, but read the following sentence:

    But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly.

    The above is vaguely enough worded that it can be applied to almost every cleric.

    2. Sincerity is not a criterion for interpreting Scripture. Norma normans non normata. The maxim is: There is no text without context. Thus Arianism might seem to be supported by certain texts, but it is explicitly refuted by others (cf John’s Prologue). The same is true for Calvinism (cf Romans 5:12). You will find the same situation with the writings of Karl Rahner. Ditto Protestantism–there are certain texts that they simply chose ignore (incl the Letter of James) because they don’t fit into their a priori ideas.

    The medieval axiom is always true when applied to Scripture: Error does not lie in what is affirmed, but rather what is denied.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    Miss Anita,
    You think that’s bad . . . .
    Awhile back, the usual gang of idiots in the headquarters of The Episcopal Church, f/k/a The Episcopal Church, USA, f/k/a The Protestant Episcopal Church in America, came up with the bright idea of replacing the Stations of the Cross with the Stations of the United Nations Millenium Goals
    The “liturgy” has been scrubbed from the TEC website, but you can’t ever really delete anything from the internet . . . .
    As the Anglican blog Stand Firm observed, “Fresh hell, people. Gitcher fresh hell here.”

    Reason No. 3,204 why I am no longer an Episcopalian.
    Dear misguided Catholic priests and creative-liturgist laity: Please, PLEASE don’t turn Christ’s One Holy Apostolic Church into an imitation of that ship of fools. You can’t compete with them – they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

  23. anilwang says:


    The documents say *nothing* about most of the innovations associated with Vatican II, namely ripping up altar rails, turning the priest towards the people, no longer looking at east, getting rid of Latin from every part of the liturgy, communion in the hand, getting rid of Gregorian Chant, getting rid of the cross, throwing out statues, gutting kneelers and pews in favour of chair, building Churches as multi use office spaces instead of parishes, …. etc. Let’s not even speak of everyone’s favourite bogey man, clown “masses”, polka “masses”, western “masses”, replacing the host with rice crackers. …..

    In many places, the documents of Vatican II say exactly the opposite of what was implemented in many parishes. As I said, this ambiguity has nothing to do with it.

    If you tell your 10 year old nephew to “I need to eat my cereal. Please go buy milk” and he come back to you with the movie “Milk” on DVD, you know there are more than a few things wrong that have nothing to do with ambiguity. Yes, you “could” interpret your request the way your nephew did, but he should know better, especially since you’d disapprove of that movie (hermeneutic of continuity) and a DVD has nothing to do with cereal (common sense).

  24. heway says:

    I agree with Anita Moore and Irish Girl. My husband and I just arrived home after having Stations at our little mission church. We followed it with soup and bread lunch. There were 5 women , 2 men and a 4 year old boy. Our church is open 24/7. We use St. Alphonsus’ book.

  25. wmeyer says:

    anilwang: If you will look at Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-4o (Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples), you will see the loopholes through which these changes–in my opinion–were implemented. Now, if we consider spirit, it seems clear to me that the degree of latitude afforded by these paragraphs was intended to be greater in mission lands than elsewhere. However, these points are less clear than they might be, about the context in which they are to be interpreted.

    Consider the G.I.R.M. and the matter of EHMCs. If one has even a minimal understanding of the meaning of the word extraordinary, how can one envision any honest rationale for the 11 EHMCs which are routinely used in my parish, no matter how few attend the Mass? Someone suggested in this blog, if memory serves, the notion that the ordinary number to be served by one person might be set at 200. Then celebrant and deacon could serve 400 without recourse to any EMHCs. And for my parish to justify 11 EHMCs would depend on the presence of another 2200, beyond the 400.

    The documents say nothing about the innovations imposed post-Council. However, they do not sufficiently constrain what was to be permitted, and remember: these innovations were all approved by at least a bishop, and some have been ratified by a Pope.

  26. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Another stated that while the Stations use to be prayed every Friday during Lent, because of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Consilium #13) they are no longer in line with the liturgy and that we should not focus during this time on Jesus’s Passion.

    To quote Bishop Zubik: “It was at this point that my head exploded.”

  27. anilwang says:

    wmeyer, I have read those texts.

    They seem pretty clear to me. Cultural differences are valued and legitimate (e.g. pre Vatican II, differentt cultures made the sign of the cross differently, and showed reverence differently — kneeling versus prostration, and some chanted differently, etc). If there are significant changes are needed due to a local culture, the Holy See must be give permission and it might be granted on an experimental basis. For minor variations, the territorial bishop “article 22” may give permission for the variation. No priest (article 22) may innovate on his own.

    Can you honestly say that any of the major innovations outlined in the above have followed the process outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-4o?

  28. jkm210 says:

    I grew up in a very liberal “Spirit of Vatican II” parish, have been in a very conservative parish, and in parishes all across the spectrum between. All of them have had Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent. Because it was a wacky parish, I remember, as a kid, a group of us kids who were altar servers pulling the stations off the walls and standing across the front of the church holding them during Stations. It was weird, but it was recognizably Stations of the Cross.

