On Saturday, September 30, St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican hosted one of the first editions of the Via Creationis—a devotion inspired by the Stations of the Cross. During the ecumenical opening vigil of the Synod on Synodality, the crowd thanked and praised God for the wonders of the cosmos.
The Via Creationis is a new prayer to celebrate and contemplate Creation. Just as the Way of the Cross commemorates the mystery of the Passion, the Via Creationis commemorates the mystery of Creation. It does so by “reading” the two sacred books that God wrote, the Book of the Scripture and the Book of Nature, to appreciate the great mystery of God’s creation of the cosmos.
The seven stations that compose it, following the famous “seven days” of Genesis, are seven gifts that God considers “good”: the light, the sky, the Earth and the sea, the celestial bodies, water and air creatures, land creatures and finally a compilation of all created things. At each station, the Lord is praised and thanked for giving us this “goodness”.
Why do we pray for Creation?
“As Christians, we have placed so much emphasis on our understanding of God as Redeemer that we have neglected the importance of God as Creator,” explains Tomás Insua, Laudato Si’ Movement‘s Executive Director, who helped in the drafting the first version of the Via Creationis.
In fact, Benedict XVI taught that “In recent decades the doctrine of Creation had almost disappeared from theology. The Redeemer is the Creator and if we do not proclaim God in his full grandeur – as Creator and as Redeemer – we also diminish the value of the Redemption.”
“The Via Creationis helps us to reflect on this mystery and praise our Creator for the wonders of Creation,” adds Tomás. “It is an experiment to put the ‘ecological spirituality’ proposed in Laudato Si’ into practice, combining faith and reason, Scripture and science. We need new rites to celebrate the Season of Creation and rediscover the sacredness of the cosmos.”
This new devotion helps us to savor the famous incantation “God saw that it was good” that is repeated throughout the first chapter of Genesis. The Via Creationis invites us to imitate God, “beholding” and contemplating the various parts of creation, so that we too may recognize that all creatures are “good”—a true gift.
When should we pray the Via Creationis?
Weekends are particularly suitable for praying the Via Creationis because of their symbolism. It could be Saturday, the “last day” of the Genesis sequence in which God gives himself to contemplative rest, enjoying the beauty of the cosmos. Alternatively, it could be Sunday, the “first day” of the Genesis sequence in which God initiates the mystery of creative activity.
The Season of Creation (September 1 to October 4th) is also a particularly special time to pray the Via Creationis.
How to pray the Via Creationis
This prayer follows the logic of the Stations of the Cross. The following is recommended:
- Pray it outdoors, in the “Cathedral of Creation”. This can be an urban park or garden, the countryside or the wilderness; the quieter, the better. Being near water – sea, lake, river, pond or stream – would be ideal for water-related seasons, but is not essential if it is inconvenient.
- Identify, in advance, 7 places for each of the 7 stations (they could be very close to each other or quite distant). Walk from one to the other on a prayer walk;
- Prepare images that represent each station (such as nature photographs, natural objects, paintings, sculptures or homemade artwork), which can be pre-positioned at each of the 7 locations or simply taken with you to display at each station.
- Follow one of the following guides, which can be adapted:
- Short version
- Video version (even shorter than the short version)
- Long version with more detailed scientific narration (currently only in English and Italian)
As with the Stations of the Cross, which has many variations (with different arrangements and number of stations), there are many ways of praying the Via Creationis. We hope that it will bear many fruits of “ecological conversion” in the years to come, in order to stop the sacrilege that is the environmental crisis.