Passion of the Christ Stations of the Cross

Mel Gibson has said that his movie The Passion of the Christ was meant to be a cinematic Stations of the Cross. These meditations, first written for Faith & Family magazine, are meant to glean the powerful lessons of the film.

The Passion of the Christ Stations of the Cross

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the works of artists give us a window to help us see you. As we use the film The Passion of the Christ to follow your steps on the day you died for us, spiritually unite us with the reality of your suffering and death so that we can know you better, love you more, and imitate you in what we do and say.


The First Station

Pilate Condemns Christ

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” — Luke 23:24-5

In the film, Pilate condemned Jesus because of vanity — he was worried what others would think. Caiaphas condemned Jesus because of pride — he wanted his way, no matter what. Herod condemned Jesus because of sensuality — he was indifferent to whatever failed to entertain or interest him. What about me? Which of these most often drives my sins? What can I do about it?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to imitate the loving way you accepted your Father’s will — even though it meant others would be set against you, humiliate you, and cause you great pain. Amen.


The Second Station

Jesus Accepts His Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“And carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.”— John 19:17

The film contrasts the two thieves crucified with Christ. The bad thief ridicules Christ for accepting his cross. We can presume the bad thief’s life up to that point consisted in getting what he wanted by doing whatever he could get away with. I, too, try to get by with the minimum as I seek to please myself. What crosses do I reject?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the good thief accepted his cross in the end, and it brought him to paradise. Help me to accept the crosses you send me for my sanctification. Amen.


The Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“No slave is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name.”— John 15:20-21

In the film, Jesus’ followers were distressed when they saw Christ condemned in the courtyard, then scourged, then burdened with the cross. But they still might have expected him to rise up and strike down the Romans at last. When he fell, it began to hit home. The soldiers were winning! Setbacks and failures in my life test my faith, too. How quick am I to doubt when the chips are down?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is easy to speak with eloquence about the cross. But you know that the cross isn’t eloquent. It’s real — hard and heavy. Give me the grace to reject discouragement anyway, just like you did. Amen.


The Fourth Station

Jesus Meets His Mother

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’”— John 19:26-27

The film shows Mary’s concern for Christ — both as a child and as an adult. What great sorrow she feels at the suffering inflicted on her son! But it’s my sins that Christ is suffering for. It’s my guilt he carries. Do I count myself among those who caused Mary this great sorrow?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for making your mother our mother, too — we take comfort in our trials when she tells us, “I’m here.” Amen.


The Fifth Station

Simon Helps Carry the Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.” — Matthew 27:32

In the movie, Simon’s human nature, like ours, balks at the idea of carrying the cross with Christ. But once he starts, it’s hard to stop. As deadly as sin is, virtue is even more powerful. What about me? Am I still stuck in that moment of indecision, not willing to say Yes or No to the cross?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I am afflicted by the cross, help me remember that it is you and me, together, arms around each other, carrying the cross up the hill. Amen.


The Sixth Station

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” — 1 Peter 4:8

Charity can cover up a multitude of sins, St. Peter says. Veronica shows that. Of all the people in the crowd, she stands out because of her charity. I love Christ, and his suffering pains me. Have I translated that love into action, or am I like those who merely stand on the sidelines and weep?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you rewarded Veronica’s charity by giving her your true image. Help us always remember that we only find happiness by serving the needs of others, not our own. Amen.


The Seventh Station

Jesus Falls the Second Time

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” — Philippians 2:6-8

In the film, Christ isn’t an Achilles or a Superman. He doesn’t carry the cross with physical perfection. He falls over and over again. How often do I make the perfect the enemy of the good in my spiritual life? Do I realize Christ doesn’t expect perfection — but he does expect sacrifice?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I long to finally learn the lesson of your humility. Help me always to struggle to become more holy — even when I fall again and again. Amen.


The Eighth Station

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children.’”— Luke 23:27-28

The weeping women are shown only briefly in the film as Christ makes his way through the crowd on the way of the cross. But in a sense, the movie itself puts us, the viewers, in the position these women were in. We watch Christ’s suffering, and we are deeply moved. But have we gone to the next step, as Christ requests? Have we looked more deeply at our own lives?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, don’t let us be content with watching you pass by. Give us the grace to take up our cross and follow you. Amen.


The Ninth Station

Jesus Falls the Third Time

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” — 1 Peter 5:8-9

In the film, Satan follows Christ to the cross. He is delighted by each of his falls. Satan failed to defeat God when he revolted in heaven. He failed to tempt Christ in the desert. The way of the cross convinces him that he has won after all. Do I ever give Satan reason to think he is winning? By persisting in sin, do I tell him that Christ’s death was in vain?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the film’s ending reminds us that you vanquished Satan for all eternity. Don’t let me give in to his lies. When I fall, give me the grace to get up again and foil the plans of my enemy by uniting myself with your sacrifice. Amen.


The Tenth Station

Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier.” — John 19:23

When Christ’s garments are removed, the film flashes back to the uncovering of the bread at the Last Supper. The movie thus reminds us that Christ’s passion is re-presented to us at every Mass. In the Eucharist, Christ is “stripped” of the “garments” of his earthly appearance. But his real presence remains.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in your supreme act of humility and love, you give yourself to me totally in the Eucharist. Give me the grace of frequent Communion. Never let me take this precious gift for granted. Amen.


The Eleventh Station

Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“They crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.”  — John 19:18

Mel Gibson appears in the Crucifixion scene when his own hands drive the first nail into the cross. He said this was meant to underscore that it was our sins that made Christ suffer. Our sins don’t just make Christ suffer; they make it impossible for him to do his work — they pin him to the cross in the movie; they stop his grace in our life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you kept saying, “Forgive them, forgive them,” even as they killed you — or perhaps I should say “we.” Let this forgiveness change my life. Amen.


The Twelfth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” — Matthew 15:37-38

The film reminds us of the drama of the Crucifixion. The teardrop from heaven, the earthquake and the darkness remind us that Christ’s death cleaved time itself in two and left nothing unchanged. But if the destruction of our sins shook the cosmos, I must never forget what this means: Our sins are never merely private to start with. Their consequences are felt in heaven and on earth.

Prayer: Dear Lord, the Crucifixion is the greatest sign of hope in the world. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Amen.


The Thirteenth Station

Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the Kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” — Luke 23:50-52

The last view of Calvary in the film shows Mary looking directly into the camera as she holds Christ’s body at the foot of the cross. She’s looking into the eyes of the viewer. It’s as if she’s saying, “How could you do this to my son?” But she’s also saying, “Enough anger, hatred, pride and sin.” She’s inviting us to love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are accustomed to asking Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” May she be as much a mother to us at that hour as she was to you. Amen.


The Fourteenth Station

Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you … because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!

“Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.” — Matthew 27:59-60

This station isn’t included in the movie — unless the blackout before the Easter scene counts. But it’s a special time in the Church. It’s Holy Saturday. The King, at long last, is resting, and we’re awaiting the Resurrection. It’s analogous to the times we live in. Christ has ascended, but he will return one day, in glory. Am I ready?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the trials of our lives, we are strengthened — and kept alert — by the knowledge that you will return one day. Help us to watch and pray as we await you. Amen.



Let us pray the Apostles’ Creed for the intentions of the Holy Father.

I believe in God …

Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Way of the Cross devotion is done. But now we begin another way of the cross, as we take up our cross to follow you each day. Help us carry our crosses with joy, knowing that you share our burdens with us. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.