Stations of the Cross
Many parishioners can remember the days when fourteen small wooden Stations of the Cross hung below the air vents on the north and south walls of our church. Above those air vents were rectangular indentations originally meant to house larger and more elaborate Stations. Thanks to the generosity of a number of parishioners, we now have beautiful mosaic Stations of the Cross.
What is a mosaic? The Encyclopedia Americana tells us that mosaic “is the art of decorating a surface with hard material, set closely together and fixed in place by an adhesive.” The individual tile in a mosaic, usually in the shape of a cube, is called a tessera (plural tesserae). Mosaics are highly durable and many of these works of art created in ancient times still retain their clarity, color, and brightness.
The Stations of the Cross in our parish were installed in the year 2000 and donated by parishioners. The designs were created by Frank Marchione, a native of Italy who also designed our original stained-glass windows, those depicting the archangels Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael. Frank Marchione worked as a painter, painting murals for a company in Cleveland, and then began working in stained glass. His son, Damien Marchione, who was taught the craft by his father, designed the thirty-four stained-glass windows installed in 1999. Marchione Studios, Inc. of Canton constructed the windows and did the installation.
Even though the Stations were designed by Frank Marchione, they were not built in the United States. Rather, they were made in the town of Pietra Santa (Holy Stone), Italy by Pierotti and Company.
As you look at the Stations, see how much gold sparkles from the mosaics. Notice the bright, vibrant colors and the picture of an arch at the top, shaped exactly like the real arch below the mosaic.
We can trace the origin of the Stations of the Cross back to early pilgrims to Jerusalem who walked from where Pontius Pilate’s house was reported to have stood all the way to Calvary. The pilgrims would stop to pray at various places where either Sacred Tradition or the Gospels tell us that certain incidents happened. Crusaders returning from the Holy Land to Europe brought back the practice of making the Stations. The Franciscans, who in 1342 were placed in charge of Jerusalem’s holy sites, did a great deal to popularize the devotion. By the late Middle Ages, the Stations of the Cross had become widespread. Not until the eighteenth century did the Church standardize the number and content of the Stations.
Individuals may pray before the fourteen Stations at any time of the year, but most parishes have communal Stations during Lent. In our parish, we pray the Stations of the Cross weekly during Lent.
The First Station, Jesus Is Condemned, was donated in loving memory of Nicola J. (Nick) DePinto by his wife Suzanne, his son Nick, and his daughter Diane. We see Jesus before Pontius Pilate, who is washing his hands. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Pilate washed his hands with water in front of the crowd, declaring, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
The Second Station, Jesus Takes His Cross, was donated by Ernie and Kim Zavoral and their family “to the community of Saint Michael’s for their love, support, and friendship.” Note how large the cross is. Jesus must carry its weight, yet he embraces the means by which he will die. In Luke14:27 Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
The Third Station, Jesus Falls, was donated “in gratitude for God’s many blessings” by Anthony and Patricia DeRosa and their family. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
The Fourth Station, Jesus Meets His Mother, was donated by Margaret Wood in memory of the Wood and Kelley families. We know that the Blessed Virgin Mary was present at the Crucifixion, since she is mentioned in the 19th chapter of John’s Gospel. How painful, how utterly tragic for a mother to see her child die! Meditating on Mary’s pain and Jesus’ suffering helps us to endure our own trials and sadness.
The Fifth Station, Simon Helps Jesus, was donated in memory of Mildred G. Dawkins and Walter E. Dawkins by Richard and Margot Baird and their families. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we learn that the Romans compelled Simon, whose home was in Cyrene (in North Africa), to carry Jesus’ cross. What an honor that was, even though difficult and painful. Are we also asked to carry, in addition to our own crosses, the crosses of others?
