Passio in Cordibus


Elements of Passionist Spirituality
(Talk given in 1991 at a Conference to mark 150 years of the Passionists in England
              and later published in the series Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality)


In 1841, Blessed Dominic Barberi arrived in England to establish what was later to become the Anglo-Hibernian Province (known to us today as the Provinces of St. Joseph and of St. Patrick). Among the events held to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his arrival was a seminar at Minsteracres, Co. Durham, at which I was asked to give two papers. What follows is the first of these; the second was on some Passion sermons of Blessed Dominic.
The topic suggested to me for these two papers was “Passionist Spirituality with Relation to the Anglo-Hibernian Province.” What can one say about that? What can I say about it? As I look around the room, I would say first of all that I am only a beginner in Passionist Spirituality. Next year, it will be twenty years since I entered the Congregation, but I still feel like a beginner and I realize that there are hundreds of years of Passionist spirituality just sitting looking at me. So, what can I say? Where are the sources of Passionist Spirituality? They are sitting in front of me. That is the first answer to such a question, because, as Theodore Davey said in his homily this morning, a Spirituality is a living tradition; it is not something that we find in books. Indeed, our own experience coming into the Congregation was very much like what Paul speaks about to the Corinthians when he says, “What I received from the Lord, I in turn hand it on to you” (1 Cor 11:23). For us, Passionist Spirituality has been something which was handed on, which we were given; this is symbolized for us in the presentation of the Rule and Constitutions during the rite of profession.
Most of us would have to admit that when we came into the Congregation we didn’t have books of Passionist Spirituality. In the past ten or fifteen years there has been an outpouring of information about the Congregation, but in the past (at least in the English-speaking world) we had very, very little to go on. There may have been a life of St. Paul of the Cross, and there was also the Rule itself, but for the most part we learned Passionist Spirituality from watching Passionists and listening to them, hearing their story (usually very amusing stories, we would have to admit).
The idea of a distinctive Passionist Spirituality is really quite a recent one. If we look back just to the 1950s, we find there were articles being written where people were raising the question, “Is there such a thing as Passionist Spirituality?”, and not in any sense trying to say that there couldn’t be, but saying “we hope there is” such a thing.[1] The notion of distinct schools of spirituality is very much a twentieth century one. The whole idea of different schools of spirituality linked with different religious orders is part of our modern mentality.[2] In past centuries people felt much more free to draw from the tradition of other groups. There was not the sense of being confined within one’s own institute. There was not the same need to define one’s identity, or indeed to discover it, as we try to do today. It seems to me that one of the strongest characteristics of being a Passionist today is that you spend a great amount of your time asking “What is a Passionist?” It often seems to be part of our experience that we don’t really know what we are, and so we are continually asking what makes a Passionist, and what does it mean to be a Passionist. Yet somehow or other, when we look at one another we seem to recognize that there is a similarity, that there is something which makes us one body or one institute. What, then, is this thing that today we call Passionist Spirituality? What are its characteristics? The classic answer to this question is that Passionist Spirituality is about prayer, penance and solitude. We know that St. Paul of the Cross, when he was dying, recommended to his religious the spirit of prayer, penance and solitude.[3] But what difficult characteristics to have today. Indeed we could say that each one of those three hallmarks of our Congregation is problematic in today’s world.
Prayer, Penance And Solitude    
For the past number of years, the laity have been experiencing what you might call a “prayer explosion,” whereas in the religious life prayer seems to be becoming more and more of a problem, particularly, I think, prayer in common, whether aloud or in silence. In the past, this “in common” aspect has certainly been an important dimension of Passionist prayer, but if we were to be honest, we would have to admit (even those of us who stand up and talk about spirituality) that we do experience a difficulty in integrating prayer and ministry. With the pace of life today and the demands which are made on us, the needs of the church, the needs of people, it doesn’t seem to be as easy as it was in the days of our fathers and mothers.
