“But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)
A great spiritual writer (Father Lallemant) tells us that “the spirit of devotion is the mainspring of the spiritual life, and consists in keeping the heart always united to God or to our Lord Jesus Christ.” One proven way to increase our devotion to Jesus is through devotion to his Passion. As Saint Francis de Sales says in Introduction to the Devout Life : “I commend earnest mental prayer, especially on the Life and Passion of the Lord. If you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with him, and you will grow in His likeness and your actions will be molded by Him.”
In this short note our guide will be Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, a priest who spent his entire life preaching about the tremendous fruits associated with devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ! Given the topic at hand, he is one of the best guides one could possibly pick. As one biography of this saint states, “it became his lifelong conviction that God is most easily found in the Passion of Christ.”
The following quotes, which form the substance of this note, are from the excellent book, Hunter of Souls: A Study of the Life and Spirit of St. Paul of the Cross by Father Edmund (the quotes in bold being the actual words of St. Paul of the Cross):
“It was only to be expected that Paul should strongly urge meditation upon the Sacred Passion…he insisted that the remembrance of the sufferings of Jesus Christ must always be kept in mind….”(p.200).
“You must never give up the remembrance of the most holy Passion of Jesus Christ and the imitation of His virtues. Rather, there is the gate that leads the soul to intimate union with God, to interior recollection, and to the most sublime contemplation” (p.200).
“To Paul, the Cross was not an emblem of suffering, but a sign of salvation, not a thing to be dreaded but something to be loved, for It was the symbol of an everlasting love….The Cross was the very breath of his soul” and “No man has so lively a feeling of the Passion of Christ as he who has happened to suffer such like things” (p. 204).
“When I still had my health, and was able to work for my neighbor’s salvation, my chief care was to make people meditate upon the sufferings of Jesus. I was struck by the fact that those who faithfully practiced this meditation changed their lives, even if they had been bandits or people of loose lives. After an interval I sometimes again encountered people whom I had advised to practice this devotion. When I then heard them in the tribunal of penance, in some cases at least, I could not find matter for absolution, so great was the change in their lives. When we think of a God who suffered for us, a God crowned with thorns, a God besmirched with spittle, and crucified for us – when we are penetrated day after day with these truths of faith, now is it possible for us still to offend God” (p. 213).
“Experience had proved to Paul that only daily meditation on the Passion could effect such permanent conversion. If a soul frequently recalled the sufferings of Our Lord, that soul would be faithful in keeping God’s law. Paul exerted every effort to promote the regular practice of this devotion” (p.213)
“During his last illness, Paul roused himself to say a few words to his visitors, recommending meditation on the Passion. To each one he gave a parting gift, a little crucifix to be a reminder of his last advice. Once he pointed to the figure of the cross, pleading in his eyes the words he could not speak: we must always keep in mind the sufferings of Our Lord” (p. 221, as edited).
Saint Paul of the Cross died at age 80 in 1775 and was canonized in 1867. In her book, Miraculous Images of Our Lord, Joann Carroll Cruz discusses a number of miraculous events associated with the cross used by Paul of the Cross when preaching (pp. 154-159), and Father Edmund relates other miraculous occurrences in the life of Paul including levitation and the signs of Christ’s passion being mystically imprinted on Paul’s heart “one Good Friday,” with resulting “rib displacement” confirmed by physical examination. Therefore, let us be confident that developing a spirit of devotion to our Lord’s Passion will deepen our love for Jesus Christ and our neighbor. Let us never forget the sufferings of Our Lord.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
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