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How the Virgin Mary Began the Way of the Cross After Jesus' Ascension

May 25, 2017 By Gretchen Filz

After his resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to his Apostles multiple times (and presumably the Blessed Virgin Mary, too). Undoubtedly they were much consoled and strengthened by his glorified physical presence among them following his brutal Passion. They were also given instructions on how proceed as the foundation of the Church was laid by these first bishops.

But this state of affairs was not to last for long. After a period of 40 days Jesus ascended into heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father, his sojourn on earth finished.

Read next The Ascension of Jesus & the Holy Spirit Novena to Pentecost

What must it have been like for the Blessed Mother following her Son's earthly departure? After having the supreme joy of her life physically present with her for 33 years, he was taken away from her, and she had to live the rest of her life without him. Yes, she still communed with Jesus through his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, but yet there must have been pain at this physical separation, and a longing for him that would not be removed until her own Assumption into heaven.


In the Life and Revelations of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, one of the Church's modern mystics and visionaries, we are offered a glimpse of what the Blessed Mother's life was like after Jesus was taken up bodily into heaven.

"I beheld Mary in her last years, making the Way of the Cross . . . she was, at this time, advanced in years, though there was visible in her no other sign of age than an ardent desire for her transfiguration. She was remarkably grave. I never saw her laugh, and the older she grew, the fairer and more transparent became her countenance. She was thin, but I saw no wrinkle, no trace of decay about her; she was like a spirit."

Just as scripture tells us that Mary "stored all these things in her heart," so too she stored in her heart the mystery of the redemption accomplished by her Son. Our Lady lived the rest of her life contemplating the mystery of Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Anne Catherine Emmerich beheld Our Lady in vision retracing again and again the steps her Son walked through Jerusalem in his last hours, remembering them for her future children, and uncovering---for the entire Church---the gems and pearls that lay hidden therein.

According to tradition, towards the end of her life the Blessed Virgin moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). No longer able to retrace the steps of her Son's Passion where they actually occurred, she set up an identical Stations of the Cross on her property using stones and markings. This became the first devotional Stations of the Cross. This is described in detail by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich according to her visions, below:

Our Lady and her Seven Sorrows



"Behind the house, at a little distance up the hill, the Blessed Virgin had made a kind of Way of the Cross. When she was living in Jerusalem, she had never failed, ever since Our Lord's death, to follow His path to Calvary with tears of compassion. She had paced out and measured all the distances between the Stations of that Via Crucis, and her love for her Son made her unable to live without this constant contemplation of His sufferings.

Soon after her arrival at her new home [in Ephesus] I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord's different sufferings.

At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it. The way led into a wood, and upon a hill in this wood she had marked the place of Calvary, and the grave of Christ in a little cave in another hill. After she had marked this Way of the Cross with twelve Stations, she went there with her maidservant in quiet meditation: at each Station they sat down and renewed the mystery of its significance in their hearts, praising the Lord for His love with tears of compassion.

Afterwards she arranged the Stations better, and I saw her inscribing on the stones the meaning of each Station, the number of paces and so forth. I saw, too, that she cleaned out the cave of the Holy Sepulcher and made it a place for prayer. At that time I saw no picture and no fixed cross to designate the Stations, nothing but plain memorial stones with inscriptions, but afterwards, as the result of constant visits and attention, I saw the place becoming increasingly beautiful and easy of approach. After the Blessed Virgin's death I saw this Way of the Cross being visited by Christians, who threw themselves down and kissed the ground."

The 7 Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary


"I saw Mary in this dress following a road which she herself had laid out near her dwelling in memory of the last sorrowful journey of Jesus. At first, she went all alone measuring each step of the dolorous Passion which she had so often retraced in spirit since the death of her Son. Wherever anything remarkable had happened to Jesus, there she set up a memorial with stones, or made a mark on a tree if one stood near.

The road led into a little thicket which contained a hillock in which was a grotto ; and here was represented the tomb of Jesus. When she had thus laid off the different stations, she went from one to the other with her maid in silent contemplation, sat down at the places marked, meditated upon the mystery it recalled, prayed, and often arranged things still better. I saw her engraving on a stone with a stylus the particular circumstance of each station, or something of the kind. She and her maid cleaned out the grotto ; and made it fit for the tomb and for prayer. I saw no pictures nor crosses, but only monuments with inscriptions, all very simple. This first attempt of Mary to perpetuate the remembrance of her Son's sufferings became, in consequence of frequent visits and improvements, a very beautiful road to which long after her death, pious Christians went to pray. Here and there they used to kiss the ground."

The Life of Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey & Mary's House in Ephesus

When Mary's house in Ephesus was found using Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions as a guide, they also reportedly found her Way of the Cross behind the house.  The same Stations of the Cross that are erected in every Catholic Church, and which is traditionally prayed by Christians on Fridays---especially during Lent---is our spiritual heritage given to us directly from our Blessed Mother.  This is why it is also called the Via Dolorosa, or the Sorrowful Way, and is commonly prayed with the Stabat Mater Dolorosa hymn to Our Lady of Sorrows. It is her contemplation which gave us this treasure to bring us closer to the heart of her Son.

