Founded in eighteenth-century Italy by St Paul of the Cross, the Passionists are a Congregation of priests and brothers living and working in sixty countries worldwide. Their mission is to keep alive in the hearts of Christ’s faithful people the remembrance of the love of God revealed in the Passion of Jesus:
Saint Paul of the Cross gathered companions to live together and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all. The ﬁrst name he gave his community was The Poor of Jesus. This was to indicate that their lives were to be based on evangelical poverty, which he held to be so necessary if they were to observe the other evangelical counsels, to persevere in prayer, and to preach the Word of the Cross in season and out of season. (Passionist Constitutions, 1)
Our founder believed that what messes up people’s lives is forgetfulness of the personal love God has for them: when we forget about God and his love, then we lose perspective and direction in our life. Paul of the Cross saw the Passion of Jesus as “the greatest and most overwhelming sign of God’s love” and as the remedy for our troubles in life. Through a personal experience of conversion, he had learned the value of meditation on the Passion, deciding to devote his life to teaching people how to pray. Drawing from the Church’s rich spiritual heritage, using sources as diverse as the Desert Fathers, the Rhineland Mystics and Saint Francis de Sales, Paul elaborated a form of life based on three core values: Prayer, Penance and Solitude.
St Paul of the Cross and his companions used retreats, missions and spiritual direction as ways of opening up to others the possibility of a deep relationship with God. They realised, however, that they could only speak of this kind of relationship if they had first experienced it themselves. They called their houses “Retreats” to show that they were to be places of silence and peace where the noise of everyday activity would give way to the stillness of contemplation.
Our life of prayer, communal and individual, draws us to live in communion with the Most Holy Trinity. In prayer, we respond to the loving initiative of the Father. Led by the Holy Spirit, we unite ourselves with the Person of Christ, especially in the Paschal Mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection. In this way, through prayer, our life is united with Christ in his journey towards the Father. (Passionist Constitutions)
Passionists live in community; they celebrate the Divine Office in common and devote time each day to contemplative prayer. They wear a black habit on which can be seen the Passionist “Sign”: a heart surmounted by a white cross, with the words “the Passion of Jesus Christ” inscribed within it. As well as the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they take a distinctive vow to promote the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus.