Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Stations of the Cross for Children

This is the season of Lent, a forty* day buildup to Easter. When I was a child attending Catholic school each Friday in Lent meant three things: pizza for lunch, fish for dinner, and Stations of the Cross in the afternoon.

We used a special book of Stations of the Cross for Children. The books were old when I first saw them, back in the mid-1970's, but I have no idea when they were actually printed. After the old school closed nearly thirty years ago, one of the books came into my possession. I scanned parts of it back in March of 2001, but never finished scanning the entire thing. Unfortunately, I cannot now locate it - suggesting that in the intervening nine years it has been moved from the place of storage underneath my scanner. These are the pages I scanned.

This was a small book, pocket-sized. I've tried to reproduce it here actual size, but how large it appears depends on your specific screen settings. Note the absence of a copyright or publication date.

I always got a kick out of the way the Foreword talks around children - it's apparently not intended for them. Or maybe it is. But the tone and the language are much less simplistic than the "Preparatory Prayer" on the facing page.

The priest at St. Mary's when I went to school there was Fr. Piontek. Big, gruff, curmudgeonly, often seen walking around with a cowboy hat and cigar, or on more formal occasions the black vestments and robes that, after 1977, called to mind Darth Vader. He had recited and chanted these prayers so many times that they became just slurred sounds coming from his throat. So the opening verse on this and the following pages came out sounding like "WE ADORE THEE O CHRIST AND WE BLASPHEME". It was hard not to laugh.

This book introduced me to a few things. The concept of miniature art, for one: the illustrations were probably full-sized, full-color paintings that had been reduced to tiny grayshade images for the book. But they retained many little details, and there seemed to be tremendous expression in those shades of gray. Eventually I made a hobby - for a little while - of creating miniature art using a stamp magnifier and very sharp, very hard pencils. I might someday be able to locate some of those drawings.

Enlarged to show detail.

There were two other things to which this booklet introduced me. One was the concept of "etc." I had never encountered that odd abbreviation before I read it here ("Recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.") in first grade.

The other was the "Stabat Mater". I found these little interjections of verse much more interesting than the call-and-response ritual of the Stations of the Cross. I was fascinated by the rhyme scheme and the meter - a concept I instinctively understood, though I wouldn't learn that term until years later. (The meter of the Stabat Mater, I have just learned, is trochaic tetrameter.)

The Stations go on, and on, fourteen in all. Call and response, repetitive prayers, the slow grind of ritual. I remember the spectrum of feelings I felt as we just got started at Station I, as we crawled on to Stations IV and V, as we rounded the bend at Station VII, limped our way past Station XI, and finally made it to Station XIV, a virtual Via Dolorosa for children.

I haven't gone to the Stations of the Cross in many years. I may have one Friday open at the end of March this year. But it wouldn't be the same.

If and when I locate that booklet - and I am confident I will, eventually - I will scan the rest of the pages, and maybe post them to this entry. Part of an effort to preserve a vanishing world, I suppose.

UPDATE: I decided to Google "stations of the cross" and "a religious of the cenacle" - and - BOOM - found an online copy of the complete book! The cover is white and the images are in color, but otherwise it looks like the same thing. And the copyright and publication date information was on the last page - copyright 1936, Imprimatur July 21, 1920.

Stations of the Cross for Children on

*Forty days, not counting Sundays. This is why Lent lasts for nearly seven weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reproductions of these booklets are available at