Today I was walked through the stations of the cross with my Aunt, praying them for the first time. Last year had been my first lent after my RCIA the year before, though I was sadly unable to participate due to chronic illness. I had seen the stations prayed once before, but I had never been given the opportunity to have anyone walk me through them; thus, leaving the divine mystery unknown to me until now. Though the experience itself was profound, what I found most profound of all was the fact that praying the stations of the cross, so long as conditions are met, could be offered as a plenary indulgence. What’s more, you can offer it once a month.
I was first introduced to the concept of plenary indulgences with the announcement of the door of Mercy by Pope Francis earlier this year. The principle is fairly simple: you do confession, communion, say specific prayers and walk through a ‘door of mercy’; if you have done all of this with pure intent, your soul able to be washed away of all of the time you had accumulated in purgatory up to that point. You can also offer it for a deceased soul, essentially giving them a free pass and purifying them through your intentions that have been united with the sufferings and mercy of Christ. This is pretty enticing to do on principle, but plenary indulgences like the door of Mercy are not something you come across too frequently. I for one, thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and many of the Catholics I know had been under the same impression.
Fortunately, there on the pamphlet guide to the stations of the cross, in fine print, was a little blurb opening the door to Christ’s mercy through regular prayer. The stations of the cross are a beautiful prayer and here is how you can offer it up to cleanse yourself of the souls of the dead: the stations and prayers must done in sincere meditation of Christ’s passion, following the gestures and genuflecting (kneeling) where appropriate and within 7 days you must participate in confession and communion through the Eucharist. Hidden away in a Lenten practice is a way that we can all join in Christ’s acts of salvation.
In my opinion, aiding in the salvation of twelve souls a year through the simple act of prayer is something that we can all strive to do. I personally revel in the idea of getting to emulate so many saints that have lived their lives in pious contemplation of the Passion, helping all of humanity.