Though many saints were devoted to the Way [or Stations] of the Cross, perhaps no one did more to promote it than St. Leonard of Port Maurice. Born on November 20, 1676 in the Italian town of Porto Maurizio, near Genoa, Saint Leonard decided at an early age to enter the religious life. He eventually became a priest in a strict branch of the Franciscan Order, combining an austere life with active missionary work. He preached missions throughout Italy for over 43 years, touching the hearts of countless people and obtaining a great number of conversions.
In spite of wearing himself out in mission work, he also found time to write many letters and devotional works. He promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Sacrament, and the Immaculate Conception of Mary; but the devotion for which he was best known is the Way of the Cross. He preached it in all his missions and set up stations wherever he went. He reportedly established them in 571 locations, including the Coliseum in Rome.
Saint Leonard died in Rome on November 26, 1751. God glorified him in life, but still more after his death, by numerous miracles. Pope Pius VI, who had known him personally, beatified him in 1796, and Pope Pius IX canonized him on June 29, 1867, and appointed him patron of all parish missionaries.
Saint Leonard's Way of the Cross ranks among the great spiritual and devotional classics. The meditations it contains are eloquent as well as insightful. It is hoped that they will inspire the reader to a more fervent love for Jesus Crucified and a greater appreciation of what He has suffered for us. (Translated from the Italian by Mario DiTata.)
Resolved to sin no more, I humble myself at Your most holy feet, O Jesus, my most merciful Redeemer. With sorrow for my sins, I ask Your forgiveness with all my heart, and I love You above all things.
Accompany me with Your grace, O most loving Jesus. Enlighten my mind and soften my heart, so that by meditating on Your most painful voyage to Calvary, I may be filled with sorrow for my sins. By Your suffering, by Your blood, make me worthy to obtain by this devotion the indulgence granted, which I offer for the souls in Purgatory.
O my sweet Jesus, grant that in the Way of the Cross I may learn to love You always. Amen.
"Crucify him! " Who? And for whom? Jesus, most innocent, for me, a sinner. Oh, what a cruel sentence, a sentence of death without mercy.
My most amiable Jesus, You wish to die for me. And I, with my sins, am that witness who accuses You, that judge who condemns You. How ungrateful I have been! You have given me life, and I deliver You to death.
I repent of my sins. I despise them. I detest them. And since You have not punished me by making me die on the cross, grant me at least the courage to accompany You in sorrow to Calvary.
My most loving Jesus, You are already on the way to Calvary. It's not enough for You to have a crown of thorns, chains around Your waist, scourges, wounds, blood covering Your divine body: You also desire the cross.
You embrace it with such meekness, and I, with such diligence, seek to avoid it. You humbly accept so great a weight upon Your innocent shoulders, and I, full of pride, reject my own lesser cross. How blind I am! You teach me to suffer so that I may be saved, and I neglect my salvation because I do not wish to suffer.
My dear Jesus, free me from self-love. And if the cross is the only way to Heaven, here I am ready to embrace it. Help me with Your mercy.
Alas, what do I see? My most amiable Jesus fallen under the cross, stretched out on the ground. Angels of heaven, sustain your Creator and my Redeemer. But oh! instead of angels, the enraged scoundrels come running and, with punches, slaps, and kicks, beat Him horribly.
And You, my dear Jesus, faced with so many outrages, suffer and remain silent. I am puzzled at myself that, whenever some small evil strikes, I am shaken; at every offense I am resentful, become angry and complain.
My most patient Jesus, lessen my pride and grant me patience so that, imitating You, I may for my own good be with You until death.
To my great confusion, it was not enough that I should see Jesus covered with pain and clothed as a sinner; now His Mother
also joins him to suffer for my sins! Accursed sins; most painful encounter; most sorrowful Mother! In Your agony, I see my wickedness.
I know that, in such a painful encounter, the suffering of the Son is the suffering of the Mother. I know that, if my sins have pierced Jesus'body, they have pierced Your heart, O great Virgin. But I also know that Jesus is the source of mercy, You, the refuge of sinners.
Therefore, most merciful Mother, I humbly turn to you with sorrow for my sins. In Your kindness, obtain for me from your suffering Son, Jesus, the pardon of my sins.
Then, to assist my weary Jesus, a man is forced to carry the cross for Him. Sadly, I see that I am that Cyrenean, who occasionally though unwillingly takes up some cross that You, my Jesus, offer me.
How foolish I am! For my whims, for my pleasure, I don't dread hardships, I don't fear dangers, I don't count the sweat. For You, my dear Jesus, everything aggravates me, everything bores me, I seek to avoid everything. How lukewarm, how weak I am!
My Jesus, grant me a little fervor, enliven my courage to suffer with You, so that I may rejoice with You forever.
Give me that shroud, holy woman. Let me keep it, blessed Veronica. I wish to imprint in my heart the Holy Face of my Savior. But oh, unhappy me! who, full of self-love and ambition, have a heart of stone, incapable of holy sentiments.
My most merciful Redeemer, create in me a new heart, a pure, contrite, and humble heart, and then imprint upon it Your most holy name. I promise to love You alone, my Jesus, and to be detached from myself.
Jesus on my lips, Jesus in my heart. Jesus my delight, I'll call upon Him in life; Jesus my comfort, I'll call upon Him in death.
And in the Name of Jesus, I firmly hope to breathe forth my spirit.
