Who is Paul of the Cross?
He’s a saint, canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
He’s the founder of the Passionists , a religious community of priests, brothers, sisters, and laypeople.
He lived in northern and central Italy during most of the 18th century and was originally called Paul Francesco Danei.
There are books written about him. His letters have been collected and printed in large, thick volumes. And time on the internet will easily identify many short biographical sketches, prayers, and sayings. There is also much available about the Passionists, and their life after the death of Saint Paul of the Cross—their growth, history, struggles, saints, and their current configuration, focus, and works.
There are also the many individual members of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, living today and based all around the world, and they each have their own story to tell.
But there is also the man named Paul.
And somehow this kind, gentle, humble, and beautifully-flawed human being seems to get lost in all this.
His weaknesses greatly interest me.
Christ’s courage and strength in and through him inspire me.
If we prayerfully put aside the constitutions, the history, the legacy, and even his incredibly personal and guidance-filled letters (that he never intended anyone other than the recipients to read) we just may find a stripped-down saint whose essence and example we badly need in times such as these.
We just may find what we find in each and every great man and woman of God throughout Christian history—that same occurrence that appears again and again through the lives of our brothers and sisters who have truly renounced all their possessions in order to become true disciples of Christ.
In Saint Paul of the Cross we just may find…
…a cold, naked infant in a cradle, desperate for his mother’s breast…
…a frightened and insecure child running to keep pace with the visions of his father…
…a tired, distraught, beaten-down young man offering his life for the benefit of his brothers…
We just may find ourselves.
Or we may find someone that we used to know.
Or we may find someone that we should get to know.
But what really matters is that we find the Word made flesh.
And that is the heart of the matter. The fleshy heart that matters.
For while hearts of stone are hard to wound, they are not really hearts at all. They are the hearts of the walking dead, of those whom Jesus Himself says, “let the dead bury their dead.”
Jesus wants our hearts, our entire hearts. He wants undivided, tenderized hearts. Soft and fleshy hearts.
Yes, that type of heart is easily pierced, but in being wounded they are transformed, in being merciful they begin to bleed, and in forgiving they become His. They become sacred. Our hearts become His Most Sacred Heart.
The saints show us Jesus. They show us ourselves. They show us where we come from, where we currently need to stand, and where it is that we should go.
And the answer is always the same: With God.
Born of a virgin. Dying on a cross. Raised from the dead. Ascending into Heaven.
I am no expert on Saint Paul of the Cross. But I am his friend, and he has been very good to me. And I hope that you get to know him too.
As far as me telling you more about Paul Danei, you probably fall into one of three categories: you already know the details, you have never even heard of him, or you are about to meet a man with a striking resemblance.
For you see, the best thing I can say about Paul is that he is a lot like Jesus—a man in history but not met through it, a man who wore a robe but not defined by it, a man who submitted himself to the law but didn’t let that stop him from transcending it.
A man who at the end of the day, knows that it is all about love.