Stations of the Cross Clickbait Title Alert: Are You Doing This One Important Thing Wrong?

by | Mar 4, 2019 | Lent, Lent, Liturgical Living, Seasonal | 23 comments

There’s an all new Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Video up, all about the Stations of the Cross! Scroll on down to check it out. And because I love you guys . . . you get a bonus video this time. I die. every. time. It’s the cutest.

If it looks like Mary Jane is judging you . . . well, I can’t guarantee she isn’t. We’re working on it.

Okay, okay, forgive the sensational title. But seriously, a major drawback of continuing to read, and learn, and grow in my Catholic faith, is that I’m always discovering new (old) stuff that seems kind of important and I wish someone had thought to mention. So, I try to mention things I discover to you guys.

Case in point: the Stations of the Cross. First of all, I had been Catholic for three decades before I even knew that there was a thing to DO that went along with all those plaques that were on the wall of every Catholic church. And by that time, I had a bunch of little kids and the thing there was to do didn’t seem all that doable to me at that point, especially since it seemed to always be done right at little kid bedtime.

But then, eventually, I discovered the secret that Catholic moms have been figuring out since Mary Reed Newland and Maria Von Trapp in the 1960s, and St. Frances of Rome in the 15th century, and probably since Mama Mary herself, that if I was going to wait until my life “settled down” to start practicing prayer and devotion, I was going to be waiting a long LONG time. So if it wasn’t going to work to be present at church for these lovely practices, there’s no reason I couldn’t do them at home, and modify them to work with my family life. And invite friends to join us!

So that’s what we’ve been doing at our house for the last ten years: discovering cool old Catholic traditions and devotions and figuring out how to make them work in our particular circumstances. It’s been awesome. And I love seeing how many other Catholic families are doing the same thing.

Particularly with the Stations of the Cross. On its surface, it SEEMS like a devotion that’s perhaps better suited for old ladies who were going to be hanging out in the church anyway. It’s about suffering and death. As usually practiced in the US, it’s quiet and orderly and indoors, and sometimes very long. But if you look into the history of the devotion, it was actually a lot more kid-friendly. From the middle-ages through the 18th century this was a devotion that could ONLY be practiced outdoors or in personal homes, since it wasn’t until then that the pope approved the practice for in churches.


Especially if it’s outdoors, there can be some running around by little ones, and it’s probably not going to bother anyone. And in my experience, little kids LOVE the Stations of the Cross (just wait until you see the bonus video of Lulu and Mary Jane at the bottom). It’s a beautiful, accessible way for them to learn about the suffering and death of Jesus, and how much Jesus loves them.

But, getting back to my original point, many other Catholic moms have discovered how great the Stations of the Cross are for kids and families. There are a ton of amazing craft ideas online and kits available to make at home and at home sets you can buy ready-made. I love it.

But. (Intimidating Anita pause.) Here’s something to keep in mind, that I only recently discovered: there is a Plenary Indulgence available for saying the Stations of the Cross. Not just on Fridays, or just during Lent, but at any time. A plenary indulgence is huge, and amazing, and means the complete remittance of the temporal punishment due to sin, and can be applied to oneself or the soul of a deceased person. (Usual conditions apply. If all the conditions can’t be met, it becomes a partial indulgence, which is still great. More on indulgences, including what the usual conditions are, here.)

Here is the text of the indulgence, from section 13 of the 1999 revision of the Manual of Indulgences:

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who . . . .
personally make the pious Way of the Cross, or devoutly unite themselves to the Way of the Cross while it is being led by the Supreme Pontiff and broadcast live on television or radio.
In the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, we recall anew the sufferings which our divine Redeemer endured while going from the praetorium of Pilate, where he was condemned to death, to Mount Calvary, where he died on the cross for our salvation. Regarding the acquisition of the plenary indulgence, the following is prescribed:

The pious exercise must be made before stations of the Way of the Cross legitimately erected.

To erect the Way of the Cross, fourteen crosses are needed, to which it is customary to attach a picture or image representing the fourteen stations of Jerusalem.

According to common custom, the pious exercise consists of fourteen devotional readings, to which some vocal prayers are added. To make the Way of the Cross, however, it is sufficient to meditate devoutly on the Lord’s Passion and Death, and therefore reflection on the particular mysteries of the individual stations is not necessary.

