Feast of Paul of the Cross, Founder of Passionists

Isaiah 61:1-3
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Matthew 9:35-10


When Paul of the Cross wrote the first Rule of life for the Poor of Jesus, he was a young hermit undertaking a retreat in the church of St Charles in Castellazzo. He could not have imagined that three hundred years later our Passionist family would ever have grown beyond the borders of Italy, let alone extended as far as Vietnam, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. When I reflect on how little I knew of life and spirituality when I was ordained, I can only wonder at the wisdom and spiritual maturity of that young layman and hermit. He looked with loving and faith-filled eyes on the problems and ills of his time where so many were like sheep without a shepherd. He was convinced that keeping alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus was the remedy for the challenges that so many people faced in their suffering and struggles. It would become the core mission of our religious family.

Paul had much to learn in the decades that followed as his life unfolded, and he nurtured the growth of the Passionist Congregation. He would be challenged by both successes and failures, support and opposition. Despite the Congregation’s slow start when the harvest was full, but the labourers were scarce there were two hundred religious in twelve houses at the time of his death in 1775.  

In every age, the Cross challenges people of faith and confronts us with what looks like defeat, foolishness, powerlessness, and absurdity. Deep in our hearts, however, we know that there is wisdom here that will always challenge the wisdom of the world. It gives us the courage to carry our own crosses and burdens as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and help our brothers and sisters to carry theirs.

Fr. Chris Monaghan CP, lectures in the New Testament and is President of Yarra Theological Union. He is a member of the Passionist community of Holy Cross in Templestowe.