Penance, too, is not easily dealt with. Austin Smith, in his book, “Passion for the Inner City,” talks about the loss of the Christian ascetic,[4] which certainly has had its effects on the religious life. We would have to admit that, today, we are more concerned with diet than with fasting, and we readily recognize the importance of having an adequate amount of sleep at night, like the novice who on being sent home from our monastery at Enniskillen (The Graan) said that he had never understood why they couldn’t say all their prayers before they went to bed!
Our mentality today has changed. We are really not too sure about penance. If somebody today takes the discipline, and we hear about it, we might advise him to go and see a psychiatrist, which certainly was not the case a hundred and fifty years ago. If we are asked, “What do you Passionists do about penance?” – we might say that we put up with one another; but that’s not a very nice thing to say about your brothers or sisters, is it? We do need a theology of penance for today which draws from the richness of our tradition and at the same time speaks a language we understand.
Then there is the whole question of solitude. In the past, religious life was spoken of in terms of flight from the world; today we talk about “flight into the world”. Our emphasis is on involvement, accompaniment, being with the other person; this colors our notion of solitude. It can seem to us to be something of a luxury when we are surrounded by so many pressing human needs. But perhaps solitude is a luxury that we don’t even want today, because we don’t know what to do with it. And maybe if we are dreadfully honest we have to admit that we are like one religious who, when talking about our days of strict observance and long hours of meditation, said, “When I think of all that time we wasted sitting up there in the dark...” Perhaps there is something of that in us too.
We can see that prayer, penance and solitude are problematic today. What, then, do we do with them? Do we write them off and start again? Sometimes we hear it said that there is the founder’s charism and there is the present-day charism. Here we must be aware of the distinction between development and alteration: if the hand of the child grows into the hand of an adult, it’s development; but if the hand becomes a foot, it is alteration.[5]
The aim of these values was to create a certain environment. We notice that prayer, penance and solitude are more concerned with what we are than what we do. They are more on the level of being than activity. These values try to create a certain environment, to establish a form of life. When we talk about life forms and environment, the word which comes into our mind today, of course, is ecology. So perhaps we have to practice some kind of ecology in relation to these values from our past.
Foundation Stones

But let’s approach it slightly differently. What I propose to do is to give a working definition of Passionist Spirituality, one which is not meant to be exhaustive or all-encompassing, but which seeks simply to highlight some basic elements or foundation-stones which I will then go on to examine. We can say, then, that Passionist Spirituality is a spirituality rooted in the experience of St. Paul of the Cross, which teaches a particular way of relating to the Passion of Christ, and in which community life is not subordinate to apostolic availability; that’s my working definition.
Rooted In The Experience Of Paul Of The Cross
Let’s take the first part of that statement: a spirituality rooted in the experience of Paul of the Cross. This is something we can never over-estimate. When I speak of Passionist Spirituality here I mean the spirituality proper to the institute: what Paul of the Cross gave to his community; not Paul’s own mystical experience of the Passion, nor the kind of spiritual direction which he gave to lay people and members of other religious institutes (although these are extremely relevant), but the particular way of living a spiritual life which he gave to his community. What are the sources of this spirituality? Well, we have the writings of Paul of the Cross. But what did he write for the Passionists? We know he wrote thousands of letters, but very few of them were to Passionists. We have the spiritual diary of St. Paul of the Cross, but it is really the strangest document of all. It is the one we always go to first; if we want to know about Paul of the Cross’s spirituality we go to the diary. But think of it: a man who lived to the age of 81 kept a diary for 40 days. Why did he keep the diary? He kept the diary because the bishop told him to keep a diary. You see, he was not the diary-keeping type. It was not in his nature. Some people go to journal workshops, and they come back having seen the promised land; others go home and say, “I could never do that” or “I haven’t time to write it; it would be a very nice idea, but where would I get the time to keep it.” I think Paul of the Cross was that second kind of person. There is also the Treatise on Mystical Death, but who wrote it?[6] Did Paul write it at all? Did he write part of it? Did he find it somewhere and pass it on? I think we can say that while he did not write the entire treatise on mystical death, he did make use of it and adapted it to his purpose, but we cannot take it as a text intended primarily for Passionists (otherwise it probably would not have disappeared for two hundred years).
