Biography of St. Paul of the Cross
Paul Francis Danei, the future St. Paul of the Cross, was born 3 January 1694, at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa. The Italy of his time was both a geographical and a political maze. It was broken into multiple various -sized states. These were the oligarchical republics of Genoa, Lucca and Venice; the Papal States; the Kingdom of Naples; and a claque of duchies and granduchies in Milan, Modena, Parma, Piedmont and Tuscany. The entire Italian peninsula was patchworked with Austrian, French, German and Spanish hegemonies. In Metternich’s phrase, Italy was as yet only a “geographical expression”. Almost forty years later St. Paul of the Cross could still write: “Poor Italy is in a state of great desolation and ruin: May God in His mercy be kind to her.”
Paul Francis was the second of sixteen children. The first public notice of his existence, entered into the baptismal record of the “old parish” of Ovada, contains an error. In flowing Italian caligraphy it reads:
6th January 1694, Paul Francis, son of the couple Luke Dannia and Anna Maria, born on the third day of January, and baptized by me Rector Benzio on the above day. Godparents John Andrew Dannia and Mary Catherine Massaria. [Signed] John Bernard Benzio, Rector of Ovada.
The family name should have been written Danei. The spelling used in the baptismal entry was never employed by the saint himself. Another unusual aspect of the baptismal inscription is the marginal addition of the dates of the decrees in his process of canonisation.
Luke Danei, the saint’s father, ran a small tobacco shop. As his family increased, being plagued with poverty and even involved in civil litigation, he moved his family quite often during the childhood of St. Paul of the Cross. In 1701 the family moved to Cremolino, a suburb of Monferrato, not too far from Ovada.
In Cremolino the young Paul began his elementary schooling under the direction of the Carmelite Fathers. The parish priest, Father Alberto-Maria Verri, conducted a school for boys, teaching them to read and write as well as Christian doctrine.
In 1709 the family again moved, this time to Camp Ligure after a brief sojourn in Tagliolo. During these years of constant moving, until the family settled in Castellazzo in 1718, Paul was sent to Genoa to study. He went sa a poor student, living in the home of the Buffa famly, while receiving small sums from his father for his needs.
Paul Francis Danei at this time in his life could certainly be an object of identification for many contemporary youths in their reaction to disillusionment with society and authority. Knowing the reduced circumstances of his family, he felt constrained to assist them. It is recorded that he even went so far as to smuggle tbacco across the border in the dead of winter and under the cover of snow.
In 1715, when Pope Clement XI called upon Christian youths to join a new crusade againat the Turks, Paul volunteered. His army career was a disaster. There were forced marches across the plains on Northern Italy, with haphazard camping at Cremona, Ferrara and Parma. There was endless waiting for embarkation, which was frequently announced but never came about. No less was he tormented by the manners and morals of the military.
On 20th February 1715, he was in the parish church at Crema. According to custom, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed to give opportunity for the faithful to atone for the licentiousness of the pre Lenten Carnevale then in progress. During his prayer, Paul felt an interior illumination that he was destined for another kind of crusade: a spiritual warfare. He was readily granted a discharge, because by his own request on induction he was a volunteer without pay. He wandered about on his way home, delaying to earn a little to help his family. On his return home he was so unsettled and preoccupied with inner searchings that he became a problem to the family. He gave away his clothes to the poor, even the ones he was wearing. His mother remarked “One of these days you will come home naked.” He showed his disregard for human respect. Like many a contemporary youth of today, in true “hippie” fashion he let his beard and fingernails grow long and uncut and would not wear clean linen.
Paul Francis Danei was not twenty four years old. From portraits made of him in his maturity it can be deduced that at this time in his development he was tall, over six feet, well built and muscular, with a dark complexion and piercing dark eyes. He had a broad forehead and a patrician profile. He gave every appearance of intelligence and manliness. He reflected both the physcial and spiritual gifts of his parents. His formal education had ended early. His most recent biographer, the French priest Charles Almeras, states the case succinctly:
The totality of his secular knowledge consisted of the rudiments he had learned at Cremolino and perhaps a bit of Latin he had been taught at Genoa. However, he made remarkable intellectual progress, under what precise conditions we do not know. Although his semons have disappeared, those of his letters which have come down to us show by their perfectly appropriate Latin quotations that he knew the fine points of both Italian and Latin.
