Greetings on occasion of the Feast of our Holy Founder, Saint Paul of the Cross

To my dear brethren of the
Congregation, and to all brothers and sisters of our extended
Passionist Family, it is always a cause for joy when we gather together
in spirit, and doubly so when this is in our community or with our
families, to celebrate together the feast day of our Father, St. Paul
of the Cross.

We love him as our spiritual Father, yet I venture to say
we would still love him even were he not our Father: we’d love him
because of who he was and for all God has carried out in him. 

We would
love him for the gift of his charism received from God and recognized
as authentic by the Church and then passed on to us through our
vocation, and I’m speaking of the centrality of our Lord’s Passion,
both in his own life and mission and in that of the Passionist
Congregation, as well as in the lives of other Passionist men and women
religious and lay people affiliated with us within a single spiritual
family.


I’m always surprised
when I read once and again the poem which Camillo Sbarbaro wrote for
his father:


Father, even were you
not mine,        

Father, were you even a
total stranger to me,

I would still love you
among all men;

Because of your
childlike heart I would love you.


These are just a few
lines from a beautiful poem of love and deep affection felt by the poet
Sbarbaro toward his father. The feelings welling-up within him as he
thinks of his father, lead to the indissoluble bond of blood. The poet
looks back with a consuming nostalgia through simple yet meaningful
lines. Everything centers round and is concretized by the words, “even
though you were a total stranger to me I would love you because of who
you yourself are” (even though there were no blood bond between us I
would still love you because of the delicate sensitivity of your soul.)
We could  say as much to St. Paul of the Cross with
spontaneous sincerity, even were he not our Founder.


We would love him
because of his sensitivity toward the crucified of this world in whom
he saw the face of Jesus, the greatest Crucified Victim in history, an
amazing expression of God’s love which surpasses in love and in pure
beauty the very splendor of creation itself.


We would love him
because of his missionary heart, enamored of God to the point of
tirelessly proclaiming him in all the many popular missions and
retreats he preached. We should add to this the souls he directed
through personal letters written to lay people, religious and clergy.
He wrote over 12,000 letters of which we possess some 2,500. It never
ceases to astound us when we think of that huge number in spite of the
objective difficulties of his time; in the evenings he would write in
the light of an oil lamp or tallow candle. Community prayer was intense
and took-up various hours, and his missions and retreats were frequent
and prolonged, to which he traveled either on foot or on a horse or
mule-drawn wagon. Wherever did he manage to find the time? When did he
write? It almost seems impossible to us today.


All his life is a
veritable wonder, given the difficulties he experienced in starting up
the Congregation and the stories that have come down to us of those
early foundations, as all the while he kept himself aware of the
presence of God in his life and in the lives of those who, for one or
another reason, he came in contact with.


His letters show us his
deep mystical relationship with God, helped by the typical Passionist
living quarters of those days, where solitude and silence, sought and
maintained, favored contemplation and prayer. 
His detachment from his
very self and from things, added to the poverty which he saw in the
terrible spectacle of Jesus on the Cross, were something he expected to
be adhered to in all Passionist communities and in the personal lives
of every religious, as well as in the lives of those lay people and
religious who came to him as a spiritual father. His life was a
teaching experience for us and for all the faithful: a testament strung
along the 82 years of his life.


All the above explains
why we would love him even though he were not our father; we would love
him because of what he was, for the love song which characterized his
life notwithstanding the difficulties he encountered in founding the
Congregation. 
His was a life of faith
which became fruitful through charity. 

This is what we can see in
Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, “The Door to Faith” issued the 16th of
this month of October, just three days prior to our holy Founder’s
Feast. It is surprising how St. Paul of the Cross remains in harmony
with, and is recognizable in his spirituality and through his life
decisions, with what the holy Father says in his Motu Proprio.
Authentic sanctity is truly universal.


May St. Paul of the
Cross bless us all and help us along the road to holiness since, as he
himself has demonstrated with his own example, sanctity is quite
possible but can only come about is we too, as he did, put God first
and then others as a chosen priority in our lives, particularly those
who are poor or experiencing difficulties: our Founder, after all, saw
the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the poor. Surely we
mustn’t be blind!


So allow me to wish a
happy and auspicious Feast Day of St. Paul of the Cross, in my own
name, in that of my Council and of the whole community of Saints John
and Paul, to all the religious, men and women, and all lay members of
our Passionist Family. My thoughts go out very specially to the frail
and infirm and those who may be experiencing wrenching loneliness and
abandonment. May God be your strength! Amen.


Fraternally,

(Most Rev.) Ottaviano
D’Egidio, C.P.

Superior General


Retreat of Saints John
and Paul,

Rome, October 18th 2011

Feast of St. Luke the
Evangelist