Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Congregation.

Paul Danei was born at Ovada, near Genoa, being the eldest son of an impoverished business man of noble ancestry. Brought up devoutly from an early age, he refused the opportunity both of a rich inheritance and an advantageous marriage. After a year's trial as a volunteer in the Venetian army to fight the Turks in 1714, he spent several years in prayer and retirement before he decided in 1720 to found in response to a vision, a new congregation which was duly tested and approved. With his younger brother John, who was to be his lifelong companion and helper, and a few other companions he started the new congregation at Monte Argentaro in 1727 after being ordained priest at Rome. The main features of this form of religious life were to combine an austere monastic penitential regime with intense devotion to the Passion of Christ, which should be communicated to others by mission work in the parishes. The aim was thus to combine the active and contemplative lives at the deepest level. So outstanding was their ministry to the sick and the dying, and in reconciling the sinners and the lapsed that they were soon in demand in many parts of Italy. Meanwhile many novices left, finding the regime too austere, but the work continued with the foundation of three houses by 1747. Papal approbation had been obtained on condition that some of the severest features were mitigated.

Paul was an extremely effective preacher, especially on the subject of Christ's Passion; he was also endowed with gifts of prophecy, healing and reading the secrets of hearts. Much of his correspondence is concerned with ascetical and mystical theology. From early times he had been specially interested in the reconciliation of England to the Holy See, an aim vigorously pursued by his disciples in the 19th century, who included Dominic Barberi, who received John Henry Newman into the R.C. Church. Final papal approbation was given to the Passionists in 1769, after which time Paul resided mainly at Rome by the basilica of SS. John and Paul, which Clement XIV had given them after Paul's brother John had died in 1765. Near the end of his long life Paul founded a convent of enclosed Passionist nuns at Corneto in 1771. He died at the age of eighty on 18 October and was buried in the church of SS. John and Paul. He was canonized in 1867; his feast, formerly on 28 April, is now on 19 October.

All-powerful and ever-living God,
splendor of true light, and never ending day:
let the radiance of your coming
banish from our minds
the darkness of sin.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.

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