Paul Francis Danei was born in Italy in 1694, the second of 16 children. Because of his father’s financial difficulties, Paul had to leave school to help support his family. At age 15, he began to realize how much Jesus suffered for him. In response, he prayed and did difficult things such as sleeping on the floor and not eating foods he liked. He wanted to follow Christ more closely and share in his passion and death.
At age 20, Paul joined the Venetian army that was defending the faith. After a year, he went back to a life of prayer and penance. Then God called him to form a group of men dedicated to preaching parish missions. These men, called Passionists, would preach the mystery of Christ crucified—the mystery of the Father’s love—in hopes that Christians would turn from their sins and rededicate their lives to Christ. Paul developed a method for giving parish mission talks that involved laypeople.
Paul received gifts of prophecy and healing from the Holy Spirit. He was so powerful when he preached and so gentle in confession that he brought many sinners back to the Lord. Paul once said, “England is always before my eyes, and if ever again it becomes Catholic, the benefit to the Church will be immeasurable.” Within 65 years, a Passionist named Dominic Barberi went to England to help reconcile John Henry Newman and others to the Catholic Church, aiding the revival of Catholicism there. Paul of the Cross died in 1775.
Guide the students to research the Passionists and discuss this emblem they wear over their hearts:
Have the class research parish renewal programs.
Direct the students to list penances that they could perform this day (such as good posture, kind speech, or cheerfulness) and choose one to do.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Portrait of Paul of the Cross by Phet Philippe, 2005. Public Domain via Wikimedia.