Exposition During a Via Crucis

Date: March 25, 2023
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.


Question: I can understand reciting the rosary and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a holy hour when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, but what about public Stations of the Cross? -- C.M.B., Ojai, California


Answer: The short answer to this question is no. The Way of the Cross should not be combined with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.


The principal reason is that the Blessed Sacrament should only be exposed if it is to be the direct object of adoration.


The climate proper to this adoration is that of prayer through a combination of silence, readings, hymns, and reflections.


Thus, the Via Crucis, because it requires movement and its center of attention is elsewhere, is incompatible with the simultaneous exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the same body of the church.


It may be compatible with exposition and adoration in a special chapel, provided the chapel is sufficiently soundproofed so that the Way of the Cross does not interfere with the adoration.


If one desires to have Benediction after the Via Crucis, then these should be distinct acts with the Blessed Sacrament exposed after the conclusion of the Way of the Cross and followed by a congruous period of adoration before Benediction.


On the theme of the Via Crucis, the Holy See's 2001 "Directory for Popular Piety," Nos. 131-135, makes some valuable suggestions:


"131. Of all the pious exercises connected with the veneration of the Cross, none is more popular among the faithful than the Via Crucis. Through this pious exercise, the faithful movingly follow the final earthly journey of Christ: from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord, ‘in a small estate called Gethsemane’ (Mark 14:32), was taken by anguish (cf. Luke 22:44), to Calvary where he was crucified between two thieves (cf. Luke 23:33), to the garden where he was placed in freshly hewn tomb (John 19:40-42).


"The love of the Christian faithful for this devotion is amply attested by the numerous Via Crucis erected in so many churches, shrines, cloisters, in the countryside, and on mountain pathways where the various stations are very evocative.


"132. The Via Crucis is a synthesis of various devotions that have arisen since the high middle ages: the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which the faithful devoutly visit the places associated with the Lord's Passion; devotion to the three falls of Christ under the weight of the Cross; devotion to 'the dolorous journey of Christ' which consisted in processing from one church to another in memory of Christ's Passion; devotion to the stations of Christ, those places where Christ stopped on his journey to Calvary because obliged to do so by his executioners or exhausted by fatigue, or because moved by compassion to dialogue with those who were present at his Passion.


"In its present form, the Via Crucis, widely promoted by St. Leonardo da Porto Maurizio (+1751), was approved by the Apostolic See and indulgenced, consists of fourteen stations since the middle of the seventeenth century.


"133. The Via Crucis is a journey made in the Holy Spirit, that divine fire which burned in the heart of Jesus (cf. Luke 12:49-50) and brought him to Calvary. This is a journey well esteemed by the Church since it has retained a living memory of the words and gestures of the final earthly days of her Spouse and Lord.


"In the Via Crucis, various strands of Christian piety coalesce: the idea of life being a journey or pilgrimage; as a passage from earthly exile to our true home in Heaven; the deep desire to be conformed to the Passion of Christ; the demands of following Christ, which imply that his disciples must follow behind the Master, daily carrying their own crosses (cf. Luke 9:23).


"The Via Crucis is a particularly apt pious exercise for Lent.


"134. The following may prove useful suggestions for a fruitful celebration of the Via Crucis:


“-- the traditional form of the Via Crucis, with its fourteen stations, is to be retained as the typical form of this pious exercise; from time to time, however, as the occasion warrants, one or other of the traditional stations might possibly be substituted with a reflection on some other aspects of the Gospel account of the journey to Calvary which are traditionally included in the Stations of the Cross;


“-- alternative forms of the Via Crucis have been approved by Apostolic See or publicly used by the Roman Pontiff: these can be regarded as genuine forms of the devotion and may be used as occasion might warrant;


“-- the Via Crucis is a pious devotion connected with the Passion of Christ; it should conclude, however, in such fashion as to leave the faithful with a sense of expectation of the resurrection in faith and hope; following the example of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem which ends with a station at the Anastasis, the celebration could end with a commemoration of the Lord's resurrection.


“135. Innumerable texts exist for the celebration of the Via Crucis. Many of them were compiled by pastors who were sincerely interested in this pious exercise and convinced of its spiritual effectiveness. Texts have also been provided by lay authors who were known for their exemplary piety, holiness of life, doctrine and literary qualities.


“Bearing in mind whatever instructions might have been established by the bishops in the matter, the choice of texts for the Via Crucis should take account of the condition of those participating in its celebration and the wise pastoral principle of integrating renewal and continuity. It is always preferable to choose texts resonant with the biblical narrative and written in a clear simple style.


“The Via Crucis, in which hymns, silence, procession, and reflective pauses are wisely integrated in a balanced manner, contribute significantly to obtaining the spiritual fruits of the pious exercise.”


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Follow-up: Prayer Over the People


Pursuant to our comments on the Prayer Over the People, a deacon from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, commented: “I was informed by another deacon that the concluding Prayer Over the People said by the priest during lent is not a solemn blessing, and therefore the deacon does not say, ‘Bow down for the blessing.’ Instead, the priest goes directly into this prayer after the regular concluding prayer. Is this correct? Does the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or other document) address this?”


This was once a point of debate, but GIRM 185 has resolved this point insofar as it does not distinguish between a prayer over the people and the solemn blessing with respect to the deacon’s role:


“185. If a prayer over the people or a solemn formula for the blessing is used, the deacon says, 'Inclinate vos ad benedictionem' (Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing). After the priest's blessing, the deacon, with hands joined and facing the people, dismisses them, saying, 'Ite, missa est' (The Mass is ended, go in peace).”


This indication is repeated in the rubrics before the section containing solemn blessings and the section with other prayers over the people.


Note that the text in the missal no longer says that the deacon “may” say the invitation. It would thus now form a stable part of the rite whenever a solemn blessing or prayer over the people is chosen.


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Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, city, and state, province, or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the many questions that arrive.


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