The Legacy of Paul of the Cross

In the United States October 20 is the feast of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists. You can find more out about him here.

Saints are raised up by God to meet the needs of their time. What were the needs of St. Paul of the Cross’ time, the 18th century,? He was living in a church weakened and humbled by political opposition, revolutions and new ways of thinking. The popes then were losing their power and influence in Europe, the Jesuits were suppressed, revolutions, like the the French Revolution, brought persecution, the suppression of church schools, religious houses, the confiscation of church assets. The 18th century saw a church humbled; some said it was a dying church.

A humbled church needed to be reminded of the humble Christ, who took the form of a slave and died on a cross and was raised up by God’s power. That’s what St. Paul of the Cross did through his preaching and ministry. His message was a message his time needed to hear. It was a message of abiding hope.

An “abiding hope.” That was the hope needed then. Most of Paul’s preaching and ministry took place in the Tuscan Maremma, a region north of Rome in Italy, the size of Long Island, NY. “Maremma” means swamplands. It was then a region of small towns and a few small cities suffering from chronic poverty and neglect. Only at the end of the 18th century did the region inch forward with some reforms. Ironically, after Mussolini controlled the swamplands in the 20th century, the region became a tourist destination. The world loves Tuscany now. Many would love a villa there.

In Paul’s time, though, the place was known for disease, poverty, beggars and homeless, and bandits. Year after year things never got better. Year after year the future never got bright. Year after year Paul and his companions went from town to town, set up a cross in a church or town square and spoke of the “abiding hope” promised by Jesus Christ to the people who gathered there.

His preaching of the Passion of Jesus brought an abiding hope to them. God was with them, no matter how dark things were, or how long the darkness lasted.

Are we living in a humbled church and a humbled world today? I wonder, as we struggle with this pandemic, if we’re becoming like the Tuscan Maremma. Some say it will all be over when everyone is vaccinated, or when the political scene settles, or when science produces a new miracle that makes everything perfect. But I don’t know.

I think we are going to need an “abiding hope” to keep us going. I think the Passionists still have something to do.

May God send laborers into our vineyard with that message. St.Paul of the Cross, pray for us.

9 thoughts on “The Legacy of Paul of the Cross

  1. Gail Smyder

    Thank your for the background of the Passionists Father, and a look into the life of St. Paul of the Cross. A blessed feast day to you. May the mystery of the cross ever be your strength and consolation in the days and years ahead. Much joy and prayer. Gail

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  2. Gloria

    It’s 1:55 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon here, Father. Glad to see you’re
    all enjoying Venice and hope the weather is beautiful there, too.
    God bless you all!
    Gloria

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  3. Berta

    St Paul of the Cross has become my mentor in the last few years. Reading some of his letters have opened for me new ways of praying and of seeing the world . Many times I either find myself at the foot of the Cross looking at that face where I see only love! Other times I find myself on the Cross with Him wanting to look through His eyes at our fellow brothers and sisters.
    Thank you, St Paul of the Cross for sharing your Charism and through your Passionist priests helping me to see the truth! May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!

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  4. cenaclemary12

    Hope that you and all PASSIONISTS enjoy your Feast Day and every next day to follow. I like St. Paul because ” He could have become a hermit and shut himself up somewhere, but he lived in the world that was present to him.” May we be present to the needs of our world!

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  5. fdan

    Dear Father Victor, have a blessed day. You are a true son of st. Paul of the cross in giving us that “abiding hope” that st. Paul of the cross spoke of. I, too, will pray to st. Paul of the cross for God to send Laborers into our Vineyard. May God bless us all.

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  6. fdan

    Dear Father Victor, whether blogging, preaching, praying, on zoom, in spiritual direction, in retreat, in Confraternity, in their presence online and in churches, the Passionists have like no other turned this wounded and broken soul towards Christ crucified. And there I have found His love, a life in Christ and a holy will to go on. My despair has been turned into abiding hope.

    I will never forget when Father John Powers first told me about your blog. I’m grateful to this day. Your direct, pure and always rooting for Creation reflections resound with Christ crucified’s love and mercy and just what we crucifieds need. You put meaning behind the words May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts. Have a wonderful day tomorrow. Be assured always of my prayers. Give my best to Father John, too.

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  7. cenaclemary12

    He entered the swampy land
    Bringing a message of hope.
    Paul lived among the poor,
    Probably smelled like the land.
    How blessed are those whom he blessed!
    How blessed are we who honor him today!

    Thanks for placing Paul geographically in what is now Tuscany. How great the grapes from there that have become wine which we enjoy here. One more area once undesirable now gentrified.

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