Friday Penance

Your unworthy servant leading Via Crucis in Jerusalem, ’09

We Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Those of us with the means to do so will clog the fast-food take-out drive-thru’s for fish sandwiches today.

But not everyone has such an opportunity. We will deal more with the painful, prison-like conditions inside nursing homes right now, in a later post. But suffice it so say: plenty of Catholics will not have a viable meatless option today.

Since we all need to keep body and soul together, no one should scruple over this. The Lord commanded His missionaries: Eat what is set before you. This law trumps the meatless-Friday law, during a dangerous virus epidemic.

On the Fridays of the year outside Lent, we all have the option of substituting a different work of penance, in lieu of abstaining from meat. For the past twenty years, I have substituted: making the Stations of the Cross. Please give yourself the liberty of taking such an option, even today, a Friday in Lent, if you have to.

The best place to make the Stations: Jerusalem. Second best: walking around a Catholic church, stopping at the fourteen points along the walls that represent the original locations in Jerusalem.

(Both St. Joseph and St. Francis will have the doors unlocked at the usual Stations time this evening. But only individual recitation of the Stations is permitted right now.)

Third-best place to make the Stations: Anywhere, including wherever you are right now.

I. Lord Jesus is condemned to death.

II. Lord Jesus takes up His cross.

III. Lord Jesus falls the first time.

IV. Lord Jesus meets His sorrowful mother.

V. Simon the Cyrene helps the Lord to carry His cross.

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

VII. The Lord falls the second time.

VIII. Lord Jesus condoles the women of Jerusalem.

IX. Lord Jesus falls the third time.

X. Lord Jesus is stripped of His garments.

XI. Lord Jesus nailed to the cross.

XII. The Lord dies on the cross.

XIII. The body of the Lord laid in the arms of His mother.

XIV. They lay Him in the tomb.

…Naming the Station, then meditating on it through an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be: this suffices. Or you can use additional prayers, like those composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

Maybe Coronavirus Quiet Time offers you the opportunity to memorize the fourteen Stations? I have had them memorized for two decades, and I can tell you: It’s helpful, spiritually.

Having the fourteen Stations memorized allows you to make them anytime–walking, driving, exercising, beside a hospital bed (I made them with my father as he lay dying), on a plane. You name it.

Make the Stations every day for a month, or every Friday for a year, and you’ll have them memorized.


The city of Jerusalem lives under the same strictures we do right now. The streets are deserted; no pilgrims. Even there, where it all originally happened, the Christians must make the Stations privately now, rather than along the Via Dolorosa.

We are all united in this.



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