Progression from one station to the next is required. If the pious exercise is made publicly, and moving from station to station by all participants is not possible without inconvenience, it is sufficient that at least the one conducting the Way of the Cross progress from station to station, while the others remain in their place.

Those legitimately impeded can acquire the same indulgence, if they spend some time, e.g., at least a quarter of an hour, in reading and meditating on the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

TLDR version: ALL you have to do, beyond the usual conditions, is have fourteen crosses, move from one to the next if possible, and meditate on the Passion of Jesus.

But many of the sets and activities suggested for kids don’t have crosses or movement. This doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful and amazing and won’t definitely teach your children about Jesus and help your family grow in devotion to the Passion. But it does mean you aren’t meeting the VERY SIMPLE conditions for the indulgence. So you are certainly getting a great effect right now, but you’re missing out on the amazing, bonus, eternal effects of the practice. If my family and I can, by our Lenten devotions, help free souls from purgatory . . . that’s pretty amazing. I want that.

If I end up in purgatory, I certainly hope there are still people on earth who care about getting indulgences. And if I make it to heaven someday, I sure hope I get to meet a whole bunch of people who were helped to get there by MY family’s prayers and devotions.

Another way to look at the Manual of Indulgences is as an instruction book. Our magisterium sat down and wrote up a book of best practices, a How-To of practicing various devotions so that they are most efficacious to us. It might seem like a silly distinction, with crosses or without crosses, what does it matter? But the Holy Father, through the Apostolic Penitentiary, did think it mattered. So, as for me and my house, we’re going to listen.

We lucked out in that whoever designed the crafty set of stations we’ve had for many years DID know about the crosses, even though I didn’t! If you’re looking for a Lenten project, those stations are still available here. If you’d like something a LOT quicker, I’ve got a set of Stations of the Cross coloring pages that each have a cross on the page, in addition to beautiful vintage line art illustrations. You can print those out, and color them or not, maybe even get them laminated if you’re into that sort of thing, and hang them up indoors or out to super-charge your family Stations of the Cross! I’ve also got a Stations of the Cross booklet that contains those same crosses and illustrations, plus call and response prayers (kids LOVE those), short Bible readings, short meditations based on those of St. Alphonus Ligouri, and verses of the Stabat Mater hymn, and some info on how and why we do it. This version takes us about 20 minutes. YOu can grab it as a paperback here, and is also part of the Catholic All March paperback booklet. It’s here as a printable PDF.

So, all that is a big long lead-up to the fact that the latest installment of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Series is up . . . and it’s all about living dangerously with small children, open flames, and the Stations of the Cross!

I hope you guys are enjoying these videos! We enjoy making them. As always, your purchases from the Catholic All Year shop support their creation.

And, I promised you a bonus video. We did our weekly Lenten Stations of the Cross last year, as usual. But for whatever reason, they had a bigger than usual effect on then-2-year-old Mary Jane, and then-4-year-old Lulu. Their favorite little game became playing Stations of the Cross, but they would only do it in SECRET. If you happened upon them, they would stop, and just giggle, like this:

But finally, Gus caught them on video, by being very stealthy, and sometimes hiding behind walls. They’re just holding random books, and stopping in front of various religious objects in the house. 😆

There are Easter decorations up, because they were still going strong with their Stations of the Cross after Lent. Lulu says, “Dear Jesus, it must’ve felt so bad when you had to carry the heavy, heavy cross. It must’ve hurt your feelings and all that stuff, too.” 😂😂

So, the Stations of the Cross . . . if you’ve been doing them, consider making sure you’re doing them all the way, and if you’ve never tried them, maybe this is the year to give it a go?!

Related Posts:

Lent vs Advent: Penance or Preparation, Counting Down or Counting Up

Taking Up Something for Lent

Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (in beginner, intermediate, and advanced)

Related Products:

Catholic All March Prayer Booklet
Stations of the Cross Booklet
Stations of the Cross Coloring Book
Holy Week Meal and Activity Planner (only $1)
St Joseph Prayer after Grace for March
Counting to Forty after Grace/ Simple 1-Page Lent Countdown Calendar
The Printable Lent DIY Bundle includes a Clipart Lent Countdown Calendar, Voluntary Lenten Discipline pledge sheets for groups and individuals, inspirational Lent quotes and posters, and a Lenten Sacrifice Bean Jar label.


  1. Lisa

    So these crosses…are there any requirements for material? Must they be wood or metal or could they be paper (like, printed and cut out by children so I don’t go crazy hunting down or carving crosses right now )?

