Today, Passionists throughout the world remember the feast of their Father and Founder, St. Paul of the Cross – that is everywhere except in the United States where the feast is celebrated on October 20. The American Church remembers the Jesuit North American Martyrs today. However, since I am going to be travelling today and will be on the road for the next week, I want to send you my homily for the feast.
Readings for the Feast: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and Matthew 16:24-27.
Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775, Founder of the Passionist Congregation of priests and brothers; Founder of the contemplative Passionist Nuns.
Paul Francis Danei was his given name. He was born in the town of Ovada in northern Italy into a relatively prosperous and very religious family. He was destined to marry and follow his father’s footsteps but that was not to be his vocation. He was a seeker and was influenced in early life by the local Capuchins. Today’s readings give us insight into the heart of Paul’s spiritual journey.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus says to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Paul took this quest seriously. By the time he was 26 years old, Paul had had a series of prayer experiences which made it clear to him that God was inviting him into an intimate love relationship with His Crucified Son. He was not to live alone but rather in a community that he would found. In an interior vision, he saw himself clothed in the habit he and his companions would wear: a long, black tunic on the front of which was a heart surrounded by a white cross, and in the heart was written , the Passion of Jesus Christ.” Paul wrote the Rule for his yet unfounded community in 1720 committing himself and his future followers to remembering the Passion of Jesus. This was not meant to be merely a historical remembrance but a lived experience.
In our reading from Corinthians, Saint Paul the Apostle, cries out, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ Crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” In Paul’s vision, Passionists were not only to lead an intense life of contemplative prayer probing the mystery of the cross, but they were also to preach about God’s incredible love as seen in the Passion of Jesus – God’s great act of redeeming love. Passionists were to reach out to the crucified of the world. In Paul’s own words, “The love of God is very ingenious and is proved, not so much by words, but by the deeds and actions of the lovers.” Thus the motto of every Passionist: We preach Christ and Him Crucified!