St. Paul of the Cross
St Paul of the Cross was born over 320 years ago. He was born into a world very different, and yet, remarkably similar to our own.
Born in Italy, between Milan and Genoa in the north, Paul was born in a part of Italy where other European nations fought their proxy wars. Poverty, as always, was rife, making life a real struggle for almost all. Except the local nobles and clergy, of course. Uncertainty, backbreaking work, scarcity and struggle left people thinking that they did not matter; that in the scale of things, their own lives were unimportant.
Paul, born in 1692 was the second of 16 children, 10 of whom died in infancy. So Paul grew up seeing so many of his siblings die, and seeing the resilience of his parents as they coped with such unbearable sorrow.
Paul’s mother especially kept pointing young Paul’s eyes to the Crucifix. Her message to Paul, became his message – and continues to be our message. Look at the Cross, look at what Jesus has done for us. This is how much you matter, this is how much Jesus cares.
Paul began sharing that message with others as a teenager. With a group from his local Church, Paul would go out with a large Cross to the streets of town of Castellazzo, to where his family had moved. In the streets, under the Cross, he would talk to his town-folk of God’s extraordinary love, in sending his Son to die for us.
As Paul matured, he became convinced that a life focused on God and sharing God’s message was calling. He experimented and tried different approaches and learned from the experiences. This clarified his vision of establishing a family of brothers, whose lives and hearts were shaped by deep contemplation and mindfulness of the Passion of Jesus. And their mission? The message he learned from his mother and his own family – “Look at how much Jesus loves you. Never doubt that you really matter!”
It took twenty years for Paul and his like-minded and inseparable brother, John Baptist, to get the ecclesiastical permissions and to establish the first communities of the Passionists.
A great mystic, a dynamic founder, a tireless and brilliant preacher, a confidant spiritual advisor to countless seekers after holiness, a never-failing correspondent, and an utterly, utterly warm, and generous human being, the DNA of Paul of the Cross shapes our Congregation and wider Passionists family to this day.
His mantra is still prayed by the Passionists to this day:
“May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.”