Even though Catholic Churches worldwide have shut their doors to slow the pandemic, we can always count on our domestic churches to fill in the gaps. In fact, covid-19 is a really good opportunity to brush up on our faith-teaching skills for our own families. With Holy Week fast approaching, we have just a handful of days left to practice Stations of the Cross in Lent. We’ll also be posting other Holy Week ideas for you and your families as soon as we can get the computers and tablets back from our kids’ schoolwork long enough to upload something!
When Holy Week would come around for our CALM moms group, we would do a Stations of the Cross in our beloved room 211 of the Parish Center at St. Luke. I cut apart a St. Joseph Picture Book of the Stations of the Cross, and box-taped each image onto the back of the chair. Then, as I had picked up from Dr. G, a woman who ran Bible Story Time at St. Matthew’s, I laid out little activities at each one.
Now that we’re all confined to our homes, we’ve been meeting over zoom. Dora Stone, mom of 3, professional chef, creator or DorasTable.com, this site, and one of our old members who had to move away last year, set them up and leads us. Our kids run around in the background, sometimes stopping to listen, sometimes needing mommy. We learned to mute ourselves pretty quick as the shouts of kids overwhelmed the microphones. Even so, it’s been a welcome devotion in a world where our normal devotional routines have been restricted or shut down.
The drawings of the Stations you’ll see in some of these pictures were created by Megan Maloney, patient mom of 3, tremendous artist, and former Northside art teacher. She also just happens to be part of our group. On each image, which are all combined into just three handy-dandy coloring sheets, Megan has included an action idea for the kids to do. You’ll also see photos Dora took two years back, descriptions of what we used to do and the supplies needed, and photos of Megan’s artwork colored by her daughter. Below each Station, I’ve tried to give a little reflection on the lesson we as moms can learn from the steps Jesus took to gain us our salvation, and Megan has written reflections on each one for the kids. (Psst! Can you tell you should click on one of the bold words for the PDF of the coloring sheet?)
The First Station: Pilate Condemns Christ
Last year, we dressed ourselves as Christ for the first Station, putting on a strip of purple fleece as our “garment” and wearing a crown of thorns necklace. The crown of thorns pendant was made with a 1.5″ sliver of a pool noodle hung on a ribbon. The kids took toothpicks and pushed them through the foam all over it until we were out of toothpicks. To let the kids act out Pilate, Megan suggests having the kids pretend to wash their hands.
Megan: Pilate doesn’t want to condemn Jesus. The crowd persuades him to do so. He washes his hands to show he is not at fault. Pilate makes a bad choice. Is it sometimes hard to do the right thing when everyone is telling you not to?
Erica: How do you react when your kids or your husband or your extended family is the cause of your small, everyday sufferings? Do you turnaround and make them suffer too, by yelling and demanding, or do you forgive and lift it up in perfect humility for their good and for the salvation of souls?
The Second Station: Jesus Accepts His Cross
As the kids traipsed to the next chair a few feet away, they picked up a popsicle stick cross. Did you know there are small ones!? They fit perfectly as the horizontal beam of the cross with a regular-size popsicle stick. You could also have them bind small twigs together with yarn, or cut a cross out of brown construction paper. With or without the craft, the kids can follow Megan’s directions and kneel down, acting like they’re picking up and holding a heavy cross.
Megan: Jesus freely accepts his cross. Because Jesus lived on Earth, He knows what it is like to feel sad and angry. When you are sad or angry, ask Jesus for help. He knows how you are feeling and will help you.
Erica: Does your cross seem cumbersome, or light? If it seems too heavy, just wait until Station 5 for relief. In our lives, we might not know when help will come, but we have to trust that God has given us the exact cross we need to help us on our path to holiness.
The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
Even with shelter-in-place restrictions, our past and present suggestions for this station are the same. Fall. Fall to the ground. Act crushed under your cross. Show the kids how to kneel down and put their elbows and heads on the ground. Most importantly, between this station and the next, have the kids pay attention to getting back up.
Megan: How do you feel when you fall?
Erica: How do you feel when you fail? As adults, we can see clearly all the ways trying something new or scary could go wrong. We recognize the sacrifice that it might entail. Failures and setbacks can make us want to give up and stop trying at everything. Have you set down your cross, God’s calling, because you’ve failed at it before? It’s time to pick it back up.
The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
At this Station, kids can pick up an image of Mary. You can use a prayer card or a coloring sheet. To help them hold everything, attaching it to a string to put it over their heads would be a good idea. Then, they’ll be able to symbolically lay down even Christ’s relationship with his mother when He dies on the cross. To mimic Christ at home, Megan says to encourage the kids to hug a family member.
Megan: When Jesus meets His mother, He entrusts Her to His closest friends. This means he tells them to take care of each other as a family. Because Jesus gives us His mother, we can ask her to pray for us in Heaven. She will take care of you from Heaven.
Erica: I can’t help but see this Station through the eyes of Mary. Am I strong enough to face the sufferings of my own children? Do I always believe, no matter how much they are hurting, that God knows best and knows how to love them and get them to heaven better than I do? When I say, “Thy will be done,” do I truly mean it?
The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross
Circling around out into the hallway at church, the kids got to pick a buddy and rubber band their crosses together and walk side-by-side for the remainder of the Stations. At home, kids can help someone up.
Megan: How do you feel when you help someone in need?
Erica: Get ready for a long one. This is marriage. This is humility. This is the grain of wheat. In marriage, we help our spouse carry their cross. Our husbands are wounded and weak, and thus their crosses are a huge burden for them. But, we, like Simon, are strong and can help. Likewise, we are wounded and weak in the midst of our crosses as wives, and it is our husbands who can be strong for us. But we have to let them, and we have to be there for them. That’s where humility comes in. Do we allow ourselves to be helped? Or do we perpetuate the DIY culture that tells us to celebrate only what we can do alone? Are our eyes open and focused enough on others that we can see how to help our husbands? We know Christ is the grain of wheat that has died and brought new life for us. We are grains also. Dying to ourselves does not mean collapsing under the weight of our crosses. It means using them to bless those around us. When my cousin Emily lay dying of breast cancer at the age of 33 with two small children and a husband watching nearby, I thanked her for taking care of our family. I explained that because she was willing to suffer, she was bringing so many of our family to their knees in prayer for her, and prayer is all God needs to reach hearts. She was very much opening the door to the possibility of heaven for our aunts and uncles and cousins.
The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Little hands pulled a Kleenex from a box and wiped their faces. With a shortage of toilet paper, you may want to hold onto your facial tissue and use a washcloth instead. Either at home, or with a group, letting the kids pretend to wash their faces is a favorite among the participants.
Megan: How do you think this makes Jesus feel?
Erica: Often as moms, all we need is that little grace – that shower when we have an infant, that cup of coffee when our husband has been working long hours, that 3 minutes reading a book for us while we wait to pick up the kids from school – this is that, on a supernatural level. Are you as grateful as you should be for those moments?
The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
Again, our activity ideas line up perfectly alone or apart. Fall again. Kneel down with your elbows and heads on the ground. Fall and remember to get up.
Megan: What do you think Jesus is thinking?
Erica: Again? Can we really keep going? Is this a sign to turn back? To pretend we didn’t hear God calling us to this path? We pray, we fast, we go to church on Sundays, we’re involved with our parishes. Surely, God wouldn’t let us fall if we’re doing those good things, right? Remember that falling, failing, is not a sign of misunderstanding God. He never seeks to be anything but clear about the next step He has for us. Instead, it means we have yet another chance to hone our humility. Keep going!
The Eight Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
For this Station, we let the kids just look at the picture of the women greeting Jesus tearfully. Megan suggests having the kids rub their eyes as if they are crying. By this point, someone might actually be crying anyway, and the other kids can practice comforting.