    This sounds more like the priest has plans for Friday evenings. It’s nice to have a priest to lead Stations of the Cross, but it’s not entirely necessary. I would say, if the church building is open, grab some parishioners, print out some booklets from the internet, and have at it.

  29. APX says:

    @Hieronymus in Canada
    Lord, Who threw out these forty days?

    ROFL! Possibly one of the best puns I’ve read/heard in a long time.

  30. ppb says:

    Wow. As recently as 2001, the CDWDS put out the “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy” which has a significant section on the Via Crucis (131 – 135), calling it “a particularly apt pious exercise for Lent” and not mentioning any particular tension with the sacred liturgy. I guess they didn’t get the memo that Vatican II forbade it.

    And here’s what Ven. Pope Pius XII had to say (Mediator Dei, 1947):

    182. There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas and triduums, stations of the cross and other similar practices.

    183. These devotions make us partakers in a salutary manner of the liturgical cult, because they urge the faithful to go frequently to the sacrament of penance, to attend Mass and receive communion with devotion, and, as well, encourage them to meditate on the mysteries of our redemption and imitate the example of the saints.

  31. AnAmericanMother: You’re right, that is just about the absolute zero in human goofiness. Proving once again liberals have no sense of the absurd.

  32. James Joseph says:

    I’ve been through a church that didn’t even have the Stations on the walls or pillars, but instead had big roman numerals only.

  33. ContraMundum says:

    I guess in the “spirit” of Vatican II, we MUST eat meat on the Fridays of Lent, lest anyone think we are thinking of Good Friday.

  34. mibethda says:

    The person responsible for the statement quoted by the correspondent (perhaps from a church bulletin?) seems to espouse the concept that one still hears, though not so frequently as a decade or so ago, that we are now an ‘Easter people’ and should concentrate on the Resurrected Christ and not on His suffering and Passion. This is the idea which lead to the replacement of the traditional crucifix in many churches with an image of Christ as he appeared after Easter, sometimes superimposed before a cross, and sometimes standing alone – a trend which seems to be in reversal.

  35. robtbrown says:


    You still seen to miss the point. Although Vat II says nothing about certain specifics that were implemented after the Council (ripping up altar rails, turning the priest towards the people, no longer looking at east, getting rid of Latin from every part of the liturgy, etc.), there are nonetheless general texts that are ambiguous enough to have been used to justify such destruction of the Church’s worship.

    For example, the only Vat II text I know of that refers to the Eucharist as a meal is Gaudium et Spes. Although G&S is not a Dogmatic Constitution, the liberals were able to justify such a change in the concept of the Eucharist by referring to the Council. (BTW, Cardinal Ratzinger warned of using G&S as a hermeneutic for Vat II documents.)

  36. jlduskey says:

    Some thirty years ago, on the 24th of December, I found myself with some relatives at a very liberal church, with the purpose of attending a 4:00 p.m. “family and children-oriented” Christmas vigil mass. Since we were there about a half-hour early, I decided to do the stations of the cross. I didn’t have a printed version, but I remembered enough to carefully pray the appropriate kind of prayer at each station. It was a good experience for me, and I am sure some of the others there thought I was crazy (wouldn’t be the first time, or the last)..
    During those years, I occasionally attended an early evening mass at another church, and once when I arrived early, I prayed the stations the same way. I just walked around the church, stopping at each station and saying the prayers. Some months later, I was in a circumstance where I could go to mass at that church again. I saw there were some people who were also there early, and they were saying the stations, just as I had done a few months earlier.
    Conclusion: take advantage of any opportunity to do the stations, even if–especially if you are the only one doing it. You never know what good example can do.

  37. discerningguy says:

    How stupid.

  38. disco says:

    I’m with father z on this. If there were a time that I should not focus on the passion of our lord, then surely it must come some time after my death.

  39. Geoffrey says:

    Please, please, please, would someone actually read the documents of Vatican II?!

  40. Charles E Flynn says:


    I walk by a Lutheran church that has a golden image, superimposed on a cross, of the risen Christ , with his arms extended, palms raised, and toes pointing downward. This is the image ridiculed by Anne Roche Muggeridge in The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church as “The Diver Who Dived For Our Sins”.

  41. Father P says:

    As someone said, the Directory of Popular Piety certainly encourages it. However, I usually replace the Stations with Evening Prayer if St Joseph or Annunciation falls on Friday or Saturday. That, to me, seems to be what it means to harmonize and balance devotions, liturgy, and the liturgical calendar

  42. Father P says:

    Stations are also a wonderful way for the various liturgical traditions to provide for each other. In one parish I was in the local “high church” Lutheran parish did Stations on Friday afternoon and we did Stations on Friday evening. Both parishes printed both times in our bulletins. Some of my elderly parishioners, who wouldn’t come out at night, were able to participate in a devotion they missed doing and some of the Lutherans who worked during the day and wanted to make the devotion part of their Lent came to my place.