What are the sources of the spirituality which Paul gave to his community? It would seem to me that the key documents for understanding the way of spiritual life which Paul wished to share with his community, the basic texts for our spirituality, are the Rule and the Preface to the Rule.[7]
In some institutes the role of the Founder is more important than in others. Some congregations are founded by people who don’t actually belong to the community; some have a rule written for them. The role of the founding person is different from one community to another. For the Passionists the role of the founder, St. Paul of the Cross, is absolutely central. The Dominican theologian J.M.R. Tillard makes the distinction between what he calls founder’s charism and founding charism.[8] He says that in some institutes the charism is one of bringing a group into existence to do a particular job (founding charism), while in other institutes, the founding person has some kind of experience, and the community is to be a living-out of that experience (founder’s charism). According to Tillard, the former involves the charism of action at the service of the mystery, whereas in the latter we find the charism of understanding the mystery. I think that we would all readily admit that the Passionists have founder’s charism, where the experience of the founding person becomes normative.
We see this in the way the Rule was written. Often a rule evolves out of the life of a community: people gather together to do something, then after a while either the bishop says, or they themselves agree, that something should be put down on paper. So they look at what they have been doing and how they have been living, then they try to draw some principles from this, often consulting other sources, and in this way a rule comes into existence.
For the Passionists, it was quite different: there was a rule before there was a community. This is very significant. We actually had a text, a rule of life, before there were any companions. There was only one man, who had a Rule, which he had written. It would be very naive to think that this rule was a fully-formed legislative text; it was what we would call today an inspirational text, in which Paul proposed a way of life based upon his experience. The founding experiences of Paul of the Cross are what shaped the form of the Rule, and that form which follows exactly the sequence of his own experience, has come down to us even in this century.[9] In order to understand the content of the Rule, and also the way the chapters are arranged, we must recognize that Paul follows the sequence of the experiences which he himself had. Do you remember how the old Rule begins? After the introductory chapter, the first thing it speaks of is where the houses of this least Congregation are to be founded. What a strange thing to do: to begin by talking about geography! It’s really quite amazing that he got it past the canonists. Yet, if we look at the Preface to the Rule, we find that the first experience Paul had, his first sense of being drawn to something different, was as he walked along the coast, the Riviera. He saw a little church and a hermitage on a hill, and he felt drawn to live there. That was his first inspiration, the beginning of his being drawn to something different, and the beginnings of our Congregation. And so, Paul’s first ‘°foundation” experience becomes the first section of the Rule, “On where the houses of this least Congregation are to be founded.”
The Preface to the Rule is where we find the form of the Rule in its embryonic stage, because there Paul describes the founding experiences. It is a little document of five or six pages, largely ignored by scholars. Yet we would have to say that more than in the diary, which was written for the bishop, it is in the Preface to the Rule that Paul hands over to his community an account of the experiences which brought the community into existence (what we might call the “pre-Castellazzo” experience). He gives a detailed account of the different experiences he went through, and then, as he draws the Preface to a conclusion, he says, “after this, God infused in my soul in a lasting manner the form of the Holy Rule to be observed by the poor of Jesus and by me, his least and lowest servant.”
What is this form of the Holy Rule? The form of the Holy Rule is the coming together of Paul’s “foundation” experiences in a definite form of life, and the purpose of the Rule is to set up an environment which makes a similar experience possible for those who come after him. Our way of life, then, our “school” of spirituality is firmly rooted in the experience of Paul of the Cross.
A Specific Way Of Remembering The Passion
The second point in our definition is that Passionist Spirituality teaches a particular way of relating to the Passion of Christ. This implies, of course, that there are different ways of relating to the Passion of Christ and, in fact, as we look back on the history of Christian spirituality we see that there is a wonderful diversity of ways of relating to the Passion.[10] We can divide these into three main groups, corresponding to three different types of spirituality. Those of you who are familiar with the enneagram will know that one of the things we find there is the notion of the three centers of activity in the person: head, heart and “gut”. Many types of spiritual anthropology say the same thing, though they may express it in different words. We can recognize three main kinds of mysticism, corresponding to the three centers in the human person. So we have mysticism of the intellect, which is speculative in character, mysticism of the heart, which is the affective kind of mysticism, and mysticism of the will, which is practical, or apostolic mysticism properly so called. Examples of these in the tradition are the Dominican school (particularly the Rhineland mystics) for the mysticism of the intellect, the Franciscans for the affective style of spirituality, and of course for the apostolic spirituality of the will, we immediately think of Ignatius and the Jesuits.