Here is the king of heaven, the Creator of the universe, once again stretched out on the ground under the heavy cross. What pain, what fatigue, what derision!
My most gentle Jesus, You bathe the ground with sweat from the front of your fallen head, and I, with my pride, have turned against Heaven and exalted myself above what I really am, forgetting that I am nothing but lowly dust.
How despicable I am! Humility, my Jesus, humility. Lessen my pride, show me my nothingness. You created me from clay, and to clay I must return. Death is approaching, and my sinfulness weighs against me. Mercy, my God. By Your sufferings, grant me sorrow for my sins. By Your fall, help me to rise again.
I hear You, most amiable Savior, I hear You: it is not for You but for myself that I should bitterly weep. My tears only increase Your suffering if they are not tears of repentance.
Weep then, my heart! Weep not for Your God who goes to His death, but for your sins that bring Him there. You are even cruel to yourself unless you wipe out your sins with such sorrow.
Most Precious Blood of my sweet Jesus, soften the heart that does not weep; enlighten the mind that does not know; bend the will that does not obey. Yes, my Jesus, I'm sorry for my sins, and I'll be sorry for them as long as I live. I would rather die a thousand times before committing them again. Strengthen me by Your grace.
My Jesus, my life and my hope, I see You fallen a third time under the cross. It isn't the wood of the cross, but my ingratitude, which makes it too heavy for You to carry. My repeated falls into hateful sin cause You to fall again.
How often I turn from sin to confession, then from confession to sin! Yes, I realize that this is the infinite weight of Your most painful cross. But now I resolve to change.
What would become of me in my weakness if You did not help me to rise again whenever I fall? Oh, I see hell opened under my feet ready to swallow me! Most merciful Jesus, sustain me by Your suffering, shield me by Your wounds, so that I will never again fall into sin, never again.
Such a contrast should never exist: You, my beloved Jesus, stripped of Your garments, with festering wounds; I, clothed in soft garments. I, unwilling to bear any pain, however slight. I, girded with delicacy and with pride.
To You, my sweet Savior, bitter gall; to me, pleasures and sweet delights. You, the joy of Heaven, filled with sufferings; I, a most vile worm from this world, void of repentance.
No, my Jesus, may it not be so any longer. It's not fair that You who are innocent should suffer, and I who am guilty enjoy. By Your grace, grant me a share in some part of your sufferings.
And if a little contrition would sweeten that gall, why, my soul, don't you weep? Yes, my most sorrowful Jesus, I repent of my sins and seek Your mercy: I love You above all things.
You have finally arrived at Calvary, my dear Jesus. You have arrived, dragged along like a lowly criminal, beaten and kicked, pulled with ropes, accompanied by two thieves for Your greater humiliation.
What a horrible sight! The hammering of nails into Your hands and feet, the sharpest thorns on Your head, God transfixed on a most painful cross. So much confusion, so much blood! Who can contemplate You, my Jesus, and not be heartbroken with compassion?
Permit me to draw near to You, my dying Redeemer. Since my sins have brought You to death, I want to kiss that cross, to take shelter in those wounds, to drink of that most Precious blood. Blood and wounds of my Jesus, which have redeemed me, save me. I beg of You, save me.
Here is the Victim already immolated, the great sacrifice already accomplished, the will of the Eternal Father already carried out. Here is Jesus on the hill of Golgotha, nailed to a cross, a pitiful sight to Heaven, to earth, to the elements.
My Jesus is dead; He is dead. Those most holy eyes discolored, those lips taking their final breath, those thorns, those nails, those wounds, that opening in His side, that blood — all are sources of mercy.
But near the cross I also see Divine Justice, ready with sword in hand! Poor me, if I remain obstinate in my sins, making vain the work of my redemption! No, my Jesus, don't allow me to leave Calvary without impressing in my heart Your most bitter passion. Grant that, fearing Your justice, I will live in Your wounds, in Your mercy.
Most holy Mother of my crucified Jesus, you receive Him in Your lap, and if You do not die of sorrow, if love does not kill You, it is because Jesus does not will it. Two most bitter passions for the sake of my redemption: the Son suffering torments of the body, the Mother suffering martyrdom of the heart — both for me.
Infinite mercy of my Jesus, I adore You; most merciful Mother of Sorrows, I thank You. How cruel my sinfulness has been, executioner of the Son, tyrant of the Mother's heart!
Most holy Mother, place a kiss for me upon those wounds, upon that bloody cross. I don't dare to approach because sin reminds me of my ingratitude. Sorrowful Virgin, intercede for me that I may be truly sorry for my sins, and may the power of Your protection obtain my repentance, my salvation.
Who will give me a source of tears with which to weep over the death of my Jesus and accompany Him to the tomb? Poor Jesus, at the cost of all Your blood You have redeemed the whole world from the slavery of hell and, except for a few people, there is no one to weep with compassion at Your tomb.
What ignorance! I wish, my beloved Jesus, to weep for everyone over Your death and to detest the sins that have betrayed You. Enclose in Your tomb my poor heart. Yes, my Jesus, accomplish Your mercy: grant that, purified and sanctified, it will rise again with You.
And since You have encountered death voluntarily for my salvation, grant that I may humbly accept my death for love of You so that, by means of this sacrifice of humiliation and love, I may glorify You in Heaven for all eternity.