Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Paul of the Cross. I must say, until this writing, I knew little about this interesting saint, mystic and founder of the Passionist Order, even though I’ve sent spiritual bouquet requests to the Passionists for years.
Born in Ovada, Italy in 1694, to devout parents, a remarkable event happened to him as a young boy. His brother, John Baptist, fell into a river and was rescued by a beautiful lady, whom they believed to be the Blessed Mother. One can only imagine the impression such an event would leave on a young child.
Like his parents, he had a strong faith, and he grew deeper in his spiritual life as he got older. At the age of 15, he decided to devote his life to penance and prayer. At 20, however, in discerning his life’s call, he joined the Venetian army, participating in the seventh and final campaign against the Ottoman Empire. This experience proved to him that his vocation was not as a soldier. He returned to a life of prayer and penance with a particular devotion to the Passion of Our Lord.
A series of visions led him to begin an order devoted to the Passion of Christ. The Passionist Order of Priests would live an austere life practicing great penances and travelling through the countryside preaching missions. Two years after the founding of the Priests’ order, an order of Passionist Nuns came to be.
St. Paul himself spent a great deal of time in prayer and adoration before the crucified Jesus. While preaching his missions, he carried a large wooden crucifix with him in honor of Jesus’ Passion, and thus received the nickname, Paul of the Cross.
His sacrifices and penances paved the road for tremendous mystical experiences, graces, and consolations. Our Lord and Lady appeared to him, and he had visions of souls in purgatory who came to his cell and related their suffering. He experienced prophecy, bi-location, supernatural perfumes, power over nature and levitation.
So many people witnessed conversions and miracles at the hand of St. Paul, that even in his lifetime, he was considered a saint and his preaching would pack an audience. The crucifix played an integral role in many of these miracles.
Seeing the devil’s hand trying to scatter an audience with a driving rainfall, St. Paul raised the crucifix to heaven and cleared the sky. Not only did the rain stop, but those standing out in it getting soaked were completely dry. Another time, he blessed the clouds and the rain fell everywhere around the crowd, except on them! Animals bowed to the crucifix held in front of them, convicting their owner of his own sinfulness and bringing about conversion. He raised a little boy from the dead.
Here’s one I think is a rather unique:
In his biography of the Saint, Rev. Pius of the Name of Mary tells of a truly astounding miracle that took place when the Saint was scheduled to conduct a mission on the Isle of Elba and was in need of a ship to take him there. The Saint approached a sea captain, who indicated that his ship was badly damaged from a storm at sea and had been drawn up on shore. The Saint told the captain not to worry, that through the power of God their journey would be successful. Captain Fanciullo, an eyewitness, tells what took place.
Wherefore the master, with his sailors and myself, began to haul the vessel towards the sea. The servant of God, too, taking his crucifix from his breast, held it up with his left hand, and with his right helped to haul. In an instant the vessel was in the sea, and both I and others standing by thought it a miracle to get it into the sea with so few hands. I saw Father Paul embark and set sail for Porto Ferrajo, on the Isle of Elba, which they happily reached. News reached us that no sooner were they disembarked, than the vessel split in two and sank. (source)
Now, personally, I really like stories of miracles. They strengthen in me a childlike faith. So often people will hear of such things and dismiss them as fabrication or the like. All I know is that when I read history or the newspaper and an eyewitness relays an account, I believe the story. We all quite naturally do that. Miracles witnessed by people present at the time and documented by the Church should help us in our faith, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to spread the word. Yeah, some of them are pretty outrageous, and some even gross people out. That only means we must be thoughtful in our timing and our response.
What I keep hearing over and over in my mind is: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Lk 7:16) St. Paul of the Cross had that kind of faith and witnessed to it unabashedly fueled by the immense love of Christ poured out in his Passion. May we, too, make time to meditate on the Lord’s Passion, and may we, too, have that kind of faith.
St. Paul of the Cross, Pray for us! Anne
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the shortest way to perfection. The life of Christ was but a continuous cross. God confers a great honor on us when He calls us to walk the same path as His only Son. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross
In prayer the soul is united to God through love, He who, on account of the duties of his state of life, cannot devote much time to prayer, need not be
troubled; the exact fulfillment of his duties, with a pure intention, having only God in view, is an excellent prayer. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross
The continual remembrance of the presence of God engenders in the soul a divine state. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross
Be gentle in your actions; speak with a peaceful mind and in a calm tone, and you will succeed better. Poverty is good, but charity is better. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross
Let us desire nothing so much as the good pleasure of God. As soon as we know the will of God, we ought to follow it without delay. When our pious undertakings meet with little success, let us not be troubled; when God wills anything to be done for His glory He will not fail to urge on the work until it is accomplished. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross
Do you know why God subjects you to so many miseries? That He may bestow on you the riches of heaven. ~ Saint Paul of the Cross