October 19, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Paul of the Cross, Priest, Mystic and Founder of the Passionists

St. Paul of the Cross
October 20th, is the optional memorial of Saint Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775) the 18th century priest and mystic, best known for his special devotion to the Passion of Christ, who founded the Passionist Order. Born Paolo Francesco Danei, in the town of Ovada, Genoa, (present day Italy) he was the oldest of sixteen children. His parents, Luke Danei and Ann Marie Massari, were devout, but impoverished. (Although of noble lineage, by the time of Paul's birth his family were merchant traders.)

From the very beginning it was clear that Paul possessed a preternatural spiritually ability. From his mother, he received a deep reverence for the sufferings of Jesus crucified. Whenever he whined or complained, she would would show him a crucifix to remind him that our Savior had endured far worse. From his father, Paul received his first catechesis in learning about the lives of the saints and their courageous sacrifices and great devotion serving in imitation of Christ. At 15, upon listening to a sermon on the Passion of Jesus, he adopted a lifestyle of prayer, rigid austerity and mortification. Paul's desire to seek a religious vocation was further strengthened after he read the "Treatise on the Love of God" by Saint Francis de Sales.

In 1714, his religious pursuits were momentarily interrupted when he joined the Venetian army to fight against the Turks. Repulsed by war, he quickly released his mistake. After he was discharged a year later, he refused an inheritance and a promise of marriage to the daughter of a wealthy family. Instead, Paul dedicated his life to God and became a recluse. Returning to his life of prayer and penance, he was clothed in the habit of a hermit by the Bishop of Alexandria in 1720.

That year, he experienced several interior visions of the Blessed Mother wearing a black habit with the name of Jesus in white character surmounted by a cross in white emblazoned on it. Our Lady instructed him to found a new Order dedicated to preaching and mourning continuously the Passion and Death of Christ. From that moment the future saint began writing the Rules of his Order. Pope Benedict XIV approved the Rules in 1741. Meanwhile, Paul founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord, or the Passionists, and would establish his first monastery at Obitello. Later, a second larger community would be established at the Church of Sts. John and Paul in Rome.

For fifty years, St. Paul of the Cross remained a tireless missionary of the Gospel. He died at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul on October 18, 1775, at the age of 81. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867. May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage.

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