    • Kendra

      It is my understanding that they can be made of anything. That’s the entire section of the Manual of Indulgences that I quote in the post. And it doesn’t say anything about required materials.

  2. Amanda

    I love all of this. I think sometimes people get caught up in “why would I have to do it that way?? Won’t God just accept my prayers?” And sure He will, but when we show obedience to His Church, we are given even more. And your bump is so adorable

    • Kendra

      Yes. That’s such a good point. And thank you!

  3. Sue K

    Those of us in snowy Minnesota are looking longingly at your outdoor prayer. I’d also recommend a version of the Stations where a candle is extinguished with each Station emphasizing the Light of the World being extinguished as well, at least for a time. It’s a great prelude to bedtime too.

    • Kendra

      Yes, that’s how we do ours! One candle blown out after each station. It’s really lovely. Easter is so late this year, hopefully the weather will cooperate for everyone by the end of Lent.

  4. Beth Mortensen

    Living in a foreign country when my oldest girls were little, we started doing stations in our home so that we could say the prayers in English. Then when our home became overwhelmingly boy-populated, we needed to revamp the way we did the stations–still indoors, since we’ve always lived in cold climates where you’re lucky if you can do stations outside on Good Friday.
    Two years ago I discovered the secret to getting 4 little boys to do the Stations with a minimum of rough-housing: processional crosses, baby! Two of them get processional crosses (made out of cardboard, wood, or a vacuum cleaner extension hose with a cross taped to the top) and two get LED tapers to carry, like altar boys. It revolutionized Stations of the Cross for us! We can now make it through all 14!

    • Amy

      I will be trying that out with my rough n’ tumble little ones!

  5. Marion

    Lovely post. Your family is beautiful.

  6. Angie Strobel

    The video of your little girls “playing” Stations of the Cross is precious! Thank you for your blog and inspirational videos! And I’m like the others who posted about the weather….. I’m in Kentucky and it was 12 degrees this morning.

    • Kendra

      I know, I know. I live in L.A. so I have it easy, weather-wise. But that woodcut is from Lithuania, so some folks are definitely doing it outdoors in cold-weather places!

  7. Marilyn

    Enjoyed this post. God Bless you and your family.

  8. Megan Baillargeon

    Thank you for this great idea! I love this devotion. Quick question… Do you leave your stations outside (if so, how have they held up?) Or do you only bring them outside when you are going to pray the stations? Also, how do you make those cool candle cups?
    Thanks for all you do! God bless you and your family!

    • Kendra

      Ours are made of wood, so we don’t leave them up outside, although I think that would be ideal, someday! The kids take them out a couple at a time and hang them on nails that are already in place.

      You can buy “candle wind shields” from Amazon or church supply stores. Ours are pilgrimage souvenirs. But you can also make them by cutting an X in the bottom of a paper cup. (Paper shields are flammable if touched by the flame, but older kids are pretty good at keeping candles upright.)

  9. Elizabeth

    Our nearest church have modern depiction(metal sculptures)of each station but no cross associated to each station. So if we attend the stations will we not get an indulgence?

    • Kendra

      I think without crosses, the indulgence becomes partial instead of plenary. But take a close look. I wonder if they’re incorporated in somehow?

      • Sarah

        Following up on Elizabeth’s comment: I was going to ask a similar question. The stations at our parish do not have the crosses over each image (like I have seen elsewhere), but it does seem that the cross is within each image somewhere. Do you think that satisfies the requirement?

        • Kendra

          I don’t know for sure. Perhaps it would be something to bring up with your pastor? You could also write to the USCCB and ask them. I’ve found them to be responsive to emails.

  10. Amy

    Thanks for this, Kendra! You are so helpful!

  11. Samantha

    What does it mean for the stations to be “legitimately erected?” My husband and I had taken that to mean they had to be erected in a church or some other official capacity. I tried to email the USCCB, but I was wondering if you’ve addressed the issue before.

    Thanks for being awesome and inspiring!

    • Kendra

      Aww, thanks! I don’t know any more for sure than what the Manual of Indulgences says, but I’d love to hear what the USCCB says when they get back to you.

  12. Melissa

    Thank you so much for this post! We did the stations of the cross as a family for the first time on Friday and it went so well I think we will keep doing it throughout Lent. We took down our big crucifix and let me son carry it to lead the way through the house. I thought the kids would be crazy, but we kept it fairly short and it was lovely.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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