Each of these three centers gives rise to a different way to relating to the Passion of Christ. In apostolic spirituality there is great emphasis on the Passion of Christ, but with a particular perspective. The eighteenth century witnessed the canonization of one of the great examples of this practical, or apostolic way of relating to the Passion of Christ: St. Vincent de Paul, who recognizes Christ in those who suffer, in the poor, in the abandoned, and ministers to Christ suffering in them.[11] In fact, the eighteenth century was an age in which people were very aware of this kind of apostolic way of relating to the Passion of Christ. At least five of the new saints of the eighteenth century were noted for ministering to the sick or the poor, as opposed to only one of those canonized in the previous century; included among these was St. Camillus de Lellis, who founded the Order of Ministers to the Sick,[12] whose members wear a black habit on the front of which is a red cross. This way of relating to the Passion of Christ was recognized and esteemed by the Church in the lifetime of St. Paul of the Cross, as is shown by the increased number of canonizations of those who practiced it.
Paul of the Cross wished to promote the memory of the Passion. His is a mysticism of the heart, founded on the Word of the Cross. Remembering can take different forms: you can remember a piece of information (for example, a phone number), but it won’t necessarily change your life (it might, depending whose phone number it is, but of itself it won’t change your life). We can remember events, but even there, there is a difference between remembering an event I was involved in and remembering an event at which I was not present; and remembering a person I have known and loved is different from remembering someone whose biography I have read. Remembrance of an event in which we were involved, or of a person we have known, always has the dimension of effectivity. For Paul of the Cross, the context of the memory of the Passion is that of effectivity. Hence the phrase which we use at the end of our little meditations on the missions, and which sometimes we used to write at the top of our notepaper, “May the Passion of Christ be always in our hearts” – not may the Passion of Christ be in our head, but may the Passion of Christ be always in our heart. That tells us something about the kind of memory of the Passion Paul of the Cross was concerned with.
The expression “Memory of the Passion” can have other meanings which are equally valid but quite different. For example, in his book, “Passion of Christ, Passion of the World”, Leonardo Boff talks about the memory of the Passion in the theology of Johannes B. Metz. For Metz, the Memoria Passionis is “the dangerous, subversive memory of the humiliated and the wronged, of those who were vanquished but whose memory can stir up ‘dangerous’ visions, and launch new liberation movements”.[13] This kind of remembering is quite different from what we find in St. Paul of the Cross. The term “Memory of the Passion” is not univocal. Nowadays, when we talk about the Memory of the Passion, we are often thinking in terms of the Passion of Christ and passion of the World, the Passion of Christ and the passion of the people. However, we must acknowledge that this kind of Memoria Passionis is not to be found in the writings of St. Paul of the Cross. We find one or two phrases which perhaps point towards it, but this is not really his kind of language. When he speaks about Memory of the Passion, he is speaking about an affective relationship with the person of Jesus in his suffering. For Paul, the Memory of the Passion is the loving and sorrowful contemplation of what Jesus, our God-made-man, has done and suffered for us. This understanding of the Memory of the Passion gives rise to what he sees as our characteristic apostolate: the promotion of the Memory of the Passion.
