Saint Paul of the Cross (+1775), the second of sixteen children, grew up in poverty in rural Italy, knowing the value of things, and with only six of his siblings surviving infancy, the brevity of life, that we must make good use of the time we are given. Hence, his vocation to a contemplative path, devoted to Christ’s passion, developed early on. Education by a priest who ran a school for children sowed the seeds of a vocation, but one which took its time: He first went off to fight the Turks, who were threatening Christendom once again, but his soul was not made for soldiering. After helping an elderly childless couple, who wanted to make him their heir, an inheritance which he politely declined; his uncle, a priest, also urged him to marry and settle down, but Paul knew he was called to a higher and narrower path.
Hence, with his own brother, John Baptist, following an interior revelation in prayer, Paul began a new Order, devoted to contemplating and preaching the Suffering and Cross of Christ, the ‘Passionists’, whose austere existence – including at least three hours of mental prayer a day – did not attract large numbers. They began in Rome, their monastery being called a ‘Retreat’ to emphasize the solitary, prayerful aspect of their rule, and grew slowly, as Father Paul knew and desired. He was one of the most popular preachers of his day, for his words derived from his deep prayer life, his love of God, and his own example. He, like his Master, spoke with authority.
After bearing much fruit, Paul died on October 18th in 1775 in Rome at the ‘Retreat’ of Saints John and Paul, just as the winds of revolution were to sweep across France, Italy and Europe. At the time of his death, there were 180 Fathers and Brothers living in twelve Retreats across Italy, mostly in what were then the Papal States. They now have members throughout the world, who will hopefully preach the Passion and Death of Christ until He comes again: In the midst of the apparent chaos and flux of this passing age, there is an anchor and sure hope: Crux stat, dum volvitur orbis. The Cross stands, while the world turns.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, for by Thy holy Cross, Thou has redeemed the world.