  43. Nicole says:

    In the spirit of innovation, I came up with a parody of the commonly used (at least at the parish I attend) “In These Days of Lenten Journey.” I call it “In These Days of Innovation.”

    Here goes:

    In these days of innovation we have seen and we have heard the call to sow discord in the lives of laity.

    1) We empty the stoups of their water, refuse the sacramental. In the penitential season we’ll disturb the peace and we’ll tramp down a path of our own.

    In these days of innovation we have seen and we have heard the call to sow discord in the lives of laity.

    2) We laugh in the face of sound doctrine and shirk any bound tradition. As we alienate the ones who hunger for truth, may they leave our gath’rings for good.

    In these days of innovation we have seen and we have heard the call to sow discord in the lives of laity.

    3) We close our ears to the bishops, remind them the churches are ours. To the voice of our Pontiff we turn a deaf ear, we will do what we want when we want.

    In these days of innovation we have seen and we have heard the call to sow discord in the lives of laity.

    4) We call on the masses to protest, many and all are equal. Since many equals all we don’t care what you say, we’ll have our own way anyway.

    In these days of innovation we have seen and we have heard the call to sow discord in the lives of laity.

  44. Hieronymus in Canada says:

    Another point of consideration: Stations are one of only four practices that can be incorporated into a daily spiritual life to which a plenary indulgence is presently attached which may be acquired on any day (the other three being the Rosary under various circumstances, a half-hour of prayerful reading of Scripture, and a half-hour of prayer in a Church). If the Church didn’t want these practices encouraged every day, she would be more restrictive about when one might aquire the indulgence.

  45. Denita says:

    @Miss Anita &Irishgirl: I plan to do both. I’m going every Friday to the Chapel of the College of St. Thomas More where the Fransician Friars are praying the Stations (composed by Bl. Cardinal Newman), as well as on Wed afternoon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during Adoration (silently of course, using St. Alphonsus’ book).

  46. Denita says:

    BTW For those who are interested, LIVEMASS is doing the Stations online on Friday evenings as well. I forget the times, sorry.

  47. mwa says:

    This comes from the Lent page of the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola (FL)

    Stations of the Cross
    While this devotion certainly has a place in Lent, the overemphasis given to it in the past tended to distort the meaning of the season. Because the stations were prayed publicly throughout the whole season, the impression was given that Lent was primarily about commemorating the passion and death of Christ.

    Vatican II strongly endorsed the use of devotions as part of Catholic spirituality, but it also called for their renewal, to harmonize them with the sacred liturgy (see Liturgy #13).

    The liturgy of Lent focuses on the passion and death of the Lord only near the end of the season, especially with the proclamation of the Passion on Palm (Passion) Sunday and again on Good Friday. The weekday readings between the Fifth Sunday of Lent and Palm Sunday also point toward the coming Passion, so that might also be an appropriate time to pray the Stations. The earlier weeks of Lent, however, focus much more on Baptism and covenant than on the Passion.

    When we do pray the Stations of the Cross, we can also connect them with the baptismal character of Lent if we place the stations themselves in the context of the whole paschal mystery. In Baptism we are plunged into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and our baptismal commitment includes a willingness to give our life for others as Jesus did. Recalling his passion and death can remind us that we, too, may be called to suffer in order to be faithful to the call of God.

    One limitation with the traditional form of the Stations is the absence of the second half of the paschal mystery. The liturgy never focuses on the death of Christ without recalling his resurrection. Some forms of the Stations of the Cross include a 15th station to recall the resurrection as an integral part of the paschal mystery.

    Some contemporary forms of the Stations also make clear the link between the sufferings of Christ in the first century and the sufferings of Christ’s body in the world today. Such an approach can help us to recognize and admit the ways that we have failed to live up to our baptismal mission to spread the gospel and manifest the love of Christ to those in need.

  48. mibethda says:

    That unsigned statement is rather interesting. It hardly sounds like Bishop Barbarito (who, I believe, exiled the statue of the Resurrected Christ from its poition in the sanctuary to an outside shrine, and had it replaced with a very fine and traditional crucifix). Incidentally, in the parish I more often attend (although the Cathedral is closer), we used a booklet for the stations this week which closes not with the burial at the 14th station as is usual, but with a fifteenth station, the Resurrection. Seems to be of a piece with this statement from St. Ignatius.

  49. Jayna says:

    I’ve heard this rubbish before, though never explicitly citing Sacrosanctum Concilium. Probably because they didn’t know what it was called. It’s all in line with that “Resurrection parish” nonsense.

  50. Margaret says:

    I just returned from a retreat. The format is the same every year, and no matter the liturgical season, the Stations are prayed daily on retreat.

    Further, as someone noted above, it is not necessary for the priest to lead this devotion. Our priest already preaches something like three or four sermons a day during the retreat, plus (obviously) takes care of Benediction and Mass. If we laywomen didn’t lead the rosary and stations ourselves, the poor man would never have time to hear confessions… :)

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