Friday, February 28, 2020

Seven Ways to Teach the Stations of the Cross: A Lent Devotion to Pray About Jesus' Passion and Death

Growing up, my parents took us to pray the Stations of the Cross every week. Our church used a variety of styles to pray the stations. I'm sure we used the traditional structure most of the time, listening, responding, standing, kneeling, repeating...

Leader: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you...
All: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the World

But, there are two things that stand out in my memory (plus the smell of tuna casserole from the potluck after the prayers). On one Friday, the priest went through the stations and taught background information about the station, and once a year, the teenagers acted out the stations. As I pray the stations with students and children, I try to incorporate some tradition and some variety to help students make lasting memories of the Stations of the Cross. Here are seven ways to teach the stations.

1) Repetition
I'd love to say that my students are at the Station each week during Lent, but we haven't reached that goal yet--maybe this is the year. However, I do believe that students can and should experience this prayer more than the one time a year it's usually fit into Wednesday night Religious Education classes.

2) Background information
In high school, when Father Jim taught about the stations, he started the story before the stations. He talked about Holy Thursday and explained the 3 sides table where the apostles sat. It took me a while to picture 3 tables placed in a U shape with the apostles sitting on the 3 outside sides. The space within the U would be used by servers while they replenish the wine, etc. This knowledge changed my mental picture and helped me to connect to the story. As I go through the stations with students, we take the time to pause and talk about the drama between soldiers and Hebrews, the importance of removing the body before the Sabbath, and perhaps even discussing where the nails would have been placed. I want students to have a historical background as they learn the prayer.

3) Games
We use cards with each station, such as these Lent: Stations of the Cross Sorting Cards, to sort the Stations and play Baby Monkey Astronaut. We race to see who can sort the stations the fastest, and play Catchphrase using words and phrases from the stations.

4) Motion
For younger students, I want to give them a chance to move. There is always standing and kneeling, but when I taught younger students on Wednesday nights--they were either playing or completely zoned out before we could get through all the stations. I created the Active Stations of the Cross PowerPoint so they would have images and motions to do as we talk through the stations. When I lead students through this prayer, we use the traditional call and response with kneeling and standing. Then, I announce each station and we all make the pose that is shown on the slide. For some stations, I may ask students to hold the pose while I add more information, but for most of the slides, we pose, say, "Thank You, Jesus," then move to the next station.

5) Mood
My younger sister would cry during the stations of the cross when she was a kid.  On one hand, I love that she was connecting to the emotion of the prayer, but on the other hand, there is a time and place for such heavy emotion....and in front of classmates is that time. When I'm teaching the stations, I try to focus on the story and sacrifice, but also lean heavily on the excitement of salvation that makes this worth it.

6) Food
Growing up, we always had a potluck on Friday night before stations. The churches around us now all have fish fries on Friday night--with no connection to the stations. This is totally normal here, but it totally throws me off. In my mind, Friday is for stations and potluck. As an adult, we used to host a potluck at our house, then walk over to stations at the church in our neighborhood. This hasn't happened in the last few years, but maybe this is the year to rekindle that tradition.

7) Connection
My sister did a project in high school where she had friends act out modern versions of the stations...someone falling in the hallway, etc. I haven't been brave enough to ask my students to do that, but I do ask them to connect the stations to their own lives. I ask younger students to draw the station that means the most to them and explain why they chose that station. For older students, I have them create PowerPoint slides with an image of the station, the title, and a connection to their lives. When I did the project with Junior High Students, I divided the stations so each student made 2-3 slides, then combined them into classroom presentations. My seniors were able to complete the project using all of the stations.

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