The Sixth Station, Veronica Helps Jesus, was donated in memory of the deceased members of the Bauer and Dwyer families by Thomas J. and Evelyn F. Dwyer. The incident depicted here is not recorded in Scripture and comes to us by way of tradition. The name Veronica means “true icon”; an icon, as we know, is a sacred image. Tradition tells us that on the way to Calvary, a woman gave Jesus a cloth so that he could wipe his face. When Jesus used the cloth, the imprint of his face remained on it. This tradition reminds us of the need to help others and of the power of God.
The Seventh Station, Jesus Falls Again, was donated in memory of John A."Jack" Mocker by his wife, Helen Mocker, and their family. The tradition that Jesus fell three times “beneath the weight of the Cross evokes the fall of Adam—the state of fallen humanity—and the mystery of Jesus’ own sharing in our fall,” according to a meditation on the Vatican’s website (vatican.va). Knowing that Jesus shared in our difficulties, our trials, and our griefs helps us to bear those tribulations and inspires feelings of gratitude and love.
The Eighth Station, Jesus Consoles the Women, was given to our parish by John A. Logan in memory of the deceased members of the Logan family. In Luke 23: 27-28 Jesus says to the women he meets along the Way of the Cross, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
The Ninth Station, The Third Fall, was donated by the Hyatt family in memory of Franklin Hyatt. Although not mentioned in Scripture, it is possible that Jesus could have stumbled three times under the weight of the Cross. Three is also a symbolic number, representing the Trinity. Consider the words of Psalm 118, recited by the presider during our communal Stations: “I lie prostrate in the dust; give me life according to your word.” And at the end of this Station, the presider prays, “Almighty and eternal God, You permitted your Son to be weakened, crushed, and profaned so that He might rise from the dead freed from the ravages of sin.”
The Tenth Station, Jesus Is Stripped, was given to our parish by the Wilthew family in gratitude for God’s blessings. In Matthew 27 we learn that the soldiers “stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.” The Vatican’s meditation on the Stations (vatican.va) reminds us that “clothing gives a man his social position; it gives him his place in society, it makes him someone. His public stripping means that Jesus is no longer anything at all, he is simply an outcast, despised by all alike.”
The Eleventh Station, Jesus is Crucified, was donated in memory of Paul and Rose Groghan, Samuel J. Groghan, and Alexander and Jane Bienko. We learn about the Crucifixion in all four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Nailing or fastening a person to a wooden cross was a common method of execution in ancient times, lasting as a practice from the sixth century B.C. until the fourth century A.D. when the Emperor Constantine made it illegal. It is a painful way to die. “When they came to Golgotha, the place called the Skull, they crucified Jesus and the robbers, one on his right and the other on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”
The Twelfth Station, Jesus Dies, was given to our parish in gratitude for all of God’s blessings by the Tarasuck family. In our Station, we see the upper part of Jesus’ body, his head crowned with thorns, his wrists bound to the cross. At the top of the cross we see a sign that says INRI. This inscription stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, Latin for Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews. The ancient Romans did not use the letter J, hence the letter I begins both Jesus and Jews. John reports in his gospel that Pontius Pilate had the sign placed on the cross written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The Latin inscription has survived through the centuries because Latin was the language of the Roman Empire and remains the official language of the Catholic Church. When the chief priests objected and said, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that he said, 'I am the King of the Jews,'" Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
The Thirteenth Station, Jesus is Taken Down, was donated in memory of John and Carol Demianowicz and their son, John Vincent Demianowicz, by their daughter Annnette Curtin and her family. As the Gospel of John tells us, “When the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead so that they did not break his legs, but one of them opened his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water. Joseph of Arimathea, because he was a disciple of Jesus, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave permission.”
The Fourteenth Station, Jesus is Buried, was donated in memory of Lloyd Nuttall by Jayne Nuttall and her family. “Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus, and wrapping it in a clean linen cloth he laid it in his new tomb, which he had hewn out of rock. Then he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and departed (Matthew 27, 59-60). We have come to the end of our walk through the Stations of the Cross. May each of us draw strength and grow spiritually through contemplating Our Lord’s journey.
Written by Anita Gorman; Photos by Paul Witkowski