Where had he learned the use of language? Very little in class. In his studies he was aided by the similarity between Latin and Italian, and above all by his quick intelligence and by his prolonged meditations on the sacred texts.
The fact remains that, while Paul Danei’s profound knowledge was rather mediocre, he attained to a profound undestanding of ascetical and mystical theology.
Having reviewed briefly his family background and education we turn to the spiritual development of the saint. First place must be given to the sacraments of the Christian life. His was baptised on 6th January 1694. From the witness of his sister Teresa we learn that, in company with his brother John Baptist, he received the sacraments of Penance and first Holy Communion at the age of ten in 1704, presumably from the Carmelite Father Alberto M. Verri. There is no documentary evidence of this however. Only after he returned to Castellazzo from the army did he receive the sacrament of Confirmation in the parish church of S. Maria dei Servi, on 23rd April 1719 from Msgr. Francesco di Gattinara, Bishop of Alessandria. For contemporary Catholics and especially those of English-speaking countries, such a delay may appear unconscionable. However, in Italy of that period it was by no means an exception. In fact, St. Alphonsus Ligouri (1696-1789), a contemporary of St. Paul of the Cross, was not confirmed until he was twenty six. Hence he was a year older than Paul Danei would have been.
In the meantime. nourished by his sacramental and liturgical life as well as the sterling example of his family, particularly his mother Anna Maria, and his brother John Baptist, his immediate junior, Paul’s personal spiritual life flourished. In his childhood there were many acts of piety and penance extraordinary for one of such tender years. More extraordinary was the fact that these same virtues incresed in his teens and eventually became a part of his life-style. He willingly gave service in the Church by helping in the sacristy and singing in the choir. His priestly future, unknown to him then, shone forth in his love of the Mass. Indeed, he made an effort to assist at as many Masses as possible. It is no doubt a reflection of these days that prompted St. Paul of the Cross to write many years later: “If the angels took bodies and came to live on earth, they would spend their time doing two things above all others: Serving Mass and helping the sick.”
From his earliest years the future St. Paul of the Cross had a special gift for prayers. This demonstrated itself in his attraction toward, and receptivity for, both the spirit and practice of prayer. In the development of this gift he used the Sacred Scriptures and the liturgy, despite the fact that he lived in a time when the theory and pratice of liturgy was appalling. In his choice of these fundamentals he anticipated the teaching of Vatican II:
“Therefore drawing on the authentic sources of Christian spirituality let them energetically cultivate the spirit of prayer and the practice of it. In the first place they should take the sacred Scriptures in hand each day by way of attaining: the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:8) through reading these divine writings and meditating on them. They should enact the sacred liturgy, especially the most holy mystery of the Eucharist, with hearts and voices attuned to the Church: here is a most copious source of nourishment for the spiritual life” .
He seems also to have anticipated another Council directive:
“The Spiritual Life, however, is not confined to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is assuredly called to pray with his brethren, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father in secret (cf. Mt 6:6), indeed according to the apostle Paul, we should pray without ceasing (cf. Th. 5:17). We learn from the same Apostle that we must also carry about in our body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus too may be made manifest in our bodily frame (2 Cor. 4:10). That is why we ask the Lord is the sacrifice of the Mass that “receiving the offering of the spiritual victim,” He may fashion us for himself “as an eternal gift”
Almost two hundred years after St. Paul of the Cross, these two Council texts dovetail perfectly with the saints own concept of prayer, including contemplation of the Passion of Christ which was the motivating congruence of every degree of his union with God. In the existential order the prayer life and mystical experience of St. Paul of the Cross are most singular in two aspects: firstly, the rapidity of his assent; by the time he was thirty he had received the mystical marriage and the grace of transforming union. Second, for the extended period (nearly fifty years) when he experienced a painful spiritual deprivation of spirit, surely akin to the dark night of the soul.
