Oct 20 - “St. Paul of the Cross” © icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. Happy Feast Day St. Paul!
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Born into a middle-class family in Piedmont, Italy, Paul Danei volunteered for the army when he was about 20 years old, only to discover that he was not meant to be a soldier. He led a quiet life of prayer for several years until it became clear to him in 1720 that he was to found a new missionary congregation whose life and work would be centered in a special way on the passion of Jesus Christ. This group, known as the Passionists, was also to give itself to prayer, poverty, and solitude.
In 1727 Paul and his brother were ordained priests in Rome and founded the first Passionists house on Monte Argentario in Tuscany. The next ten years were difficult for the new congregation, but their austere life and Paul’s fervent preaching turned the tide and saw them well established by the time of the saint’s death. A female branch of the Passionists was also established, women who lived a cloistered life of prayer.
Paul spent many years of his life in what might be called desolation of the spirit, but his devotion to Christ’s passion kept him from losing heart and enabled him to move others to compassion when he preached. In spite of this prevailing sense of devotion he was blessed a number of times during prayer with mystical visions. This icon shows him embracing a crucifix with the ardor of a lover, recalling the time he begged Jesus to hide him in his wounds, and the crucifix before which he was praying "detached his arms from the cross and embraced me closely, closely and put me in the most holy side where he held me for three hours..."
Paul died peacefully in the midst of his brethren at the age of 81, almost deaf and unable to walk. The houses of his congregation now spread across six continents.
His feast day is October 20.