You can prepare younger children for Holy Week and for praying the Stations of the Cross by making the stations into a story timeline. Here’s how, with links to resources.
by Heidi Indahl
The Stations of the Cross is a meaningful and traditional prayer practice for many Catholics, particularly during the season of Lent. For children, however, the recitation of the prayers can become one more thing to memorize or struggle to keep up with the adults, particularly for kids who aren’t reading yet. Many shortened versions exist, but it can be hard to track them down and discern which version is correct for your family’s setting. The shortened versions can also be tricky to incorporate into group settings.
To help your child get the most out of this devotion, consider looking at the Stations of the Cross as a story timeline to share with children as a supplement to the prayer practice.
What You Will Need
A copy of a free Stations of the Cross booklet for children:
- For the black-and-white line art version pictured in this article, go to Teacher’s Pay Teachers
- Or try the art-based stations offered by Gracewatch Media: The Stations of the Cross for Children printable PDF
Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
Colored construction paper (preferably purple)
- Print two copies of the booklet. If you’re using the file provided above, printing one copy of the document will give you two copies of the booklet.
- Color in the images, if you like. I chose to color one set and keep one set black and white.
- Glue pieces of construction paper together to create a long timeline.
- Cut out one set of images and glue them in order along the timeline. If the printable stations booklet has page numbers, you may want to trim them to exclude the numbers.
- Cut apart and mount the second set of images on a matching colored piece of construction paper.
Presenting the Timeline
Once dry, roll up the long timeline, starting at the last station.
Invite your children to join you for a story about Jesus. As you tell the story, unroll the timeline to display each station. You can use the stations as cues for your story, or read directly from another text or story book.
When you finish reading the story through once, ask your children if they have heard this story before. Tell them that we have a special name for these fourteen pictures: the Stations of the Cross. Wonder with your children how Jesus felt at each station.
Tell the story again, thinking about what other characters in the story saw, heard, and felt. Invite your child to re-tell the story.
Using the movable cards, practice putting the story into the correct order to aide in retelling.
In the beginning, your child can simply match the cards to the timeline; as they grow, they can put the timeline away and challenge themselves to order the cards without looking.
You may not be able to complete all of these steps in one lesson with your child. Take as many or as few lessons as you wish to allow your children to internalize the Stations of the Cross as a story of its own.
- Since most of the free stations available online are designed to create a booklet, allow your child to do just that! Even if they don’t have the same images and/or text, simply bringing their own booklet to a community observance of the stations can increase their engagement as they focus more on the story than on getting the prayers “correct”…something many adults could use to do as well.
- Older children may enjoy digging into the biblical text directly and aligning it with the traditionally observed stations. Are there more? Fewer? A combination of several gospels? All in one? What would they add? These aren’t questions that you need to know the answer for, spark an interest and let your teen become the teacher!
- Consider alternate options for temporarily displaying your timeline using the individual cards. Children may enjoy clipping the cards onto a long string, hung across a room. They may also enjoy putting the cards in a special place during Lent to allow them to walk the stations through their own home.
- Whenever you visit a new parish, invite your children to look specifically for the stations and how they are displayed. As sacred artwork, they are often a fascinating point of interest. As a bonus, keeping those little eyes busy can help everyone enjoy a peaceful celebration of the Mass!