From early Christian times pilgrims to Jerusalem observed the custom of retracing the path Christ followed on His way to Calvary. In the late Middle Ages, when Moslem occupation of the Holy Places made pilgrimages difficult or impossible, miniature "Ways of the Cross" were set up in churches and monasteries in Europe the traditional "stations," or stops on the Via Dolorosa being represented by crosses, paintings, or bos reliefs. The faithful would traverse the brief circuit outlined by these tokens and meditate on the subjects represented At the end of the seventeenth century, when the devotion was fixed in its present form, the indulgences attached to an actual visit to the Holy Land were granted to those making the Way of the Cross. Those making the Stations may now gain a plenary indulgence as often as they perform the devotion; another plenary indulgence if Communion is received the same day or within a month of making the Stations ten times; an indulgence of ten years for each Station completed if, for some good reason, it is necessary to interrupt the devotion. Persons prevented from making the Stations in a church may gain the indulgences by holding a crucifix indulgenced for the Stations and saying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father, once for each Station, five times for the Five Holy Wounds, and once for the intention of the pope. The Stations, which are fourteen wooden crosses (the images to which they are usually attached are not essential), must normally be set up and blessed by a Franciscan. The devotion is performed by walking from Station to Station, pausing at each one and meditating a little while on Our Lord's Passion. No special prayers or meditations are prescribed, but the following form, with meditations by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, is commonly used.
PRAYER BEFORE THE ALTAR
My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee I repent sincerely for having ever offended Thee. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee.