Letter from the Superior General

[Photo: The Passionist Superior General, Fr. Ottaviano D’Egidio, C.P. (right) with Fr. Denis Travers, C.P. at the Passionist General Synod in Cuernavaca (Mexico) in September 2008]

Feast of St. Paul of the Cross

19th October 2008

Greetings to all the religious and all the Passionist Family!

This is an occasion, the liturgical and family feast of our Father and Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, to gather spiritually as in Passionist Cenacle, around him and the message that he has left us, even if we live far apart geographically. He is a reminder, an inspiration and a guide for us. His Testament ends with the following words: “Behold, my dear brothers, what are the remembrances that I leave with you with my whole heart. I leave you and I will await you in paradise, where I will always pray for the Sovereign Pontiff, for the Church that I love so much, for all of you, for the entire Congregation, for its benefactors… I leave all of you, present, absent and future, my blessing.” His days, like those of the Patriarchs of the Bible, were completed and he averted that soon he would be with God in eternity. In response to a question of Brother Bartholomew, his infirmarian, he responded: “Yes, I willing die in order to do the will of God.” And, from his bed, he pointed to the Crucifix, the same which stills hangs today on left-hand side of the room where he died, and continued: “There are my hopes, in the Most Holy Passion of Jesus Christ and in the sorrows of Mary Most Holy!”

Then while the Rector of the Community of Sts. John and Paul read the Passion according to St. John, he calmly expired. It was 4:45 in the afternoon, shortly following the praying of Vespers on 18 October 1775, feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Clemente Rebora, a Italian priest-poet, a Rosminian, who died in 1957, in a poem dedicated to his own father, wrote: “Father, even if you were not my father, I would love you all the same…” are words that often come to mind when I think of St. Paul of the Cross and reflect on his life.

In addition to the sublime quality of his mystical and ascetical life, one remains amazed by his incredible stamina for work: we possess over 2500 of his letters of the 12,000 that were written. He preached innumerable popular missions– Fr. Zoffoli lists 257 that can be documented with certainty — as well as other Missions and retreats that lasted respectively 15 and 7 days. We also recall the spiritual direction that he did with numerous persons and his long periods of prayers, at times during the night, as well as his participation in community life. Reflecting on the means of travel in the 1700’s, by horse and carriage or on foot, and the kind of lighting that was used, candle or oil lamps, we can only image how arduous his days must have been and how great was his capacity and dedication to the work that he had during those days. However in addition to his intense work and his concern for the fledgling Congregation, he always displayed great human warmth toward the religious and other people, a sign of his authentic rapport with God. In his Testament, which we will read during the solemn Vespers of the Vigil for the celebration of his Transitus, St. Paul of the Cross invites us: “1st. Before everything else, …love for one another…Behold, my dear brothers, what I want of you with my whole heart, both of you here present as well as all others who wear the habit of penance and mourning in memory of the Passion and Death of our loving, Divine Redeemer, as well as all those who by the Diving Mercy will be called in future times to this small flock of Jesus Christ. …2nd. I recommend to all, especially to those who will be in the office of superiors, that there always flourish in the Congregation the spirit of prayer, the spirit of solitude, and the spirit of poverty. 3rd. I recommend with special emphasis filial affection to Holy Mother the Church and entire submission to its visible head, the Roman Pontiff. To that end they will pray day and night. 4th. I recommend the observance of the Rule… 5th. That the Superiors be attentive to the good grain, and keep the weeds at a distance. 6th. Finally, with my face in the dust and with the weeping of my poor heart, I ask pardon from all the Congregation, those present and those absent, for all my shortcomings…Yes, my dear Jesus, although I am a sinner, I hope to shortly come and share with you the joy of Paradise… and I recommend to you the poor Congregation, which is the fruit of your Cross, the fruit of your Passion and Death. 7th. And you, O Immaculate Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, by the sorrows you experienced in the Passion and Death of your beloved Son, give us your motherly blessing while I place and leave all under the mantle of your protection…”

And in the spirit of the last Will and Testament of St. Paul of the Cross, I send to you and to all the religious of the Congregation, in particular, the sick who live the Passion of Jesus in their own flesh, and to the young that their perseverance be strengthened, fraternal greetings and best wishes for this feast day.

I also remember the Passionist bishops, the cloistered Nuns, the women religious and the laity of the Passionist Family.

To all the religious, to the women religious and the laity: Happy Feast of St. Paul of the Cross, our common Father. May he bless us and be with us so that the process of Restructuring may be according to the sentiments of his heart and in complete harmony with the charism of the Passion of Jesus that he shared with us.

To all, best wishes also on behalf of the General Council.

May St. Paul of the Cross protect you!

Fr. Ottaviano D’Egidio, C.P.

Superior General

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