Today is the feast day of Saint Paul of the Cross. Ora pro nobis.
from the Roman Breviary
Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in Liguria [northern Italy], and was descended from a noble family of Castellazzo near Alessandria [Piedmont]. The brilliance of his future holiness was foreshown by a wonderful light which filled his mother’s room at night while she was in labor, and by a remarkable favor of the august Queen of heaven who delivered him unhurt from certain destruction when he fell into a river when a child. From the dawn of reason he was filled with an ardent love for Jesus Christ crucified, and began to devote much time to contemplation of Him. He chastised his innocent flesh with watchings, scourgings, and fasting, on Fridays drank vinegar mingled with gall, and practiced all kinds of severe penances. Burning with desire for martyrdom, he enlisted in the army which was being raised at Venice to fight against the Turks. After he learned in prayer the will of God, he gave up the career of arms to serve in a nobler army, which was to defend the Church and strive with all its might for the eternal salvation of men. When he returned home he refused a very honorable marriage, and the inheritance left him by his uncle; he wished to enter upon the narrower way of the Cross and to receive a coarse tunic from his bishop. Then, by command of the bishop, because of his eminent holiness of life and knowledge of divine things, although not yet a cleric, he tilled the Lord’s field by preaching the divine word, with great profit to souls.
He went to Rome, and after having studied the regular course in theology, he was ordained priest by command of the supreme Pontiff Benedict XIII, who also gave him permission to gather companions around him. He withdrew to the solitude of Mount Argentaro, where he had already been summoned by the Blessed Virgin, who had also shown him a black habit bearing the emblems of the Passion of her Son, and there he laid the foundations of a new congregation. In a short time by God’s blessing it increased very much, sustained by his arduous labors, and attracted eminent men. It received the confirmation of the apostolic See more than once, together with the rules which Paul had himself received from God in prayer, and the addition of a fourth vow, to promote the blessed remembrance of the Passion of the Lord. He also founded a congregation of holy virgins, who would constantly meditate upon the surpassing love of the divine Spouse. In all these works, his untiring love of souls never caused him to weary in the preaching of the Gospel, and he led almost countless men, even the most abandoned, and those who had fallen into heresy, into the footpath of salvation. Wonderful was the power of his eloquence, especially when he spoke of the Passion of Christ, so that both he and his hearers would shed tears, and the most hardened hearts were moved to repentance.
The flame of the love God so burnt in breast, that the garment which was nearest to his heart often seemed to be scorched if by fire, and two of his ribs seemed to protrude. He could not restrain his tears, particularly when saying Mass; and he was seen to experience frequent ecstasies, during which there was a remarkable elevation of his body, and his face shone with light from heaven. Some times when he was preaching, a heavenly voice was heard promting him; and at other times his words could be heard at the distance of several miles. He was distinguished for gifts of prophecy, languages, reading the heart, power over evil spirits, diseases, and the elements. Though even the Supreme Pontiffs regarded him with affection and veneration, he looked upon himself as an unprofitable servant and a worthless sinner, upon whom devils might well trample. At length, having persisted in his most austere mode of life until extreme old age, in 1775 at Rome he passed to heaven on the very day he had predicted, after he had addressed to his followers some most beatiful exhortations, as it were bequeathing them the heritage of his spirit, and fortified with the sacraments of the Church and with a heavenly vision. The Supreme Pontiff Pius IX enrolled him among the blessed, and after renewed signs and wonders, among the Saints. (2)
Saint Paul of the Cross suffered for forty-five years from spiritual desolation, an expiatory suffering which he bore with perfect patience. Despite fifty years of incessant bodily pain and all his trials, he read the love of Jesus in all things, though demons were tormenting him constantly. At one time his sciatica prevented him from sleeping for forty days; he prayed for the grace of an hour’s sleep, but to this Passionist’s prayer, heaven saw fit to remain deaf. Such was the life of one of the greatest disciples of Christ’s Passion. He died while the Passion was being read to him, and so passed like his Lord from the cross to eternal glory.
The eighty-one years of this Saint’s life were modeled on the Passion of Jesus Christ. In his childhood, when praying in church, a heavy bench fell on his foot, but the boy paid no attention to the bleeding wound, and spoke of it as a rose sent from God. As a young man, he wished to be a religious, but his confessor, who had determined to humiliate him, commanded him to go to a dance. As he stepped out onto the floor out of obedience, the strings of the musicians’ instruments broke, and the event ended. (3)
Saint Paul of the Cross suffered for forty-five years from spiritual desolation, an expiatory suffering which he bore with perfect patience. Despite fifty years of incessant bodily pain and all his trials, he read the love of Jesus in all things, though demons were tormenting him constantly. At one time his sciatica prevented him from sleeping for forty days; he prayed for the grace of an hour’s sleep, but to this Passionist’s prayer, heaven saw fit to remain deaf. Such was the life of one of the greatest disciples of Christ’s Passion. He died while the Passion was being read to him, and so passed like his Lord from the cross to eternal glory. (3)
A Prayer to Saint Paul of the Cross
O glorious Saint Paul of the Cross, who, by meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, didst attain to so high a degree of holiness on earth and of happiness in Heaven, and, by preaching the same Passion, didst offer anew to the world the most certain cure for all its ills, obtain for us the grace to keep it ever deeply engraved in our hearts, that so we may be able to reap the same fruits both in time and in eternity. Amen. (1)
Image: portrait de Paul de la Croix (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff