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Bryn Deamer wrote:

Hi, guys —

Actually I just wanted to ask about the 15th Station of the Cross.

We were told that the first church it was created in was the El Rosario Church in San Salvador when we were on a tour there.

An artist gathered up all the reinforcing bar left lying around after the building of that unusual church and created the 15th Station of the Cross because he didn't want the story to end with the Death of Christ but the Resurrection.

  • Do you know if this was really the first time a 15th Station of the Cross was created and used?

Bryn Deamer
San Rafael, California

  { Do you know if this was really the first time a 15th Station of the Cross was created and used? }

John replied:

Hi, Bryn -

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base:

http://www.AskACatholic.com/SiteSearch

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try. I did a quick Google search from our knowledge base and we actually have received a similar question before.

Here is a helpful article from the St. Anthony Messenger: 15th Station of the Cross?
It talks about how the 15th Station became popular in the Cursillo movement, that started in Mexico.

On a theological level, there are two approaches one can take to this.

  1. The traditional 14 Stations tell the Good Friday Story so one can argue that there should only be 14 Stations.
  2. On the other hand, the Stations tell the story of our Redemption, which was not complete in time until the Resurrection.

Both are valid.

According to the article below, the number of Stations has varied throughout the centuries with as many as 37 Stations.

This article below is from the Vatican and gives a history, including the Way of Cross John Paul used at times that strictly includes only those Stations that are found in the Bible . . . (Only eight).

  • The Way of the Cross - Presentation from the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff (Piero Marini, Titular Archbishop of Martirano, Master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff)

So this is really set in stone. Most Churches, predate the 15th Station, so they don't have an image and if that parish prays the 15th Station they do so at the Altar . . . and that's also fitting because at the Altar, Calvary, the Resurrection, and the Divine Liturgy are made present mystically at the Consecration.

The Stations aren't an official standardized prayer like the Mass or the Liturgy of Hours. It's a meditation on the sufferings of Christ. In some ways it was a teaching tool. Remember, until the printing press was invented, the Scriptures weren't readily available to the faithful. On top of that, there was the issue of literacy so the Church used prayers, artwork, symbols, etc, as a way to teach the faithful or remind them of what they heard preached.

So to repeat, there have been as many as 37 Stations . . . but there are only eight (8) in the Scriptures.

I hope this helps.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Bryn replied:

Thanks all!

And, yes. I saw those web pages as well, but I was just trying to verify the claim of the guide at the El Rosario Church in San Salvador who tells the tourist that it was the first church to have a 15th station of the cross included when it was finished in 1971. (For our photo album if you can believe I’m being so mundane!)

I can see now that it is unlikely that is the case, since as you point out there have been between 8 and 37 stations of the Cross over the centuries.

And yes, they are like a walking meditation. My favorite set is at the upper Cave of Elijah in Haifa, Israel. They were outside on a trail heading east toward the Shrine of the Báb and the Bahá’í gardens.

Unfortunately, at one time in history they had been defaced by a group of people who didn't think the face of the Son of God should be depicted in art. As you walked along the trail through the bushes, the scenery of the city unfolded below you and there were these 14 stops to rest and mediate on the sufferings that those who reflect God, in all His Glory, undertake for our sake.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Warmly,

Bryn Deamer,
San Rafael, California

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