Stations of the Cross --- how does it differ from Mass?

Tomorrow will be my first attendance.

How does this Mass differ from other Masses? Is there something I should be aware of or prepared for? Or just follow along what other people are doing around me?

Stations of the Cross isn’t a type of Mass - they’re two different things. Mass is obligatory on Sundays and Holy Days, and Stations is an optional devotion that is common on Fridays in Lent. It’s meant to help us reflect on the journey that Jesus took on the way to his death. Stations of the Cross may by led a priest or a lay person. The leader will usually either stand in the front of the church or process around the Church, stopping in front of each station to read a short reflection. Most parishes will have booklets or pamphlets to follow along and so that you can participate and read the responses when indicated.

It’s a beautiful devotion - I hope you find it meaninful!

Not sure why this is in the Non-Catholic forum, but here goes.

Stations of the Cross is a para-liturgy. It is not a Mass, there is no Liturgy of the Word and no Eucharist. Its structure is actually free-form, as it is not strictly regulated by the Church in a liturgical book. You can easily find the order of prayer published or online. My parish uses this set by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

Generally, a minister will enter, optionally with altar servers holding candles or a processional cross. The minister may move from station to station around the Church. The faithful may accompany him or remain in their pews. There is usually a genuflection at each station, but most of the prayer is done standing.

There should be handouts or announcements with instructions. As I said, this is freeform, so its observance varies widely from parish to parish.

They can be done a few different ways, but in general,
There is a scripture passage read aloud relating to the Station, prayers that people say together, (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) and maybe a short verse of the Stabat Mater sung. During this time, there’s a place to kneel for a short while, then resume standing. We tend to turn in the pew and face the Station that is being prayed. There is a cross bearer and a candle sometimes that leads the way for the Priest, Deacon, or lay person leading as they make their way around the interior of the church.
This is the way it is done at my parish. I’m sure others have other ways…our parish provides little prayer books to follow as we go.
It lasts about 20-25 minutes depending on the amount of “add-ins” there are. (songs, reflections, etc.)
You will love it.

Stations, is not Mass, it is a private devotion, that has a quasi liturgical aspect. What will happen is that the priest (or other leader) will walk along the Stations of the Cross that line the inside of the church praying. At each station something like this is said
“Leader: We adore Thee, O Christ, and bless Thee.
All: Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”
(often people kneel during this part) followed by a longer prayer. (which there are different versions, so I can’t say what it will be).

In short.

No Holy Communion, lots of standing and kneeling :slight_smile:

The Stations of the Cross are a deep introspection into the Passion of Christ whether done during a congregational service or individually. Some parishes have permanent stations in the nave or display stations only during Lent. They are prayed on Wednesdays before a short Eucharist at my church.

Hey! That’s a great idea for a new thread:

Post up a picture of one of the Stations at your parish!

Or, one that you like at any parish


It really is nothing like mass.

It is just a time of prayer.

My parish has small booklets with the prayers in it for each station and then we process the altar cross and take turns holding it at each station. We say the assigned prayer in unison at each station and sing a melody between each station as we walk.

It’s a great experience!

I went to one of the local parishes this evening, expecting Eucharistic Adoration, and discovered they were offering Stations of the Cross first! It was a delightful surprise for me. This was to be my first time experiencing Adoration, so I got two new, wonderful experiences, for the price of one. :thumbsup:

The parish used a set by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, but with slightly more “modern” language.

My 52 year-old, out-of-shape knees are still a little rubbery, but it was a moving experience, especially followed by a shortened Adoration. It looks like the parish offers Stations each Friday evening during Lent. I’ll definitely return!

My church did the Stations of the Cross today after the first Mass. I am in the choir (about 15 people) and we trooped around the church following this little, beautiful book to pray with. Every page was read out loud, and each choir member had a particular section to read out (for example, I read the ‘Scripture’ part of the 4th and 9th stations). Everyone prayed the final prayer together. Other parishioners were also given the book to follow, but they stayed in their pews. I hope they got as much out of it as we did.

I really enjoyed today’s Stations. I have done it before but I love the little book we used. The things it says are very simple, yet very profound. It is definitely worth buying to use for your own Stations, in my opinion :slight_smile:

I want to meditate on the sufferings of Our Lord, but it never ends up being as sacred and reverent as it should be done. I get distracted by thoughts.

And there’s a fear that if I meditate too often, I might lose the devotion and just repeat empty, cold words.

My greatest fear is that I’ll get bored because that’s a sign that one has lost grace…

There were illustrations of each station in the booklet we read aloud from, but I worry that whatever sadness I feel is only for the images of Christ suffering, and not because His Passion is actually in my heart.

God works through the distraction in prayer also though. often the distraction is a symptom of the area pointed out to be worked on through the sacraments of the Church.

The passion in your own heart then becomes understanding the communicated message and realizing there is absolutely nothing you can do on your own without Gods grace, so then through humility we reconcile ourselves with the Lord and consistently, then we see where we are and where Gods love and perfection is in comparison. We begin to get a glimpse of what was always there and is in effect drawing us in closer. Rather sobering event for sure. This is approaching God by surrendering your will to His, when this communicated understating takes place, then the issues start to become known, then you can ask for the virtue to overcome this area which you now see as an issue which creates separation. Its perfect contrition of the heart in sincerely seeking grace to overcome whatever issue is separating you, and which you become aware of.

There are also just periods which are difficult to concentrate, so the still can be struggle at times also. I also don’t think most Catholics realize how much they are actually in a state of communicating with the Lord without actually saying, OK, I am NOW going to pray. But you were already communicating with God. How could you not when your saying to yourself “Lord I have to get to Church” and so forth.

The problem is not the communication, its understanding whats being said. I’ve conceded God has been doing this a very long time, he’s perfect at it.

So what I am suggesting is sincere embracement of the Eucharist, then the devotion can take you deeper. So too then if you are not in a state of Grace and still following the devotion, this should push you back to the Eucharist.

Passing thoughts I guess, helps to have a spiritual advisor, I would ask for a recommendation from your Priest or possible he himself would be willing to help.


Good luck to you brother. I was quite a devout Episcopalian for forty years before I happened in this and other threads some seven or so years ago. My old Episcopal Church was considered “High Church”, so I had been exposed to the stations before converting. It is a moving prayer service that leads one to deeper reflection on our LORD’s suffering. It is something that ought to be recalled and meditated on–for our own good, and out if respect for the Saviour. May God richly bless you.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit