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Franciscans introduce Stations of the Cross written by one of their own

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“Jesus, You ended Your way of the Cross as You began it — in peace,” reads a Stations of the Cross meditation written by Franciscan Father Gilbert Barth. 

Eight Franciscan seminarians traveled from the St. Louis Friary in Washington and three postulants came from Loretto, Pa., to kick off their discernment weekend at St. Joseph Church in Herndon March 24. They joined with Franciscan friars to eat fried fish with parishioners in the parish hall, and then led attendees through a Franciscan-flavored Stations of the Cross.

"For me discernment weekend) is always a renewal of my vocation, because I see young men searching for God's will. Like I did for so many years before I found it." Father Benedict Jurchak, director of post-novitiate formation at the St. Louis Friary in Washington

The 14 stations, “The Way of the Cross and Peace Prayer: A Meditation of the Paschal Mystery,” expand upon the Gospel story of Jesus’ walk to Calvary. They begin at the Last Supper and end when the Lord appears to His disciples following the Resurrection.  

“It’s a wider range of emotions of the Passion, encapsulated in one prayer,” said seminarian Brother Zachary Burns.

During each station, a seminarian read from the Gospel, and a postulant read a meditation while the friars and attendees knelt in silence. Each station ended with attendees singing a verse from the song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” 

Father Benedict Jurchak, director of post-novitiate formation at the St. Louis Friary, said Father Barth was former superior and novice director at Sacred Heart Friary (now the San Damiano Retreat Center in White Post) from 1972 to 1978, and was in charge of instructing novices how to pray and “how to be Franciscans.”

Father Tom Bourque, pastor of St. Joseph, studied under Father Barth and typed his manuscript of the stations. He said Father Barth did not intend to replace the traditional Stations of the Cross, but rather unfold the full drama of Easter.


Although some of the stations share scenes with the well-known Stations of the Cross written by St. Alphonsus Liguori, the vast majority are different. Some of Father Barth’s stations include Jesus pardoning His crucifiers, Judas taking his own life, Jesus being blinded and mocked, Jesus entrusting Mary to the care of His beloved disciple and Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene.

The Franciscan connection to the Stations of the Cross began when the friars were the custodians of sacred sites of Jerusalem in 1343. There they encountered the traditional practice of visiting the sites of Christ’s Passion.

“(At times) there were three, four, 14 and 19 stations that focused on different aspects of the Passion,” said Father Bourque.

The Franciscans developed their own set of stations and the practice spread to Europe. Pope Innocent XI granted the Franciscans the sole authority to build stations. In 1731, non-Franciscan churches were allowed to create stations and the number of stations was set at 14.


Br. Rufino Corona (left) and Br. Stephen Waruszewski sing "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" during the stations. 

Many early Stations of the Cross differ from contemporary practice in number and scenes. St. John Paul the Great created his own set, which contains moments such as Peter’s denial. 

Reflecting on discernment weekend, Father Jurchak said, “I think it’s great to kick (discernment weekend) off with ministry, and then be with us to see how we pray and live.”

“It gives an authentic view of what the TORs are all about, which is bringing the fruits of prayer into ministry,” said Brother Zachary. “At the same time it’s a great witness for the community. Maybe there’s a kid here who’s thinking about being a friar.”

Currently, two Franciscan deacons, Brother Jason Wooleyhan and Brother James Puglis, are serving the parish as they study at Catholic University in Washington.

“For me (discernment weekend) is always a renewal of my vocation, because I see young men searching for God’s will,” said Father Jurchak. “Like I did for so many years before I found it.”

Find our more

To learn about the Franciscan Friar of the Third Order Regular, go to franciscanstor.org. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017