Feast Day: October 20
Our culture abounds with “spiritual seekers” hungry for an encounter with the true God. They seem convinced they will somehow know God when they see him. They are, more often than not, perpetual seekers because they can never quite find the God in their mind.
St. Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) has some advice for these seekers, and for all of us who claim to be Christian: meditate on the Passion of Christ. St. Paul believed God is most easily discovered by us in the Passion, for the Passion was/is the most overwhelming sign of God’s love for us and, at the same time, the very door to union with the Trinity.
St. Paul was born in Genoa, Italy. At age 26, he had a series of experiences in prayer that forever changed the trajectory of his life. In one vision, he saw himself in a long, black habit which bore a heart surmounted with a white cross. The words “the Passion of Jesus Christ” appeared within the heart.
These experiences led him to form a community dedicated to promoting the love of God revealed in the Passion. The new community was called the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or the Passionists, and they adopted the habit from St. Paul’s vision.
The first Passionists practiced a strenuous austerity, which discouraged membership. This did not bother St. Paul, though, because the main goal of the community was to form “a man totally God-centered, totally apostolic, a man of prayer, detached from the world, from things.”