Among the intellectual visions that preceded the foundation of the Passionist Congregation, St. Paul of the Cross received one of the “sign” or emblem (1): a white heart, surrounded by the Cross, and bearing the title of the Passion of Jesus Christ. It was formed in his mind in successive phases: first the Cross and the name of Jesus, then the rest (2). He always considered it as a sublime gift that came to him through the hands of the angels (3), and he referred to it as holy, most holy, admirable, terror of Hell, and “sign of salvation” (4).
The badges or signs worn by the saint himself had miraculous power. He made no difficulty in giving away those signs which he no longer wore (5). Actually there still exist in the Congregation such signs of the Holy Founder at Sts. John and Paul’s in Rome, his birthplace in Ovada, Vetralla, and Ceccano (6). He even allowed interior souls, whom he directed, to wear these signs secretly (7). The seal of the whole Congregation is composed of this sign, which he had encircled with the devices of victory and peace: the palm and the olive branch (8). It is, as it were, a compendium of his charism.
The symbolism of the sign is not difficult to understand. St. Paul himself explained the white colour of the heart as meaning that the heart which had the Passion imprinted on it ought to be already purified (9). He further affirmed that this public and visible glorification of the Passion caused all Hell to tremble in a special way (10). From this practice of St. Paul of the Cross the wearing of a small Passionist emblem gradually developed.
The faithful who wear a small sign or emblem of the Passion, like those used by Passionist religious, are granted an indulgence of 100 days on the day they acquire it, and by the same law when they put the above mentioned sign on, and when they continually wear the same reciting the pious aspiration, ‘PASSION OF CHRIST STRENGTHEN ME” (10). This devotion is altogether distinct from the Black Scapular of the Passion.
(1) Apostolic Process Rome 2323; (2) Ordinary Process Rome 2008v; (3) Ordinary Process Cornteo 251v, 301; (4) Letters I, 480 II 215 III 666 etc.; (5) Ordinary Process Vetralla, 1241; (6) Author’s own visits; (7) L I, 590 16 May 1750; (8) Gaetan, Espirt, p. 200; (9) L IV, 218; (10) Collectio, F & I n, 174.
– From St. Paul of the Cross, A Source/Workbook for Paulacrucian Studies, Jude Mead, C.P., p. 374