Passio in Cordibus


About the Passionists
(This page was written as a parish bulletin insert for the Jesuit parish in Edinburgh in 2007)

Founded in eighteenth-century Italy by Saint Paul of the Cross, the Passionists are a Congregation of priests and brothers living and working in sixty countries worldwide and, in Scotland, in the Archdiocese of Saint Andrew’s and Edinburgh and the Archdiocese of Glasgow. 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)
Saint Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, 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 saw the suffering of Jesus on the Cross 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 of Christ, 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.
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.
Today the Passionist Congregation has over two thousand members who devote their lives to spreading the message of God’s love shown on the Cross. They do this in parishes, retreat houses and centres of spirituality, and in overseas missions. Using traditional means of communication like preaching or new methods such as television and the internet, they continue their ministry of bringing others to a loving experience of the living God who reveals himself through the suffering and death of Jesus his Son, who gave his life for our sakes and left us “an example that we should follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21).