St. Paul of the Cross
The eighty-one years of this Saint’s life were modelled on the Passion of Jesus Christ. In his childhood, when praying in church, a heavy bench fell on his foot, but the boy took no notice of the bleeding wound, and spoke of it as “a rose sent from God.” A few years later, the vision of a scourge with “love” written on its lashes assured him that his thirst for penance would be satisfied. In the hope of dying for the faith, he enlisted in a crusade against the Turks; but a voice from the Tabernacle warned him that he was to serve Christ alone, and that he should found a congregation in His honour. At the command of his bishop he began, while a layman, to preach the Passion, and a series of crosses tried the reality of his vocation. All his first companions, save his brother, deserted him; the Sovereign Pontiff refused him an audience; and it was only after a delay of seventeen years that the Papal approbation was obtained, and the first house of the Passionists was opened on Monte Argentario, the spot which Our Lady had pointed out. St. Paul chose as the badge of his Order a heart with three nails, in memory of the sufferings of Jesus.
In some respects, St Paul of the Cross is not one of the “popular” saints. His own life was marked with what many would label “self-inflicted” austerities and humiliations that we might be forgiven for thinking, “I could never go that way”. Tough as this rugged saint was on himself, he was, nevertheless, good-humoured and gentle, almost to a fault, towards others.
St Paul of the Cross stood out as a champion of spirituality for the common person. He absolutely forbade the priests of his order to preach in excessively lofty or verbose styles. Instead he required them to take great care to provide spiritual sustenance for people of all educational levels. He was most emphatic that the people be taught to meditate on the life, sufferings and death of our Lord. He insisted that meditation was not just for priests, monks and nuns, but also for the laity. In fact his whole approach to spirituality was one of stark simplicity needing only a willing heart and a little knowledge. Always his focus was in the suffering and death of our Lord and the love these should call forth in our heart. He died whilst the Passion was being read to him, and so passed with Jesus from the cross to glory.
Special Feature of the Web Site.
This web site has been crafted to incorporate the approach to Christian spirituality of Saint Paul of the Cross, who was one of the greatest teachers of prayer and meditation.He did not write books on meditation and spirituality. His talks, written letters, sermons, and teaching reflected a strong Biblical model and emphasis. In this way it can be seen that his spirituality was especially, yet unobtrusively sensitive to the Hebrew roots of Christianity. The opening of His Rule is in fact a Christian reflection on the “Shema” of Jewish religious practice, as our Lord reaffirmed it. (Mark 12: 28 to 34). We offer four quotations from the original Rule and life he prepared as a guide for those who joined his religious order. Pope Benedict XIV approved the Rule in 1741. Although it has undergone various revisions to accommodate changing circumstances, we find great value in returning from time, to his original document.
From Chapter One: On the End of the Institute
3. One of the principal ends of this least Congregation is not only to apply themselves untiringly to holy prayer so as to devote themselves to holy union with God, but also to lead others to do the same, teaching them this holy exercise in the best and easiest manner possible. The members of this least Congregation who are recognised as capable should, therefore, both during missions and in other religious exercises, teach the people by word of mouth how to meditate on the Mysteries of the Most Holy Passion and Death of Jesus, our true God. Ordinarily, this should be done after the mission sermon or at some other time that may be judged more opportune. Such meditation should also be promoted in the confessional, during conferences and on other occasions that may present themselves, since it is a most efficacious means of destroying evil and of leading souls to great holiness in a short time.
Chapter Twenty: on Prayer
59. Prayer for the most part should be concerned with the Divine Mysteries of the Most Holy Life, Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, because that is where one learns holiness. The soul that is faithful in corresponding with the graces of God will become all afire with holy love in a short time.
60. Let each one seek to re-animate his faith frequently. As far as may be possible, let him remain in loving, gentle attention to the holy Presence of God in all that he does, for this is an easy way to pray without ceasing, and to make all one’s actions fragrant with the sweet-smelling balsam of holy love.
61. Let the brethren have a very tender devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, and to the Most Holy Virgin, especially in her sorrows. Let them frequently visit the Blessed Sacrament and make acts of the most profound adoration and loving gratitude, so that their hearts may always burn more and more with the holy love of God.
Chapter Twenty One: On the Manner of Preaching
62. No religious; [The term ‘religious': is a frequently used abbreviation for members of a ‘religious order’. From Chapter 22 Sacred Missions.], of this least congregation shall preach in so lofty and elevated a style that his message becomes obscure to the poor people. But they should break the bread of God’s Word with clarity and sincerity, so that it will be more effective in reaching hearts, promoting the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
63. Let I them endeavour, with all possible patience and charity, to instruct the poor in the principal Mysteries of our Holy Faith.
64. During missions and other exercises for the good of their neighbour let them not only give the meditation on the Passion of Christ, as we have already said; but also endeavour to teach the people, in the easiest and simplest way possible, how to meditate themselves, pointing out to them the deceit of those who say that meditation is only for religious and other ecclesiastics. Let them be assured that God will lead them in ways that are easy and devout, so that people of every kind may be able to meditate, for holy meditation is a most powerful and efficacious means of rooting out sin and helping souls to progress in holiness.
65. Let them endeavour to instill, as effectively as possible in the faithful, reverence and respect for churches, as well as devotion to and love of the Blessed Sacrament, of the alter and the sorrows of Mary Most Holy.
69. …..let them show themselves desirous of going to poor and needy places. As a matter of fact, the members of our Congregation should consider it their particular concern to go to remote places, to the marshes, to islands, and to other such places, that seem more neglected by apostolic ministers.
It is in this spirit that our Website and Electronic Prayer Book have been assembled. True to the ancient tradition of the Church, the prayers, Sacred Scriptures and teaching are presented in a way that any interested person could follow. The hope is that is that all who choose to come to this resevoir of spiritual truth will feel encouraged to participate of its treasures and be inwardly refreshed.
No person need feel left out or unworthy. No one need hesitate just because they have no Christian (let alone Hebrew or Catholic) background. All are welcome to rest here and allow the Holy Spirit to bring refreshment and uplifting.
Jesus said, “Come to me, boldly, all you who are weak and burdened and I will give you rest”.
[St. Matthew 11: 28]