We have tended to think of Paul of the Cross’s characteristic ministry as preaching the Passion, or even just as preaching, and of the Congregation as an order of preachers with a Passion-emphasis, but that is not precisely the case according to St. Paul. Perhaps it would be clearer to say that the characteristic form of ministry in the Congregation is the promotion of the memory of the Passion: bringing others to a mystical participation in the Passion of Christ, to an affective sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. In the Diary we see that this is the form Paul’s own prayer took during his forty-day retreat; the community he founded was intended to promote the experience which he himself had undergone: a deep encounter with the Crucified Christ in prayer, leading to a direct, passive, and hence, mystical experience of the Passion.[14]
We are changed by experience; we are not so easily changed by information. Facts as such will not transform my life. Nor is experience in itself sufficient to do this. We are having experiences all the time, but we are not always touched by them. When Paul of the Cross speaks of the Passion as the most overwhelming sign of God’s love and when he affirms that it is meditation on the Passion which can touch the most hardened hearts, he is saying that our lives can be transformed when we are touched by an experience of the memory of the Passion of Jesus, through what he calls loving and sorrowful contemplation. Paul was totally convinced of the transforming power of meditation on the Passion; this was what he felt he had to offer people. In this context we can say that if there is for Passionists such a thing as a “principle and a foundation” (such as we find in the Ignatian exercises), it is contained in the opening chapter of the Rule. Here Paul speaks of the Memory of the Passion in relation to who we are and what we do:
Since one of the chief objects of our Congregation is not only to pray for ourselves, that we may be united to God by charity, but also to lead others to the same point, instructing them in the best and easiest manner possible; those members who may be considered fit for such work must endeavour during apostolic mission and other exercises, to teach the people by word of mouth to meditate on the mysteries, suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom, as from a fountain, proceeds all our good.[15]
What Paul is proposing here is not the Dominican model of contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate and then to bring to others what you have contemplated). That is a model for preaching, but Paul is concerned about more than preaching; preaching is only part of it. What Paul is talking about is contemplating and bringing others to that same experience of contemplation, or, to put it more simply, a Passionist in Paul’s mind is someone who is a person of prayer and a teacher of prayer.[16]
I think that when we look at it in this way, it solves a very old problem: the difficulty in finding a balance between contemplative and active life, and the ensuing conflict between prayer and ministry. If we see our primary ministry as being to bring others to some kind of prayer-experience which we ourselves have had, being people of prayer and teachers of prayer, then the dichotomy between life and ministry disappears.
One difficulty here is that you cannot make a person have an experience, just as you cannot make anyone feel anything (“you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”). What you can do, however, is promote the experience. That’s what you do during a retreat. When people come to a retreat house, you don’t make them feel anything, but you set up the environment which promotes a certain experience, the experience which you are hoping they will be able to enter into during the time they are there. In that sense, you cannot give the memory of the Passion to someone else; all you can do is set up an environment which will help you to promote this experience of the memory of the Passion of Christ.
This is what we find in the earliest fragment of the Rule, the text from 1720; here, Paul writes: “you must know that the main object in wearing black, according to the special inspiration that God gave me, is to be clothed in mourning for the Passion and Death of Jesus. For this purpose, let us never forget to have always with us a constant and sorrowful remembrance of him, and so let each of the Poor of Jesus take care to instill in others meditation on the suffering of Jesus”.[17] We see here the two sides of the Memory of the Passion: firstly, that we ourselves have always with us (“let us never forget”) a constant and sorrowful remembrance of Jesus in his Passion, and secondly, as he says, that we take care to instill in others meditation on the suffering of Jesus.
Community Life And Apostolate
The third and final element which I wish to examine is that, for Paul of the Cross, community life is not subordinate to apostolic availability. What we are talking about here is the question of models of religious life. Today we tend to think that there are two forms of religious life, and that all orders and congregations are either monastic or apostolic.[18]
Apostolic religious life today (particularly in the English-speaking world) is characterized by the Ignatian model, so that when people say apostolic, they generally mean Ignatian. The dominant model for religious life today is fundamentally Jesuit: a spirituality of immersion in the world, the basic tools of which are the Examen of Consciousness and the Spiritual Exercises. It is a life centered on apostolate. The life of the community is shaped by the apostolic activity. This gives rise to a particular style of community life. For example, one of Ignatius’s breakthroughs was that the community no longer celebrated the Liturgy of the Hours in common; he had difficulty getting this approved by the Church, but it was essential to his understanding of the new form of religious life that he was proposing. Availability is a key concern for apostolic community life according to the Ignatian model.
