Archive for May 3rd, 2014

Penance …

3 May, 2014

images-1St. Paul of the Cross was a man of penance. Yet despite the severe penances (fasting, abstinence from meat, discipline, hard bed, little sleep) he considered that he was doing nothing. “Someone like me, who has offended God so very much, should perform great penances, but I do not do so. God wants penance of me and I don’t want it.” (Lettere I, 126)

However, he was moderate in counselling penance in others: “If the penances don’t make you lose your health, but you always find yourself with moderate strength and you do them with a spirit of cheerfulness to God, this is a sign that God wants you to go along this way, so follow it with great constancy.” (Lettere I, 542)

He put great emphasis on the penances which are not self selected, but provided by God: “Concerning penances, for the time being it is necessary to content yourself with those what God gives. These are infinitely better than those you take upon yourself.” (Lettere, I, 542)

[Charismatic Passionist Community, Bennet Kelly, C.P., The Passionist 1978, No. 6]

Praise God …

3 May, 2014

Studying the letters of St. Paul of the Cross we have discovered that praise was continually on his lips. Many days of his Spiritual Diary, for example, conclude with an expression of praise of God.

“I know that everything is from God; to him be glory and honour forever. Amen.” (November 30)

“In all things blessed be the most sweet giver of all good.” (December 2)

“May his most holy name be praised in all things.” (December 6)

“May all be for the love of the Sovereign Good, to whom be honour and glory forever.” (December 23)

“Praise God” (Lettere I, 354)

“God be blessed” (Lettere I, 340)

[Charismatic Passionist Community, Bennet Kelly, C.P., The Passionist 1978,  No. 6]

Meditation … “a treasure hidden in a field”

3 May, 2014


While working among early document of the Passionist Congregation the author discovered many interesting items about the lay retreat work.

In the work of St. Paul of the Cross with lay retreats there was one basic idea which unified all his activity. It was especially by means of MEDITATION that he aimed at the reform of the Christian world.

He knew from personal experience the transforming power of meditation. He wanted others to share in this rich “treasure hidden in a field”.

The instruction he gave to Passionists and spiritual directors was “Take this as a rule: work to instill but a grain of prayer in souls, and then you can lead them where you wish.” (POR, f, 611).

In order to spread the practice of meditation more efficaciously, St. Paul of the Cross wanted retreats to be given in the same solitude which he enjoyed.

The tradition continued in the Passionist Congregation. In praise of Father John Baptist of St. Vincent Ferrier, it is written:

“In all our retreats he kept up the custom of gathering together, for a prudent space of time, laymen who desired to make the spiritual exercises. By having them remain thus in solitude, with frequent hearing of the Word of God, the reading of good books, and other devotional occupations, the fruit gained was greater than that of missions.” (Passionist General Archives, The Life of the Servant of God Father John Baptist of St. Vincent Ferrier, P. IV, n. 14, p.298)

 [Lay Retreats in the 18th Century, Frederico Minegazzo, C.P., The Passionist October 1957, p. 336]

Signs that God loves you ….

3 May, 2014


Saint Pope John Paul II wrote on The Christian Meaning of Suffering (1984):

“Suffering contains a special call to this virtue every person must exercise on their own part: the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes them pain. In doing this, the individual unleashes the hope which will maintain in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him. That it will not deprive him on dignity as a human being linked to awareness of the meaning of life.  In suffering there is a concealed power which draws the person close to Christ. When the body is gravely ill, totally incapacitated, the person is almost incapable of living and acting, all the more do interior maturity and spiritual greatness become evident …  It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for grace which transforms the soul. In suffering a person discovers himself – his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission ….”

In his letters of spiritual direction, St. Paul of the Cross saw in his sufferings seven signs that God offers to us:

1. The sign of discipleship – He wrote to Canon Coccia, which would have been based on the words of Jesus: “If you wish to be a follower of mine, go sell all you have and give to the poor, and follow me.” (10 January 1768). He wrote to Canon Raffi: “Christ suffered for us that we might follow in his footsteps.” (27 July 1773)

2. The sign that God wants to strengthen us – He wrote to Agnes Grazi: “Suffering is a sign that God wants to strengthen you. Crosses will not be wanting and the more one advances in the service of God, the more sufferings there will be.” (17 April 1734)

3. The sign of something precious – He told his own mother: “Blessed are they who suffer … they are more fortunate than the rich of this world.” (15 December 1734)

4. The sign of a call to higher perfection – Paul wrote to Maria Johanna Grazi: “I sympathise with you in your precious sufferings. Oh, Johanna Maria, if you knew the path along which God is leading you, oh, how joyful you would be! For it is the path that leads to higher perfection.”

5. The sign that God loves you so much – Paul wrote to a married woman: “Your sickness and hardships are signs that God loves you very much.”

6. The sign that God is calling us to great peace – Paul wrote to Marianna Girelli: “We need to act like a vine-dresser, when the storms come, he retires to his cabin and remains in peace. So we, in the midst of so many storms, let us stay in the golden cabin of the Divine Will.” (25 May 1768)

7. The sign that God wants to draw close to us – He wrote to Agnes Grazi: “Suffering helps us to unite more closely with God.”

 [from RETREAT IDEAS: A Resource for Passionists, Gerard Mahony, C.P. p. 89-91]