Friday, April 14, 2006

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross for Children

Vatican Way of the Cross for 2006

Recently, I asked the following question of Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of My Life with the Saints. His response follows:

Q: How can parents of young children begin praying the Stations of the Cross with them in a way that is age appropriate? I know that some young children may be frightened or become emotional when viewing the images of the Stations. Can you counsel parents on the best way to introduce this devotion in their families?

A: The Stations of the Cross may be difficult for very young children to see. (On the other hand, they may see things far worse by turning on the TV at the wrong time.) But their central message—that is, Jesus loved us all so much that he was willing to suffer—is one that can be, and should be, translated for young children to help them understand two things. First, that Jesus loves us. Second, that suffering (or struggling, or challenges, or pain) is a natural part of life. So, for example, when thinking about the First Station, “Jesus is Condemned to Death,” you might talk to your children about how sometimes good people are punished for no good reason—like African-Americans during the era of slavery. And when meditating on the Second Station, “Jesus Carries His Cross,” you might ask your children what types of sacrifices that they have to make every day.

Eventuallly, though, your children will have to be introduced to the reality of Christ’s suffering—in all its aspects. One key way of helping your children understand this mystery is by not fearing it yourself. At least in my very limited experience (as an uncle and as a friend of many young parents) the more a child sees trust in the parent, the more the child grows in trust. So the first step to helping your children move towards this mystery, is to meditate on its meaning in your own life.

All this might seem difficult, and each parent needs to make a decision about these things not from a sense of guilt, or a sense of what others in the community may think (no matter how much they seem to know), but what is best for one’s child. This is all God asks of us.

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