When we look at the Passionists, where are we in relation to all this? Are we some kind of Ignatian congregation who never really got there, a second-rate apostolic congregation who didn’t quite make it out of the Middle Ages? There was Ignatius proposing an entirely new form of life, then Paul of the Cross comes along about 200 years later, knowing nothing about it, and picks up all the old-fashioned ways of doing things which Ignatius had abandoned (such as getting up in the middle of the night and starving yourself, singing psalms and wearing habits), or perhaps it was not his fault; maybe the Church imposed all this on him. Are we a group of people who were trying to be apostolic but who had a monastic culture imposed on us, who, having got caught up in all this dusty old stuff, now find ourselves hemmed in by it and have to get rid of it somehow in order to be free?
It seems to me that this kind of simplistic or facile reading of our history is quite inadequate. When we speak about religious life we have to allow for more than two models, because religious life involves diversity (this perhaps is one of its strongest characteristics): diversity of communities, diversity of forms of life. We can lose sight of that today because there is so much being written about the religious life in general terms. However, religious life in general does not exist; what does exist is communities, different communities. Nobody joins religious life; we join a community. So, while it is useful to speak in general terms, and to draw general principles or see general trends, we cannot do that at the expense of the rich diversity of forms of life which exist in the Church. Passionists have to be understood within the context of diversity.
Our Congregation was founded in the eighteenth century, which was a very difficult time for religious. Throughout the century, many governments adopted a hostile attitude to religious, seeing them as agents of an alien power. This hostility culminated in what is probably the most important single event in the history of the religious life in the eighteenth century: the suppression of the Jesuits by Clement XIV in 1773. In the eighteenth century, only seven new male religious institutes were founded;[19] generally speaking, religious life in that century was in decline.[20]
The two movements within the religious life which showed signs of growth were in fact hangovers from previous centuries; these were the various societies of priests (with or without vows) dedicated to the works of the apostolate, exemplified by the Pii Operai (“devout workers”),[21] and the observant movement among the friars, particularly characterized by the Ritiro (retreat); common elements within this Ritiro movement would have been such things as fasting, solitude, extreme poverty, penance, vigils of prayer, night office, long hours of meditation.[22] The Ritiro was usually a movement within an order, rather than an order in itself. These were two signs of renewal and growth in the religious life of the eighteenth century. St. Leonard of Port Maurice was involved in the second of these, the Ritiro movement, whereas St. Alphonsus Liguori was associated with the first.
Paul of the Cross was in contact with both of these movements, but he did not opt exclusively for one or the other. He already knew the observant style of life from his contact with the Capuchins at Castellazzo. Indeed it is interesting to note that most of Paul’s contact with religious communities in his early years was with orders of friars: the Carmelites who educated him, the Capuchins who were his confessors, the Servites in whose church at Castellazzo he was confirmed, and the Augustinians in the sanctuary of whose church, also at Castellazzo, is the tomb of the Daneo family. When he was in Troia in 1724-25, he was encouraged by Bishop Cavalieri, who wanted to help him establish his new community more firmly. Bishop Cavalieri was an uncle of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, and he had also been a member of the Congregation of the Pii Operai. Paul was able to benefit from his advice before presenting the Rule to the Church for approval.[23]
What we find in the Passionists is the coming together of two movements: the apostolic availability of the Pii Operai joined to the ritiro form of community life. Paul establishes a community of apostolic workers; he gathers together apostolic workers who will live in the ritiro a life of prayer, penance and solitude. In this form of religious life, he brings into harmony the two renewal movements of his time. The spirit of the community is the true apostolic spirit, but the community has a value in itself, and is not simply at the service of the Apostolate. The community’s life of prayer is not shaped by the needs of the Apostolate.
Both St. Paul of the Cross and St. Alphonsus Liguori established their houses in remote country places. Here we have a case of two people doing the same thing, but for different reasons. Alphonsus was very keen on establishing houses in the middle of the country; he did this because these were neglected areas. As well as having the missionaries go out to preach, he wanted the house itself to be an apostolic centre in which there would be a kind of permanent mission, with instructions and devotional exercises being offered to those who lived in the surrounding countryside.[24] On Monte Argentario, Paul of the Cross would not even allow the religious to put a crib in the church at Christmas, in case some of the local people might come to see it and disturb the solitude of the Retreat.[25] Both built houses in the country, but for very different reasons. Alphonsus, while emphasizing the need for prayer as the basis of apostolic life and providing his community with a structured prayer-life, drew his inspiration from the various priestly societies and congregations of apostolic workers with which he had been in contact. It would seem difficult to discern any influence of the ritiro movement on his institute. Paul, on the other hand, sought to integrate the life-style of the ritiro with the apostolic dedication of the Pii Operai, bringing together these two renewal movements in the religious life of his time. His principle of unity in this is what he calls a “well-ordered charity”, by which love for God and love for people are kept in harmony. To live this demands great wisdom.
Paul was never willing to reduce this union merely to one element. We see this, for example, in the foundation at Monte Cavo, in the diocese of Frascati. The bishop of Frascati was the Stuart Cardinal, Henry, Duke of York, the brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was a very pastoral bishop for the times and he wanted the religious from Monte Cavo, when they had returned from missions, to come down from the mountain top in order to instruct the people in the area and be involved in the local pastoral activity of the diocese. Paul refused to allow this, and in a long letter explained that the Congregation is founded on prayer and fasting and that its members are called to imitate Christ praying on the mountain alone.[26] We know that in such situations, Paul was prepared to abandon the foundation, rather than see the harmony of the life distorted by the neglect of one of its essential elements. The purpose of the Rule was to set up a certain environment, and Paul was ready to protect that environment, to prevent erosion.
His desire was to have harmony between the demands of apostolic availability, and the demands of the community life of prayer, penance and solitude. For Paul, Passionist spirituality is lived within a certain kind of community, and it is that community life which makes possible the particular ministry he proposes. In safeguarding the life of prayer, penance and solitude, he is safeguarding the possibility of the ministry which he proposes. The promotion of the memory of the Passion is made possible by the form of life which he establishes.
Passionist Spirituality is the unfolding of the gift which was given to the Church in Paul of the Cross, and is rooted in his own life experience. It involves the memory of the Passion, understood in a particular way as the loving and sorrowful remembrance of the sufferings of Jesus. It is not enough to say that a Passionist is someone who relates to the Passion of Christ. That’s a Christian. A Passionist relates to the Passion of Christ in a particular way, which is a way of effectivity. Nor is it not enough simply to say that Passionist Spirituality is about that kind of Memory of the Passion. According to Paul of the Cross, the promotion of the Memory of the Passion is only possible within the context of a certain type of community, an environment in which this memory can grow. A contemporary writer has defined spirituality as “prayer elevated to a lifestyle”;[27] for Passionists, that seems to me as good a definition as you will find.


[1]Ward of Our Sorrowful Mother C.P., “Passionist Spirituality?”, The Passionist, vol.8, 1955, p.122. Edmund Burke c.p., “The Passionists”, Doctrine and Life, vo1.13, 1963, p.115f.

[2]Louis Bouyer, “Spirituality for the Coming Years”, in David Schindler (ed.), Catholicism and Secularization in America, Notre Dame, Our Sunday Visitor Communio Books, 1990, p.80f.; cf. A. Matanic, “Spiritualita (scuole di)”, in Ermanno Ancilli (a cura di), Dizionario Enciclopedico di Sniritualita /3, Roma, Citta Nuova, 1990, pp. 2385-2387.

[3]Jude Mead c.p., St. Paul of the Cross - A Source/Workbook for Paulacrucian Studies, New York, Don Bosco Publications, 1983, p.198.

[4]Austin Smith c.p., Passion for the Inner City, London, Sheed & Ward, 1983, p.4f.

[5]cf. reading from the first notebook of St. Vincent of Lerins in Divine Office, vol. III, p. 626f.

[6]On the authorship of the Treatise, see Martin Bialas c.p., The Mysticism of the Passion in St. Paul of the Cross, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1990, pp.246-258; Antonio Maria Artola c.p., La Muerte Mistica segun San Pablo de la Cruz, Bilbao, Universidad de Deusto, 1986, pp.93-147.
