Vocation Discernment Retreat Weekend

October 20: Solemnity of Saint Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists

On October 20, Passionists in the United States celebrate the Solemnity of our founder, Saint Paul of the Cross. Respected as one of the greatest mystics and spiritual guides of the 18th century, Saint Paul of the Cross directed souls to great holiness through meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ.  He gathered companions who went forth from their lives of deep prayer in solitude to preach the love of Jesus Crucified, "the greatest and most overwhelming work of God's love."

From a letter of Saint Paul of the Cross to Thomas Fossi, August 31, 1754:
"The balsam to cure every pain is the Passion of Jesus Christ and union and total abandonment to his Holy Will. . . Oh, fortunate is that soul which rests on the bosom of God without any thought of the future but strives to live for the moment in God with no other care beyond doing his Will in every event, faithfully fulfilling the obligations of one's own state!"

Saint Paul of the Cross (Paul Francis Danei) was born, on January 3, 1694, in Ovada, Italy.  His parents provided him with a solid foundation in the Catholic faith.  As a child, he was especially influenced by his pious mother who, pointing to the Crucifix, explained that Jesus loved him so much that He died for him.  This truth of God's love in his heart was a seed that would blossom as he responded with docility to God's call at the various stages in his life.  Initially, Paul felt inspired to live a life of solitude and penance; and on November 22, 1720, Bishop Gattinara vested him with a poor black habit.  Thus, the Passionist Congregation was born.  He made a 40-day retreat and wrote the Rule of the Congregation he felt inspired to found.  In September, 1721, when his first attempt to meet the Pope and request permission to gather companions was met with a refusal by the papal guards, he went to pray at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.  There, before the image of our Blessed Mother, Salus Populi Romani, Paul made a vow to promote devotion to and a grateful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This was the vow that all future Passionists would make and is the charism of the Passionists.  In May, 1725, Pope Benedict XIII verbally granted him permission to gather companions.  The first retreat on Monte Argentario was blessed in 1735.  From the solitude of this beautiful mountain where Paul and his companions lived and prayed, he walked down to the towns below to preach the love of Jesus Crucified.  Saint Paul of the Cross also directed numerous souls with great wisdom, including the laity, religious, and priests, many of these by letter.  Over 2000 of his letters have been preserved and published.  As companions joined him and the community grew, he opened new retreats.  At the end of his life, the Congregation had a total of ten retreats.

In 1771, Saint Paul of the Cross and Mother Mary Crucified opened the first monastery of Passionist Nuns in Corneto, Italy.  The nuns share the same charism as their brothers, to proclaim the gospel of the Passion.  However, they live intensely the contemplative aspect of the charism in solitude, prayer, poverty, and penance, dedicating their lives to the "holiness hidden in the cross of Jesus Christ for the sole and pure glory of God" (Letter of St. Paul of the Cross).  Saint Paul of the Cross died on October 18, 1775.  He was canonized by Pope Pius IX on June 29, 1867.

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The Contemplative Passionist Life