One of my favorite things about Lent is the Way of the Cross (Stations of the Cross) devotion. I look forward to each Friday and the chance to delve more deeply into the passion, death and joyous resurrection of our Lord. But with a young child in tow, I feel lucky if I am able to say even one repetition of “Because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.” My daughter is usually bored by the second station. Her “hide and seek” game between the pews is not conducive to deep prayer for me or the other poor souls who had the misfortune of sitting by us.
So I came up with a new strategy that would allow me to attend the Stations of the Cross and still maintain a somewhat peaceful, prayerful atmosphere for everyone around us. I know that other parents face this dilemma, too, so I thought I would share some of my time-tested techniques.
1. Attend “child-friendly” versions of the Stations of the Cross.
Some churches offer afternoon sessions for children. Although the basic story of Jesus’ passion does not change, the wording, music and prayers are designed to appeal to children. Our parish’s school children attend the devotion on Friday afternoons. My daughter, who wants to be “like the big kids in school,” tends to behave better at these devotions. So check with a parish that has a Catholic School and find out when the children attend. The other benefit is that your child will be more aware and less crabby (hopefully), than she would be attending an evening devotion.
2. Make a tour of local churches
If your child is not overly-stimulated by new environments, consider attending a different church each week for the Stations devotion. Sometimes a new environment will keep a child entertained for at least half of the devotion time. I especially like to attend the Stations at older, more traditional churches. My daughter loves checking out the statues, stained glass windows, beautiful altar and other artwork. If she is good, she can help me light a votive candle by a statue of her choice after the Stations devotion is over.
If you live near a larger city, you may find a church that offers a “Living Way of the Cross” procession, marching through neighborhoods and to various churches while praying the devotion and using costumed individuals to re-enact Jesus’ passion and death.. For example, in Chicago there are several processions held in the Little Village neighborhood, and one in downtown Chicago. Check with your diocese or archdiocese to find out which parishes offer outdoor processions. Then plan to attend -- it is a wonderful experience for children and adults.
3. Do a Stations of the Cross Walk Through Your Neighborhood.
If you live too far from a large city and your own parish does not offer an outdoor procession, consider taking a Stations of the Cross walk throughout your neighborhood. This article, published on the St. Anthony Messenger website, describes how you can use common things around your neighborhood to reflect on the messages inherent in each station.