[7]An English translation of the Preface to the Rule is to be found in Roger Mercurio & Silvan Rouse, (Eds.), Words from the Heart - A Selection from the Personal Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1976, pp.11-15.
[8]J.M.R. Tillard, “Founder’s Charism or Founding Charism?”, Religious Life Review, vo1. 22, 1983, pp. 313-325.
[9]Paul Francis Spencer c.p., The Role of Symbol in the Spirituality of the Passionists, Rome, 1989.
[10]Flavio di Bernardo c.p., The Mistique of the Passion (Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality 5), Rome, Passionist Generalate, 1984; Costante Brovetto c.p., “La Memoria de la Pasion de Jesus en la historia de la espiritualidad cristiana”, El Seguimiento de Cristo Crucificado, Mexico, Ediciones Paulinas, 1985, pp.11-60.
[11]“If you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will see that they take the place of God the Son, who chose to be poor. Indeed, in his passion, having lost even the appearance of man, foolishness to the Gentiles and a scandal to the Jews, he showed he was to preach the gospel to the poor in these words: He has sent me to preach good news to the poor” (from the writings of St. Vincent de Paul in Divine Office, III, p.283*).
[12]Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1981, p. 26f.
[13]Leonardo Boff, Passion of Christ, Passion of the World, Maryknoll NY, Orbis Books, 1987, p. 108.
[14]Paul Francis Spencer c.p., “Sharing in the Sufferings of Jesus: The Spirituality of Saint Paul of the Cross”, Religious Life Review, vo1. 20, 1981, pp. 147-153.
[15]Rule and Constitutions of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Rome, 1984, p.12.
[16]Costante di S. Gabriele (Brovetto) c.p., “La vita contemplativa secondo S. Paolo della Croce”, La vita contemplativa nella Congregazione della Passione, Teramo, Edizioni “Eco”, 1958, p.78.
[17]Words from the Heart, a.14.

[18]This has given rise to the desire to “de-monasticise” the apostolic type of religious life. Aschenbrenner, for example, talks about the need for an “integrated, functional spirituality for active apostles” (George Aschenbrenner, A God for a Dark Journey, Denville NJ, Dimension Books, 1984, p.9).
[19]John Sharp, "The Influence of St. Alphonsus in Nineteenth-Century Britain", The Downside Review, January, 1983, p.61; Raymond Hostie, Vie et mort des orders religieux, Paris, Desclee de Brouwer, 1972, p.207.

[20]Laurence Cada s.m. et al., Shaping the Coming Age of Religious Life, New York, Seabury Press, 1979, p. 39.

[21]D. Vizari, “Pii Operai”, Dizionario degli stati di Perfezione, vol. VI Roma, Edizioni Paolini, 1980, co1. 1716-1718.
[22]Gregor Lenzen c.p., Das Ritiro des HL Paul vom Kreuz (1694-1775) - Geschichte, Spiritualität und Aktualität,(unpublished) Dissertation for the Licentiate in Theology, Rome, 1990; Fabiano Giorgini, Historv of the Passionists, Teramo, Edizioni ECO, 1987, vol.1, pp.39-43; cf. Thomas Merton, “Franciscan Eremitism”, Contemplation in a World of Action, London, Unwin Paperbacks, 1980, p.260-268.
[23]For Bishop Cavalieri’s suggestions regarding the Rule, see Regulae et Constitutiones Congr. SS mae Crucis et Passionis D.N.I.C., a cura di F. Giorgini, Roma, 1958, pp.151-154.
[24]Theodule Rey-Mermet, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Tireless Worker for the Most Abandoned,Brooklyn, New City Press, 1989, p.310.

[25]P. Gaetan c.p., Esprit et vertus de St. Paul de la Croix, Tirlemont, Editions des Soeurs Passionistes Missionaires, 1950, p.410.
[26]Lettere di San Paolo della Croce, a cura di Amedeo della Madre del Buon Pastore, Roma, Istituto Pio X, 1924, vol. III, 417-420.
[27]Doris Donnelly; unfortunately, I do not know the exact source, having heard her quoted by George Aschenbrenner S.J., in a lecture at the Gregoriana.