Paul of the Cross, St.
PAUL OF THE CROSS, ST.
Mystic, missionary, spiritual director, and founder of the passionists; b. Ovada, Italy, January 3, 1694; d. Rome, Italy, October 18, 1775. His parents, Luke Danei and Ann Marie Massari, although members of nobility, were neither wealthy nor privileged. Even though the town hall at Castellazzo had been at an earlier date the family manor, Luke Danei, a cloth merchant, was in constant financial distress. Paul Francis, the second of 16 children, had to discontinue his education at a boarding school in Genoa, and once pawned his possessions to relieve his father's embarrassment. Deprived of a formal education, he completed his studies through his own initiative and industry. His correspondence manifests a thorough study of Sacred Writ (especially the New Testament), a mastery of his native Italian, and a competency in Latin. A leader by nature, strong willed but gentle, Paul easily won the confidence of his contemporaries. Long before his own vocation was definite, he was instrumental in determining the vocations of many of his companions by his counsel and example. Simultaneously with compassion for others whose spiritual and physical poverty he keenly felt, there existed in his soul an equally strong attraction toward contemplation, solitude, and penance. The resultant tension was not resolved until he established a new order of penitential missionaries, combining a vigorous apostolate with exact monasticism.
The Vocation. In 1713 Paul was stirred by a parish sermon to serve God. Two years later he enlisted in the army of the Venetian Republic, desiring to die for his faith in the Turkish Wars. In prayer he recognized his destiny would be otherwise, and he returned to Castellazzo, where in 1720 he had what he called the "great vision," beholding himself in God clothed in the habit that was to become the distinctive garb of his congregation. Under the direction of Arborio di Gattinara, bishop of Alessandria, he spent 40 days in prayer and penance and composed his rule. Although it took Paul of the Cross only five days to write it, the years before its approval were long and trouble-laden. Twenty-one years elapsed before benedict xiv in 1741 approved the Passionist rule and institute and admitted Paul's first followers to religious profession. In the meantime Paul had been ordained together with his saintly brother, John Baptist (1727), and had begun one of the most illustrious missionary careers of the 18th century.
From his first mission at Grazi's Ferry in 1730 to his last at the age of 75 in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, he exemplified the primary apostolate of his congregation, the ministerium verbi. For him the parochial mission was a confrontation of the Christian with Christ in the paradox of the cross that evoked a commitment to concrucifixion in the continuing passion of Christ and its redemptive work in the daily lives of his hearers. To achieve this he developed a participated mission method that involved the laity in an active role in processions, street preaching, vigils, penitential works and sacrifices, hymns, prayers, and at times in the sermon itself. Its success accounts for the solid growth of the order in its first period.
Role as Organizer. Besides carrying on a strenuous missionary apostolate, Paul governed his rapidly expanding congregation. Before his death he had made 12 foundations, established two provinces, and presided over six general chapters in addition to founding a second order, the strictly enclosed Passionist Nuns. He also found time for the difficult and delicate task of directing souls. One-fourth of his extant letters (not more than 3,000 have come down out of a conservative estimate of more than 10,000) are concerned with spiritual direction; many of them are small treatises on ascetical and mystical theology.
Mystic of the Cross. The impressive external works of Paul of the Cross, as founder, preacher, missionary, and spiritual director, were crowned by remarkable mystical experience. Above all else Paul is the mystic of the cross. Nothing was more contemporary to him than the Passion of Christ. To keep not its memory but its actuality effective in present society was the purpose of his life. Three periods are discernible in his mystical progress: 12 years of extraordinary visions and graces mingled with trials (1713–25); followed by 45 years of interior desolation,
vicarious reparation, and intense sufferings (1725–70); and finally, the last years dominated by astonishing mystical phenomena, consolations, and extraordinary favors. Paul's importance to ascetical and mystical theology is studied in the works of R. Garrigou-Lagrange, J. de Guibert, M. Villet, Jules Lebreton, C. Brovetto, and others. Paul of the Cross was canonized by pius ix on June 29, 1867.
Feast: Oct. 19 (formerly April 28).
Bibliography: Lettere di S. Paolo della Croce, ed. a. della madre del buon pastore, 4 v. (Rome 1924); "Diary of St. Paul of the Cross," Cross and Crown 6, 127–146; Lettere a laici ed ecclesiastici, ed. c. chiari (Rome 1974); Words from the Heart: A Selection from the Personal Letters of Saint Paul of the Cross, tr. e. burke, ed. r. mercurio and s. rouse (Dublin 1976); La muerte mistica, ed. and tr. a. m. artola (Bilbào 1986). b. de san pablo, La espiritualidad de la Pasión en el magisterio de S. Pablo de la Cruz (Madrid 1961). e. zoffoli, S. Paolo della Croce (Rome 1963–). c. almeras, St. Paul of the Cross, tr. a. bouchard (New York 1960). father edmund, Hunter of Souls (Westminster, Md.1947). m. bialas, Das Leiden Christi beim hl. Paul vom Kreuz (Aschaffenburg 1978) tr. as The Mysticism of the Passion in St. Paul of the Cross (San Francisco 1990). j. mead, ed., St. Paul of the Cross: A Source/Workbook for Paulacrucian Studies (New Rochelle, N.Y. 1983). b. kelley, Listen to His Love (Union City, N.J. 1985); Spiritual Direction According to St. Paul of the Cross (Staten Island, N.Y. 1993). a. calabrese, Maestro e mistico (Rome 1993). a. lippi, Mistico ed evangelizzatore (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan 1993).
[c. j. yuhaus]