Will learning about this history of the Stations of the Cross change the way you use this devotion in your prayer life?

How the Blessed Virgin Mary Erected the First Stations of the Cross at her home in Ephesus


Paul J Conn
Paul J Conn says
Sep 29 2018 9:55PM
In the book of revelation the story is told of how the Dragon persued the woman who had born the child who was to rule the nations with an iron rod. He failed and then went to persue her children, i.e. those who adore the Christ. Thus we are all children of the Virgin who is our Mother in Christ. Scripture tell us she is our Mother.
marilyn harezga
marilyn harezga says
Mar 30 2018 10:00AM
Everything we are told in life may not be true but we have been given a free will so we can chose to believe something or not.

Usually we believe or accept things on faith because we trust the person telling us.

These stories do not hurt our faith but gives us another way to contemplate our beliefs and think of God.

This is part of the traditions passed down orally just like family stories. Do those stories always stay the same or are they tweeked by those telling them until they are written down?
The stations of the cross is man made tradition and not based on scripture.

No where in the Bible will you read of either Mary or the first century Christians going through this ritual. They lived by faith not by sight nor by the empty traditions of mere humans.
Cornelia Hilton
Cornelia Hilton says
Feb 2 2018 4:59AM
Thank you for enlightening me as the the origins of the stations. I knew about our Lady living in Ephesus, but did not know that she did the stations every day. This makes it so much more meaningful.
mercy says
Aug 26 2017 2:52AM
praise be to God ,mother Mary pray for me to leave a heroic life of holiness and to all protestants that they may honour and recognize you as the mother of the church and salvation.
JayLynn White
JayLynn White says
Aug 23 2017 7:04AM
Gretchen, if I may, could I please educate the protestant reader?

The Holy Bible was divinely inspired by St.Athanasius in 367. God's Holy Bible remained pure for over a thousand years until one man authored his own version! This man was a theology professor, an EX-Catholic Priest, that decided to translate plus change God’s Holy Bible by removing seven books(Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch), deleting verses from Esther and Daniel, and then he added a word in the book of Romans! This is the bible used by protestants, so yes, read Proverbs as you quote and then read Revelation 22:18-19.
N Kilcoin
N Kilcoin says
Jul 20 2017 3:09AM
"After she had marked this Way of the Cross with twelve Stations,". Do you happen to know which were the 12 stations she marked out & which 2 were added to make the 14 we do now? I've been thinking a lot about how I can totally see how a mother would do what she did.
The number of the stations has varied throughout the centuries. The number was fixed at 14 in the 18th century when it became the norm for all Catholic churches to have them erected. As this account of the Blessed Virgin is a private revelation given to a saint, and not part of the historical record, we do not have more information about what the original stations were exactly.
Tibudor David Maabeefam (alias Unikpaan)
Tibudor David Maabeefam (alias Unikpaan) says
Jul 4 2017 5:15PM
Thank you very much for this story. But does this mean that we should idolise the Blessed woman? Have you ever read John 14:13,14, 15:7? Did Jesus Himself presribe his mother that we may pray through to him, in his ministry? Now, did Jesus' disciples pray like Catholics of today - with images of Jesus or his mother, or with the cross, or in her name?What did that apostle do to her -worshippd her?What did they do with the cross and the tomb? Read Acts 4:12, Philippians 2:9-10. Look, , this is pure idolatory. Mary's acts could mean something else rather than what you believe. Also, why had it not been written in the Bible? or Catholics have a different Bible that has this doctrine? Jesus had promised us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free-John 8:32. Remember that none of the apostles taught this: were they false preachers?Let Us Be Very Very Careful With The Unchanging Word Of God: Neither add nor subtract from it-Proverbs 30:5,6.our labour is in vane if we walk contrary. Thanks.
Hi Tibudor, it would helpful if you understood what Catholics actually believe, rather than the common misconceptions that you have stated here. A good resource for this is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is cited to Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers. You can find it here: God bless.
We visited Ephesus in 2015. It was a beautiful, prayerful place. Now knowing of Mary 's devotion to the Via Delarosa, I will pray the stations more often. Thank you for telling this story. I will share it with others. God bless.
Marcia Lynch
Marcia Lynch says
May 25 2017 8:00PM
I think creating this memorial for her dearly Beloved Son must have in a way given Mary great solace. She walked this Sorrowful Way with him in his hour and shared in his grief and pain in a way no other than his mother could have. To relive even this darkest hour for her again and again must have given her the deepest sense of the phenomenal and ultimate sacrifice of her dearly Beloved Son, in which she played a central role for the redemption of all humanity. How many souls may have been released from Purgatory through her compassionate reliving of the Via Delorosa. How many souls might be released through our own self sacrificing meditative walking the way with Jesus in reparation for our sins and those of the whole world. Our Mother is always such an inspiration to follow. Thank you Jesus for sharing your Mother with us.
Lawrence Ngoni Chapungu
Lawrence Ngoni Chapungu says
May 19 2017 7:22AM
I am a lay Catholic teacher, writer and trainer. This is a beautiful account of the origins of The Way of the Cross. Well done! Stay blessed.
Vincent Swift
Vincent Swift says
Feb 3 2017 9:44PM
Think you or the priest you mention is confusing James the lesser with St John Daniel Women this is your son Son this is your mother and the disciple made a place for her in his home.The words of Christ from the cross to St John.St John is said to have lived to 100 and was the only apostle to escape Martyrdom by jumping out of the thin g they were trying to kill him in
Daniel Mastropieri
Daniel Mastropieri says
May 14 2016 1:59AM
As a Child growing up in the catholic teachings, from first grade to now ,in my

