Every year, I head up the effort to produce a living stations of the Cross for the children of our parish and school. It is a bit of work but, over the years, I have learned the most effective ways to run it. If you are interested in hosting this type of event at your parish, here is a simple how-to. Linking up with Kelly–welcome back, girlfriend!
The first, and most important part is to have a script. We use a wonderful one that has been passed down over the years in our parish. If you would like a copy, please email me and we will work out a way for you to get one. The script includes a Narrator part for each station that explains what happened, any lines that the actors say, a congregational response for each station, and questions delivered by the priest to get the children thinking about how each station pertains to their lives today. Here is a sample:
Station Four: Jesus meets His mother, Mary
NARRATOR: Here is Jesus, looking into the eyes of his mother, Mary. She must also walk this journey of love. The love of our parents for us is so very great. Do we take the love without giving in return? Do we demand to have things our way? Just as Mary and Jesus could strengthen each other in such a sad time, we can support our parents with our love. We should give it gladly.
RESPONSE BY ALL: Jesus, please help us to learn to recognize how much our parents love us and give to us. We want to show them how much we really care about them.
PRIEST: How do you show love for your parents?
ALL: Pray Hail Mary
SONG: Sing of Mary
Sing of Jesus, son of Mary, in their home at Nazareth. Toil and labor cannot waery love enduring unto death. Constant was the love he gave her, though He went forth from her side. Forth to preach and heal and suffer, till on Calvary He died.
Once you have a script, you need to gather music. There is not a lot of music included because it is Good Friday, but it is still an integral part. The songs that we have in our script include Were You There, Sing of Mary, Lord, Let Me Walk, and Jesus, Come to Us. After the stations, we have a Veneration of the Cross and Communion Service. Both of these need music. We have replayed some of the above pieces, or covered with just instrumental music. I am looking for a good piece for each of these parts, though, for next year. Now, that I have a better grip on the organization of it all, it is easier to expand ideas.
Next, gather costumes for the children. Most of our “costumes” are just pieces of fabric with head holes cut into them. They only get used for about a half hour each year, so it works. Make sure to have something specific for Mary, Jesus, Pilate, and the Roman guards. These costumes, again, can be something simple like a couple yards of fabric with a head hole, just make sure they are obviously costumes for each part. So, Mary is in blue, Jesus is in white, Pilate wears purple, etc. In addition to robes, we have head scarves and belts (i.e rectangular scraps of fabric and twine or ribbon for belts).
Now, you need to find props. Props are very important, but remember they do not need to be elaborate. Here a list of what you need:
- crown of thorns/grapevine wreath
- parchment colored scroll for Pilate (we put his lines on the scroll)
- a royal looking large piece of fabric to be draped over Jesus and then “stripped”
- swords and chest plates for guards
- Veronica’s veil (a large piece of white fabric with an image of Jesus’ face on the underside.)
- a cross for Jesus to carry (ours is 6 feet long)
- boards with nails partially hammered in
- various dice
- a cross for crucifixion scene (shorter to accommodate the height of the children)
- two four foot 1 x 3″ boards with ropes tied around each end. (These are used for the two criminals, they slip their hands through the ropes so it looks like they are also on crosses)
- two cinder blocks (to prop up cross)
- a white sheet to use as the shroud
Publicize the rehearsal and start gathering participants. It is very important to find an older boy to play Jesus who would be able to carry the cross throughout the church. Use email, announcements, the bulletin, and catechists to get children excited and eager to join. Have the Stations put on the parish calendar. (If you are planning on having Veneration and Communion, be sure to discuss this with your pastor before recruiting people.)
You need the following parts filled:
- Roman Guards (Including one that is converted at the Cross*)
- Voice in the Crowd*
- The Other Mary
- Simon of Cyrene
- Women and children of Jerusalem (usually whoever doesn’t get a specific part)
- The Good Thief*
- The Second Criminal*
- Joseph of Arimathea
- A couple of dads to supervise “sound effects” of hammering nails and rolling dice
*denotes speaking part
(Our practice is always Tuesday of Holy Week at 6:30 PM. It is the one night that nothing else is going on at the parish. The practice usually lasts about one and a half hours. At the rehearsal, you will decided who will play each part (we cast lots if multiple children are interested in a part). Distribute scripts and read through them with the children. Then have a run through of the the children’s parts without music. )
In our Stations, we have specific spots within the church for each station. So Jesus travels around the entire church reminiscent of His walk to Calvary. Before the rehearsal, pick a spot for each station to occur. For instance, the women and children of Jerusalem are always waiting at the baptismal font. Jesus falls for the third time in front of the confessional. He is stripped of his garments at the organ. You get the idea.
Organize musicians. We try our hardest to have children do this part as well. I recruit the musicians about a month ahead of time, the more time the better. Some years we had one girl play piano for all of the pieces. This year we had a pianist, a flutist, and a violinist, playing various pieces. It is nice to have a cantor, but not necessary. This year we had five girls volunteer at the last minute. Sometimes we have one, sometimes none. In the end it all works out.
The day of the event, show up at least two hours before the Stations are set to begin. Lay out costumes for each participant. [I have learned that having one or two people assign costumes is much easier that having the children find their own costume in the bins.] Next, place each prop where it will be needed. Have the children arrive one and a quarter hours before it is set to begin. Have everyone get dresses. Makes sure to have safety pins on and to “alter” costumes as need be.
Have a full run through with musicians, props, your priest, and altar boys, if they are helping. We have one altar boy carry a candle in front of Jesus as we process. In years when we had many children involved, we have had an additional altar boy or Roman guard walking behind the procession to keep it moving forward. At each station, the participant (Mary, Veronica, etc) follow behind the cross until the end.
Find some older siblings to hand out programs and then collect them again at the end. This is important, the programs have all of the responses and lyrics for the songs. Collecting them and reusing them not only saves money but time.
Remember to breathe and most importantly to pray. God is in control and whatever happens will be great. The most important part is for the children to experience what happened on Good Friday.
Do you have any special services for children at your parish? Interested receiving a copy of the script and program? Comment below or email me. Thanks.