St. Paul of the Cross

Founder, Passionists (1694-1775)
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Portrait of St. Paul of the Cross. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Paolo Francesco Danei was born near Genoa, Italy. While still a young man, he had a vision that inspired him to found a new religious congregation dedicated to promoting devotion to the passion of Christ. It was the Passion, he believed, that offered the clearest sign of God’s love, as well as the path to our union with him. Eventually his order was recognized by the Vatican; they were known as Passionists. The work of the Passionists was to preach to the poor, principally on the theme of Christ’s passion. It is said that, while listening to his sermons, even battle-hardened soldiers would “tremble from head to foot.” Yet, in the confessional, he was a voice of tender mercy. The Passionists lived an austere monastic life, adopting a spirit of poverty and devoting themselves to frequent prayer. Upon their black habit was affixed a badge that combined a white heart with a cross. He encouraged three things among his priests: “The spirit of prayer, the spirit of solitude, and the spirit of poverty.” He furthermore advised his followers to remember at all times that they bore the image of Christ, “who is the pattern of all that is gentle and attractive.” Paul of the Cross died on October 18, 1775, and was canonized in 1867. Though in his life the congregation was confined to central Italy, it eventually spread to other parts of Europe, to England, the United States, and Latin America. “Bury yourselves in the heart of Jesus crucified, desiring nothing else but to lead all men to follow his will in all things.” —St. Paul of the Cross 

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Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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