In brief the spiritual development of St. Paul of the Cross may be considered in three phases. The first extends from his nineteenth year to his thirty first (1713-1723). The saint himself describes his “conversion” in his twentieth year. Then followed a period of remarkable spiritual advancement characterised by deep and continuous insights into the Passion of Jesus. Some time in his twenty-eighth year, between 1722 and 1723, surely on the heights on Monte Argentario, and on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the most ancient and venerable tradition of the Passionist Congregation, he received the precious grace of mystical marriage.
The second phase reaches from his thirty-first to his seventy-sixth year (1725-1770). This is a period of aridity, desolation and bitterness, relieved only rarely by some sensible favours. Paul accepted this phase as his participation in the Passion of Christ; in fact he called it a naked suffering and “the sacred martyrdom of love”. This period has been appropriately described as the night of the soul by way of reparation.
The final phase continues from his seventy-sixth year until his death in his eighty-first year (1770-1775). While this final period still contains interior desolation in death, there was an increase in grace and consolation.
The testimony establishing this three-fold assent of St. Paul of the Cross is supported by his retreat diary of 1720, his letters, and the despositions in the process of Beatification and Canonisation. These are also the sources for his spiritual doctrine which has been adequately explored and expounded by Passionist experts, notably Fathers Gaetan Reynders, Costante Brovetto, Basilio de S. Pablo and Martin Bialas.
Parallel to his religious development there is also the growth of Paul Danei’s religious vocation, the foundation of the Congregation of the Passion, and his particular charism as founder.
Paul was extremely popular with young men his own age. He was repeatedly elected prior of a confraternity that met in the oratory of St. Anthony in Castellazzo. By counsel and example he helped many others fulfill their own vocations as Capuchins, Servites, Augustinians and diocescan priests. He could not, however, definitise his own vocation. He himself could write many years later in encouraging a young man desirous of going on for the priesthood:
Oh! If you knew the battles I had to wage before embracing my present way of life! The devil used to suggest great fears to me. I was moved with compassion for my parents, whom I was leaving in great poverty, and whose sole hope in this world rested on me. I underwent interior desolation, melancholy, and dread. I felt that I would not succeed in persevering in my manner of living. The devil gave me fancies that I had been taken, that I should serve God in some other way, that this was not the life for me, and other great anxieties that I shall pass over in silence. To make things worse, I lost all sensible devotion. I was tempted in every imaginable way. The very sound of the church bells became hateful to me. Everyone seemed happy except me. I shall never be able to explain these great struggles. They assailed me still more violently when I was about to take the habit and abandon my poor home. This is all pure truth, and there are many more things that I am leaving out for the sake of brevity.
The vision of his personal vocation and of the religious order he would be called upon to found was gradually unfolded to him by God. About 1721 he wrote:
God gave these inspirations together with great interior consolations. At the same time the idea came to me of wearing a tunic of coarse black cloth, made of the most ordinary wool of the region, to go barefoot, to live in the greatest poverty – in a word to live, with the grace of God, a life of penance. Thereafter this thought never left me. The attraction leading me to retire became more compelling, now no longer to the little church I already mentioned, but to any solitude whatsoever, so that I might heed the loving inspirations of my God, whose infinite goodness was calling me to leave the world.
At times, the idea came ot me to gather together companions so that we might live in community and promote the holy fear of God in souls. That was my most compelling desire. I did not take this idea of seeking companions seriously, but it remained rooted in the depths of my heart.
Even the details of the Passionist habit came from interior illumination:
Last summer, I do not know axactly when, that is, I do not remember the month or the day, not having written them down – I know that it was at the time of the harvest, a weekday, I received Holy Communion in the Capuchin Church in Castellazzo, and I remember that I entered into a deep state of recollection. After that I started home, and I walked through the streets as recollected as during mental prayer. When I was at the corner of the street next to my home, I was raised up by God into a very deep recollection, oblivious of everything but with great interior serenity. At that moment I saw myself clothed in spirit in a black garment that touched the ground, with a white cross on my breast. Under the cross the name of Jesus was written in white letters: “This is a sign to show how pure and spotless must be the heart that is to bear written upon it the most holy name of Jesus”. The vision and these words made me weep.
Paul Danei, then thoroughly convinced of his vocation, went directly to Bishop di Gattinara. With great simplicity he narrated his state of soul, his visions, his interior locutions, and his unshakeable conviction that he was called by God to initiate a new and particular vocation in the Church. He made a general confession of his whole life to the gentle bishop so that there would be nothing unknown between them. The prelate listened in a sympathetic manner but delayed in giving an answer. The final resolution was that Paul himself and alone might begin this way of life. The black habit might be used, but the Sign of the Passion would not be permitted at this time. On 22nd November 1720, Paul received the habit of penance. This is the date set by the Church for the foundation of the Passionist Congregation.
Immediately after receiving the habit, the young Paul entered into a retreat. The place was a little three sided room attached to St. Charles Church at Castellazzo. Here he remained for forty days, subjecting himself to fasting and corporal penance. In this cell the saint underwent remarkable spiritual experienxces. These he noted in his Diary which has become a spiritual classic.
In this solitude he wrote his Primitive Rule. He began to write it on 2nd December and concluded on 7th December 1920. None better than he could expalin its swift production:
I wrote as quickly as if someone had been dictating to me from the professor’s chair. I felt the words come to me from my heart. Certainly all this proceeds from a special inspiration from God. From my own person there is nothing but iniquity and ignorance. In everything, therefore, I submit myself to the judgement of my superiors.
The historical development of the Passionist Congregation as reflected in the life style of its founder falls into three divisions:
The Eremetical Phase (1720-1726)
First alone, then in the company of his brother John Baptist, St. Paul of the Cross led an eremetical life, never settling in one place. In September 1721, in the Madonna Chapel of St. Mary Major in Rome he finalised the end of the Congregation of the Passion by pronouncing his vow to promote devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ. During this period his preaching apostolate, which he had begun even as a layman, was carefully limited by the saint, so that the solitude and penance of the hermits might not be supplated by an excess of enternal works no matter how beneficial for others. This period also saw the initial Viva Voce approval by Pope Benedict XIII, 21st May 1725, on the porch of St. Mary Domnica, popularly called “La Navicella” to gather companions and form the nucleus of a new congregation in the Church.
The Juridical Phase (1727–1775)
This period represents internal changes in the nature and structure of the Congregation of the Passion, moving from a lay to a clerical congregation in 1727, and from a diocesan status to one of pontifical right in 1741. The first such document was a rescript of Pope Benedict XIV of 15th May 1741. Following the receipt of this document on 11th June 1741, Father Paul and his companions made their religious profession and assumed the Passionist badge publically. Also from this date onward the saint never again used his family name, taking instead the title “of the Cross”. A reconfirmation from the same Pope Benedict XIV followed in a brief dated 18th April 1746. A further papal approbation came in a rescript of Pope Clement XIII under the date of 25th November 1760.
Next came the most outstanding document of all, the monumental bull Supremi Apostolatus of 23rd November 1769, granted by Peope Clement XIV. This is the Magna Carta of the Passionist Congregation, erecting it as a papal institute of simple vows, with all the prerogatives of the orders with solemn vows, including the communication of privileges. About a month before his death St. Paul of the Cross received the final pontifical approval within his lifetime, the bull Praeclara Virtutum Exampla, from Pope Pius VI on 15th September 1775.
The Developmental Phase (1737-1773)
This period of external development corresponds for the most part with the previous time span, although it has its own reality. It extends from the foundation of the first house of the congregation to the last foundation made in the lifetime of St. Paul of the Cross. From the time of the first General Chapter in 1747 until his death, St. Paul of the Cross was the elected Superior General. His original twelve foundations were marked by opposition from without, especially from the other mendicants, including even St. Leonard of Port Maurice. Also from defections within his congregation. His foundations in order were:
1737 (14th September) – Retreat of the Presentaiton BVM – Monte Argentario I
1744 (6th March) – Retreat of St. Angelo – Vetralla
1744 (8th March) – Retreat of St. Eutizio – Soriano
1748 (14th January) – Retreat of Maria Corniano – Ceccano
1748 ( 27th March) – Retreat of the Madonna of Cerro – Tusciano
1751 (2nd Spril) – Retreat of S. Sosio – Falvaterra
1752 (6th February) – Retreat of the Sorrowful Virgin – Terracina
1755 (23rd November) – Retreat of St. Maria Pugliano – Paliano
1758 (19th March) – Retreat of the Holy Trinity – Monte Cavo
1761 (16th July) – Retreat of St. Joseph – Monte Argentario II
1769 (17th March) – Retreat of the Mother of Sorrows – Tarquinia
1769 (9th January) – Hospice of the Crucified – Rome (transferred to)
1773 (9th December) – Retreat of Sts. John and Paul – Rome
To the above retreats of the Congregation another work of St. Paul of the Cross as founder must be added, namely the Institute of the Cloistered Passionist Nuns founded on 3rd May 1771, and their first Monastery of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Corneto, now Tarquinia, with Venerable Mother Mary Crucified of Jesus, C.P.
The twelve primitive foundations of St. Paul of the Cross literally form a wreath around Rome. By the time of his death in 1775 the status of the Congregation were 176 religious, two provinces and twelve communities.
Like every founder of a religious order inspired by God, St. Paul of the Cross had his own special charism. This term is used today so often and in so many lesser significations that we wish to affirm that it is used here in the strict theological sense and in the contemporary sense used by the Second Vatican Council.
In light of these concepts of charism in the Church, we can distinguish St. Paul of the Cross’ personal charism as founder. He did this for himself, writing in his Spiritual Diary on 28th November 1728:
I remember I was praying to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in concert with all the angels and saints, especially the Holy Founders, when all at once it semed to me in spirit I saw them prostrate themselves before the Most Holy Trinity of God and for this end (foundation of the Congregation of the Passion). It happened to me in an instant like a flash of lightening and sweetness mingled with tears. The manner in which I saw it was not with any bodily form. It was in the spirit, with an audnestanding by my soul which I cannot explain, and most at once it disappeared.
As founder he saw himself only as an instrument in the hands of God. The following incidents bring this into sharp relief. In response to the question of a cardinal as to whether or not he was the founder of this new congregation, he replied: “Ah, your Eminence, the founder is Jesus Crucified. I have but spoiled the work by my sins”. Finally, with deep humility: “If I could I would blot my name from the Papal Briefs; I do not wish any memory of me to remain in the Congregation.”
For those who would come after him, St. Paul of the Cross saw a three-fold charism: the spirit of prayer, the spirit of solitude, and the spirit of poverty. On the morning of 30th August 1775, when the founder of the Passionists was given HolyViaticum by Fr. John mary of St. Vincent Ferrer, C.P., (who was to succeed him in office as General), in the presence of the whole community the saint gave what has since come to be called his “spiritual testament”.
This my dearly beloved Brethren, is that I wish with all the love of my poor heart from you who are present, from the others who wear this habit of penance and mourning in memory of the Passion and Death of our beloved DIvine Redeemer, and from those who will in the future be called to this little flock of Jesus Christ.
I recommend to all, and especially the superiors, continually to presevere and foster in the Congregation, the spirit of prayer, the spirit of solitude, and the spirit of poverty. Be certain that it these three things are maintained, the Congregation shall shine as the sun in thesight of God and men.
The charism of his and their apostolate was also renewed at this time.
Try to labour as much as possible for the good of Holy Church, for the salvation of poor souls by missions, spiritual exercises and other works according to our Institute promoting in all hearts devotion ot the Passion of Jesus Christ and the Dolours of Mary.
