Passionist Presence at World Youth Day

Passionists and the famous World Youth Day icon

     The Icon of Our Lady that was given to the Young People of the World by Pope John Paul II is a larger and enhanced version of the original icon that continues to be visited by pilgrims in the Borghese Chapel of the Major Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome today. This is one of the four principal Basilica’s of Rome, together with the Basilica of St John Lateran (Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome), Basilica of St Peter (Vatican), and the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.While the origin of the Icon is uncertain, it has been honoured in the Basilica from the early days of Christendom. At the time of the Great Plague in the 6th Century, it was taken in procession around the streets of Rome. With the lifting of the plague, the people regarded their salvation as being at the intervention of the Virgin Mary. Pope St Gregory the Great gave it the title of “Salus Populi Romani”.


     By 1720, St. Paul of the Cross had fasted and been on retreat under the guidance of his Bishop for 40 days, during which time he wrote the first Rule of Life for his future Congregation. Encouraged by his Bishop, and having been clothed in a black tunic (habit), Paul sailed down the west coast of Italy, eventually presenting himself before the main doors of the Quirinale, the Papal Palace, seeking an audience with the Pope. Needless to say, he was not in the court attire of the day, looking more like a beggar, and was sent away by the guards. He felt this rejection deeply, the first of many blockages he was to experience in starting his beloved Congregation. He went across the city to the Basilica of St Mary Major, and kneeling in prayer before the Icon of Santa Maria Neves, Salus Populi Romani, he made his first vow, “To promote the Living Memory of the Passion, and to gather Companions.”Passionists throughout the world see this as their beginning point.

     Father Paul of the Cross died in Rome in 1775 in the Monastery next to the Basilica of Ss John and Paul, near the Colosseum. In the days before he died, the Pope came to visit him at his bedside and asked for his blessing. Paul was 80 years of age. During his life time, the Cross became such a significant part of his preaching ministry that he stood underneath a Mission Cross of 3 metres in height as he preached in churches and town squares from Tuscany through to Naples. Today the Cross and the Icon of Our Lady are central parts of Passionist Spirituality. Paul was declared a Saint of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

     The vow St Paul of the Cross took before the Icon in 1720 is now the primary or first Vow of all Passionists. It is now lived by men and women of several Passionist Congregations throughout the world.

     Three of these are present in Australia: . The Congregation of the Passion (brothers and priests). . The Sisters of the Cross and Passion. . The Passionist Sisters of St Paul of the Cross.

Photos of Passionists gathered in Sydney for World Youth Day

     I thought you too would be inspired by the international flavor of our congregation. The vision of St. Paul of the Cross has certainly spread around the globe!

   *Photos from PassionistCharism Blog (see link at right). Unfortunately I didn't make note of Passionist website where I found the article but they get the credit! God reward you!