Megan: Jesus tells the women not to be sad for Him. Jesus knows He will conquer death by dying on the cross. He knows He will raise from the dead and that all who follow Him will also raise one day and live forever with Him in Heaven.
Erica: Especially now, there seems to be nothing we can do for those we see suffering. Before covid-19, we could have been there. Being there is such a powerful gift that it often saves lives. Human touch can be tremendously healing. Pray for all of those who no longer even have that luxury. Fast from anything to lessen the suffering of those dying alone.
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time
Again, we had the kids fall down. At home, have them kneel with their head and elbows on the ground. Just don’t forget to get back up.
Megan: Because Jesus knows the resurrection is near, He gets up a third time.
Erica: There is always room to be more humble and to trust God more and more. No matter how many times we fall, even when we’ve accepted help, we have to stay the course and keep our eyes on Christ.
The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
Last year, this is where the kids took off their purple fleece scarf (if they hadn’t discarded it already), and laid it on the chair. Megan’s idea for the kids is to pretend to rip a piece of cloth.
Megan: The men that took Jesus’s garments act with greed. They know His clothes are valuable, and they only want money for them.
Erica: Now that we’ve been humbled by our crosses, we have the chance to be naked to the world – completely ourselves, just how God made us, with nothing to hide behind. What garments are you using to cover your imperfections? Do you remember that, aside from our sins, our imperfections were given to us by God to help us strive for holiness?
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Thanks to building supplies for our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium, chunks of 2x4s peeked out of every corner of our house last year. And my Montessori focus meant I bought small hammers for my kids and gave them sacks of nails and wood chunks to experiment with. Those spare supplies were gathered into a 2 foot cross, a hoard of nails, and two hammers to take turns with. As we heard the pounding echo through the room and the otherwise empty halls upstairs at church, I had the eerie feeling that at least the older kids, like me, started to take to heart the gravity of Christ’s suffering. At home, the kids can press their palms and feet with their fingers.
Megan: The men that nail Jesus to the cross do not believe He is God.
Erica: How have you been pierced? Have your wounds healed? Have you let Christ heal them?
The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Here, we had the kids kneel and be silent. Yes, kids can actually be silent. If they’re having trouble, look up the Montessori silence game. Megan instructs that the kids should also make the sign of the cross.
Megan: God the Father never leaves Jesus, even on the cross! God the Father never leaves you! Jesus says on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 45:46. Jesus is telling us to look to the book of Psalm. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1. If you keep reading, the book of Psalm tells us that God is always there and that we can trust him, even when times are scary! “You who fear the Lord, praise him!…He did not hide His face from me, but heard when I cried to Him,” Psalm 22:1,24.
Erica: We are called to follow Christ, our Good Shepherd, out of the security of the sheepfold to the cross. All the way to and through death. He is our only hope.
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross
When we stopped here two years back, we took the nails out of the cross. At home, have the kids reach to the sky and then slowly touch their toes.
Megan: A friend of Jesus named Joseph decides to give Jesus a proper burial. It gives respect to a person to take care of their earthly body after their death.
Erica: Some of our brothers and sisters in this world won’t get the joy of a funeral for their loved ones. Pray for those who don’t get the chance to say goodbye, while hoping in the chance to find them again in Heaven.
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
For this station, we hid an image behind some big, rolling tables that were collapsed. What’s most important here is to wrap up with the question, “Is that the end of the story?” Then have the kids shout, “No!” and take a sentence or two to explain the beauty of Easter Sunday. Megan suggests that, at home, the kids can pretend to roll the stone into place to seal the tomb.
Megan: We look forward to the resurrection on Easter Sunday when Jesus raises from the dead and is alive!
Erica: No matter what tomb of sin and neglect we have buried ourselves in, we can still share in Christ’s Risen Life if we simply offer ourselves up for His will. What sins are you letting keep you separated from Christ’s mercy and Risen Life? Do you hear Him calling you out of the tomb?