PRIESTHOOD AND APOSTOLATE
This overview of the life of St. Paul of the Cross has presented in turn various aspects of the saint’s career. Our progression how comes to the final consideration, namely, his priestly life and ministry. This consideration is truly distinct form the foregoing treatment of his life as founder and religious.
PREPARATION AND STUDY
His call to the priesthood was not his own choosing. It was, however, so manifestly the Divine Providence that he and his brother John Baptist could not refuse. The granting of permission to gather companions moved the two brothers to give up their own nomadic eremitical life. They settled down in Rome at the hospital of St. Gallican and began a ministry of service to the sick. About this time Paul wrote:
We have arrived safely in Rome. We should not make any more journeys. God has so ordained. We are staying at the holy hospital which seems more and more an auspicious place for us to sacrifice ourselves totally to the Divine Love.
Cardinal Corrandi who had found them the place at the hospital admired their own work in mending both the bodies and souls of men, and felt that as priests they would be even more powerful instruments of good. Straightway he recommended that they receive Holy Orders. John Baptist demurred, claiming himself not as intelligent as his brother Paul. In the end both accepted this development of God’s will in their behalf. In their eremetical life they had not ceased to study the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church. Now it had to be arranged for them to study theology in a more systematic manner with an approved professor so that they might pass the required examinations for the Vicariate of Rome before ordination. The professor was a noted Franciscan moralist and canonist, Father Dominic Mary of Rome. He was assigned to the Seraphic Missionary College at St. Batholomew’s on the Tiber Island only a few blocks away from the hospital. The brothers Danei went there every day. The course was accelerated and intense. The professor was amazed at the firm basis of theology already possessed by his students.
They advanced in the clerical state along with their studies. They received tonsure on 16th February 1727, first minor orders (then porter and lector) on 23rd February and second minor orders (acolyte and exorcist) the day after. All these were conferred by Bishop Nunzio Baccari, the Vicar of the Diocese of Rome in his own chapel. Following a retreat at the Jesuit novitiate at. St. Andrew di Montecavallo, Paul and John Baptist received the subdiaconate at St. John Lateran, Holy Saturday, 12th April 1727. After another retreat, this time with the Fathers of the Missions of Monte Citorio, the diaconate was conferred on 1st May, once again in Bishop Baccari’s chapel. Their ordination retreat was made with the Lazarists, and on 7th June 1727, in all the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, in the choir chapel, St. Paul of the Cross and his brother John Baptist were ordained priests by Pope Benebict XIII himself. It was Saturday, the Vigil of Pentecost.
Their work at the hospital was more than successful for others. Their example of humility and obedience became a byword. But the very nature of the work itself became a disaster for the spiritual life of the newly ordained. In gentle protest Paul would write:
Here is a great servant of God, however his life is completely active, and I do not believe that he could even be able to direct a soul which has started on the way to great union with God in Holy Prayer.
The inevitable happened. The two newly ordained priests, Paul, thirty three years old, and his brother John Baptist, thirty two, wore themselves out in the service of the suffering. They themselves fell ill. Finally, it was mutually agreed that this was not the life for them and they were released to return to the mountain vastness of Monte Argentario.
CONCEPTS OF PRIESTLY AND CLERICAL FORMATION
St. Paul of the Cross exercised the priesthood for fifty two years. He was an admirable priest. He served God long and well. For over thirty years, almost without interruption, he preached missions. His wide experience of the needs of both people and clergy gave him deep insights into the exigencies of priestly life. From his base he concerned himself first with the proper training of seminarians for the priesthood. Above all he wanted Passionist seminarians to be well formed in the ways of prayer and personal sanctity. As early as 1728 he drew up a Ratio Studiorum for the Passionists. Before the novitiate the students were to be grounded in grammer and rhetoric, in the classical languages (Greek and Latin) as well as their mother tongue. In the seminary they were to be taught philosophy, Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, dogmatic and moral theology, as well as the art of preaching. He removed the area of studies and professors from the jurisdiction of even the local superior so that there would be no interference in these all important areas:
I command and ordain with all the authority which God has entrusted to me over the Congregation that the Rectors never be allowed to send either the students or the lectors (professors) out of the Retreat, whether it be to seek alms, or for any other purpose. They are to devote all their time to study. As far as other affairs are concerned, they are to be considered as if they were not even in the Retreat.
ACTIVE ASSISTANCE TO CLERGY
What St. Paul of the Cross could supply for his own Congregation he was unable to accomplish outside of it. He lamented the lack of education, of opportunity to study, and even the lack of essentials for dignified living amon his contemporary priests, especially in the Tuscan Maremma where he gave so many of his missions.
The experience I have acquired during many years of giving missions in the poverty-stricken Tuscan Maremma and some of the Papal States made me meet first-hand the extreme needs which are frequently found there, especially among the poor priests. Oh my God, how I would like to weep!
Fortified by this knowledge, St. Paul of the Cross compaigned for better living standards for the clergy.
He not only felt compasion for the needs of the clergy but made real efforts to assist them. Poor as he was himself, he could not always come to their material assistance, but he gave himself wholeheartedly to their spiritual needs.
PREACHING APOSTOLATE TO CLERGY
Every time he gave a mission he would also give spiritual exercises for the priests of the area. As a result he was sought after by many priests and bishops as a confessor. One priest wrote
In the confessional the Servant of God followed the prudent middle course between undue severity and excessive indulgence. He walways had in view the lasting amendment of his penitent and he knew well how to use necessary firmness but always tempered with gentleness. He followed the law of love without forgetting the law of justice, so much so that it was avowed that he had received a special gift from God for converting souls.
Now infrequently priests and prelates who had made his retreat and had heard his stirring preaching became his spiritual clients whom the saint directed by letter for years afterwards. Another priest, having listened to the saint speak to the clergy, wrote:
One the last day Father Paul preached a discourse to the priests assembled in the sacristy on the love of God and on our obligation to love Him n return with more perfection that the laity. I will not try now to repeat the arguments, the thoughts and the affections which Father Paul built up in us. I will only say that his discourse was so tender, so full of loving motivation, and of such particular unction that it evoled in each of us priests a most intimate conpunction, and the most lively affection … Those priests, I am sure, have kept a lasting memory of that discourse and still retain its good effects, even though that conference was more than twenty-five years ago.
FINAL DAYS AND SEBSEQUENT GLORIFICATION
The final days of St. Paul of the Cross were blessed indeed. He had lived to see his Congregation flourish. The Church herself put her approval on his work. He enjoyed the dignity of the monastery and Basilica of Sts. John and Paul which he had received as a gift from Pope Clement XIV. In his final illness he had whispered with almost his last breath, “Now I am leaving you, but I shall wait fo you all in paradise.” St. Paul of the Cross died, full of yars (he was eighty-one), full of love of God, and surrounded by his loving and well beloved sons, on 18th October 1885, just as the priest who has reading the Passionist of Jesus according to St. John came to the words, “Then Jesus bowed his head and delivered over his spirit.” (Jn. 19:30)
His blessed death and burial bcame in a sense a triumph. Numerous mircales were attributed to his intercession. His sons kept alive the same of his sanctity as they spread from the Italian peninsula to every continent.
As early as 1784 Pope Pius VOI, who had known St. Paul of the Cross personally, gave the founder of the Passionists the title Venerable. The cause of his beatification was formally decreed in 1792. On 18th February 1821, Pope Pius VII declared the heroicity of his virtues. Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Paul of the Cross Blessed on 1st October 1852.
On 29th June 1867, the same Pope Pius IX inscribed Paul of the Cross in the canon of the saints. In the reformed calendar his feast is observed on 19th October, when he is involved by the universal Church as St. Paul of the Cross, priest.
taken from St. Paul of the Cross, Biography
St. Paul of the Cross
A Source / Workbook for Paulacrucian Studies
Jude Mead, C.P.
Published for the Congregation of the Passion
by Don Bosco Publications, New Rochelle, New York, 1983
p. 7 – 19