Last year, five days after the first day in Lent, I asked, "What's a Shwednesday?" I figured this year I'd mention Ash Wednesday before the day occurs. Perhaps some of you will be able to implement and encourage some of the elements and emotions of the upcoming penitential season.

Ash Wednesday is February 25. We will be participating in our third Ash Wednesday service as a church on that evening. This year is going to be especially awesome for me and hopefully for our church. I have never actually participated in the "Way of the Cross" before, but ten days from now our whole church will go on the journey. The "Way of the Cross," also known as the "Stations of the Cross," is a tradition dating back to St. Francis of Assisi. Usually practiced during Lent, the "Way of the Cross" is an opportunity for us to walk with Jesus on the road to his death. We will stop, reflect, read, worship, and pray at fourteen different stations, each depicting a step along the Way. The traditional "Way of the Cross," which is practiced almost exclusively in Catholic churches, includes a few extra-biblical stations. In 1991 Pope John Paul II released what is called the "Biblical Way of the Cross," which cites only biblically supported steps Jesus took, and in which our church will participate.

The depictions, beginning with Jesus' praying in Gethsemene and ending with His burial, are usually displayed on the side walls of the church worship space, starting (if your facing the sanctuary or stage) at the front right, on towards the back right, then across to the back left side, and down to the front left, seven on each side. The stations are usually highly ornate pieces of art, often carved images or stain-glassed windows. Of course you don't need to have stations in your worship space to participate in the "Way of the Cross."

Ave Maria Press at Notre Dame just published a resource I would highly recommend, John Paul II's Biblical Way of the Cross. It is a liturgical pamphlet for use anytime and anywhere. The artwork in this booklet is so moving, I contacted the artist, Michael O'Brien, and requested permission to print and display his paintings in our worship space. He granted it to me, and we will be displaying them along with the corresponding Scripture passages on the side walls of our auditorium. I cannot wait to lead our church into this worship experience. Families will be encouraged to take the journey together. Imagine families participating in this together, fathers reading the Scripture passage to the little ones, mothers and children reflecting upon the Passion of our Lord. (Below is probably my favorite of the paintings, "Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief.")

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