The Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, founded on November 22, 1720, is celebrating during 2020 the Jubilee Year for the tricentennial of its foundation. This congregation, although known to not a few as “The Passionist Fathers”, in reference to the priests who make up it, is not composed exclusively of them, but also includes brothers, nuns and nuns of closure. So when we talk about “the Passionists”, we are talking about a large family of men and women who have consecrated their lives to God following a common charism, the same one that moved St Paul of the Cross: to identify with Christ in his Passion, convinced that “the Passion of Jesus Christ is the greatest and most admirable work of God’s love”.
This is, therefore, the family, the congregation that is celebrating its three hundred years of founding, the same one that, like every work of God, has been growing slowly and which in our day is present in more than sixty countries, with about four hundred communities. So this Jubilee Year is not only to “remember”, but is first and foremosth an opportunity to thank God for these three centuries of existence and, in unison, implore him to continue to pour out on the Congregation of Passion that force emanating from the Cross, so that, without deflecting our gaze from the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ , let us know, together with her, the new crucified ones of today, and share with them and with all the men and women of our people, the conviction in the saving power of the Lord’s Cross. This is precisely the raison d’eer of passionists in the Church and in the world, and which we renew by celebrating the Jubilee for the Tricentennial: to continue to make present, in words and works adapted to our time, the spirituality and the ever-present teachings of St Paul of the Cross, our holy founder.
St Paul of the Cross
Saint Paul of the Cross was born in Ovada, Italy, on January 3, 1694. At the age of nineteen he experienced a special call from God to follow in the footsteps of the crucified Christ and, docile to that call, on November 22, 1720, at the age of twenty-six, at the hands of the Bishop of Alexandria, Msgr. Gattinara, is clothed in the habit of passion. From here, with new verve, St Paul of the Cross begins a life of prayer and penance. He is gradually joined by other companions, and the congregation begins to grow by nourishing itself with the sap of meditation and contemplation of Christ’s Passion and Death. But not only were they men, some women also felt called by the Lord to follow the passionist charism, thus emerged, in 1727, the Congregation of Passionist Nuns of Contemplative Life, founded by St Paul of the Cross himself.
A convincing missionary, courageous founder and mystic in love, as well as an expert in spiritual accompaniment, St Paul of the Cross is considered one of the greatest mystics of the 18th century. On 18 October 1775 he died in Rome at the age of eighty-one. In 1853 he was beatified and on 29 June 1867 Pope Pius IX declared him holy.
The Passionists, a 300-year-old walk
Today the Congregation of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is spread over five continents. Over the years, several congregations have emerged that, following the same founding charism, live and project the memory of the Crucified and Risen Lord, with different ways of life and apostolates. Suffice it to mention, among others, the Passionist Sisters of St. Paul of the Cross, the Daughters of passion or the Handervae of passion.
In this way, the celebration of the tricentennial of the foundation of the congregation is the celebration of a charism that is proclaimed with words and with always new works, which promote and project in time the undifitable passionist spirituality of its founder. That is why we are not celebrating personal or community greatness or success, for everything has been the work of God; Rather, we celebrate the blessings that God has poured out over the congregation over these three centuries and the faithfulness of countless Passionists who, with their lives and their mission, in the midst of their human fragility, have kept alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus.
That is why this Jubilee Year we celebrate it with our gaze fixed on Jesus, the One who does all new things. What the congregation intends, both personally and communally, is:
deepen his commitment to keep alive the Memory of the Passion of Jesus, as the ultimate expression of God’s love for all people and all creation;
find new and contemporary ways to promote this Memory (memory passionis);
renew the Mission to proclaim the Gospel of passion;
remember the past humbly with thanksgiving to the God of Love and Compassion who has blessed us (gratitude);
read the signs of the times and find new ways to evangelize through the lens of the Passion of Jesus (prophecy);
discern God’s plans and promises for a meaningful future (hope).
Our Jubilee Year, starting point
In preparing to celebrate the three hundred years of the founding of our Congregation, we thank the Lord for the charism of St Paul of the Cross, for our personal vocation as passionists and for all the good that our brothers and sisters have been able to do in the world. We thank God for that rich month witnessed by the many holy and blessed passionists. With them, and in their image, we want to live, serve and share the charism of the Passion, offering every day hopeful answers to our people and, in a spirit of prophecy, face the challenges that arise in our mission with a new vitality, based on our experience of faith, knowers that only sustained in faith can we look to the future full of confidence and gratitude.
During this Jubilee Year, our congregation will hold a series of events that will be an opportunity for the Passionist family to come together. Among them is the International Congress of Theology: Gloria Crucis Chair of the Lateran University “The Wisdom of the Cross in a Plural World”, as well as other celebrations that will take place in each country during this year.
The icon that will preside over all our meetings and celebrations represents St Paul of the Cross, at the foot of the Crucified One and accompanied by the Virgin Mary, and together with them four images: Saint Gabriel of the Sorrow, Saint Gema Galgani, Blessed (brother) Isidore of Loor and the ecumenical missionary Blessed Sunday of the Mother of God. The author of the work is the Greek Loukas Seroglou; this icon will tour the congregation in the sixty-two countries where we are present.
Our hearts, full of gratitude, prophecy and hope, put it in tune with the hearts of all our religious brothers and lay passionists in this THIRD Centenary of our Congregation, so that all of us, in one voice, proclaim the words that are engraved in our congregational shield, and that every passionist feels and lives as his own: “May the Passion of Jesus always be in our hearts”. Ω