seventies ,I was told that no one ever knew what had happened to the blessed Mother after the Death of JESUS OUR SAVIOR. Some said after his death , she was assumed into heaven, Other Priest would say that Jesus ASKED Angle Gaberial to bring his mother to him where she became the Queen of Heaven AND GODS CREATIONS. STILL A Christian after a lifetime of prayer and love of THE BLESSED MOTHER AND HOLY TYRINITY. I DO HAVE STILL MANY UNANSWERED THOUGHS . I Constantly search for proof or relics ,In Bishop Newmans High school. All the Priest Said was Than James the lessor was to care for the Blessed Mother as HIS OWN. AND he lived to the age of 100. AS for the nails , nor the cross garments , challis were never found . The vale of Veronica was just a story, YET IN MY HEART and life , I HAVE WITNESSED MANY THINGS THAT TELL ME OF THE BLESSED MOTHER ,AND JESUS "GOD IS REAL" And their is no Such thing as DEATH ,THE stories written 300 t0 400 years after the death of the apostles in their names, PASSING WORDS of mouth, NOT WRITEN BY GOD NOR THE APOSTLES. YET A GREAT GUIDENCE , For the real children of OUR GOD AND SAVIOR. THE CATLOLIC CHURCH STILL REFUSES to believe in Our Lady of Fatima, Now there 70,000 people see the dancing Sun ,and planets , 70,0000 . Yet the church will not do what THE MOTHER OF MGOD WANTS. Maybe the church we see is not the church of God. The Real Church is in YOUR SOUL. Not in a great BUSINESS. GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU!
Marcia Lynch
Marcia Lynch says
May 11 2016 7:08PM
I hadn't heard about The Stations originating with Our Blessed Mother. How much more meaningful to walk and pray them knowing that they began with her sorrowful memory of her Son's agonizing passion and death. What a gift she passed on for us to continue to honor her and Jesus for their mutual sacrifice for all mankind.
Frances says
May 10 2016 9:46PM
I never knew this. With this knowledge I will view and practice the "Way of the Cross" with more reverence.
Leticia Sison
Leticia Sison says
May 10 2016 9:41PM
My husband and I visited Mother Mary's house in Ephesus in a tour. I feel so blessed and grateful to be able to do so. Everyone should include this in their bucket list!
Mary Lou Sereyko
Mary Lou Sereyko says
May 10 2016 4:23PM
I've been a catholic all my life and did not know that the way of the cross was originated by Our Blessed Mother. We have the stations outside behind our rectory and are seldom used. Makes me want to use them more often. Thank you, Mother Mary!
Dottee LeCompte
Dottee LeCompte says
May 10 2016 9:28AM
The Mysteries of the Rosary and the Mass...Our Salvation! Our Mother is still pointing the way to her Divine Son, Jesus. "Listen my children" she says to me...and to you.
Rose Mary Griffin
Rose Mary Griffin says
May 9 2016 10:39PM
I have been a Catholic all my life and never new this part of Mary's life.

What a devoted mother to her son and to us. Thank you for giving us the Stations of the Cross.
Monica McDonald
Monica McDonald says
May 9 2016 6:44PM
It's a Sad and Beautiful Story. says
May 9 2016 5:35PM
I have read these books so wonderful brought me closer to ourLord
Marsha Mirrione
Marsha Mirrione says
May 9 2016 4:14PM
Yes to know Mary prayed at her own station of the cross make them more meaningful to me. I am a convert, & joined the church in 1976. The stations is a devotion have not used very often. I am intrigued by them even more and now want to learn even more about them. Thank you for this article.????
Carmen Wiessner
Carmen Wiessner says
May 9 2016 4:05PM
I never knew how the Stations of the Cross originated. Thank you for this wonderful story.

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Commentary by

Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company. In addition to blogging at, she is also editor of the daily devotional email and author at She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.

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