Letters of the Founder
What it's like to begin to get to know St. Paul of the Cross through his letters:
"...you are very much employed in the active life, but in that you ought to see the sweet Will of God with the eye of faith, and you should do that with contentment .... In your active life be on your guard against too much haste and stress, for that is harmful to perfection. Keep your heart peaceful and allow that small drop that is your soul to disappear in the depths of divine love...In the midst of your business remain solitary in the sacred interior desert, resting like a child on the bosom of your Heavenly Father, and accept with great submission and gratitude the sacred impressions or interior touches that His Divine Majesty gives you. If your body wishes to fall to pieces and crumble, let it do so at once....remain in your sacred silence of faith and love in the deepest and most profound level of your interior solitude. Working in this way you will unite the active and the contemplative life which is a mixed life and the more perfect." (L 5/23/1769)
Scripture says: "Seek and you shall find." Well, we sought long and hard, but nothing seemed to express what we needed or wanted to say. Paul’s letters, sure they teach, and if you look closely you can see where Paul quotes both scripture and other saints in directed form. Mother Catherine has related their rich depths more eloquently than we could begin to, yet this does not explain the irresistible force that compelled us to know better the founder of the Passionist congregation. It is a mystical kind of love, and as Paul wrote, "...how difficult it is to understand and know how to speak about interior things".(L 3/10/1767)
Tom was given the privilege to witness a very special moment one night. It was after night prayer and everyone else had already left the chapel except for he and Sister Frances Marie. He said he doesn’t think she even knew he was there. As he came around the partition going towards the holy water fount, he stopped as he saw Sister standing before the statue of Saint Paul of the Cross. She was looking lovingly up at him, held both her arms out to him as if in embrace and then slowly brought them back to her heart. Tom said perhaps God allowed him to see this moment of tenderness directed toward our founder just so we could better express what occurs in the heart once you go beyond simply reading Paul’s letters.
There is an interior change. It’s like you become the person whom Paul is directing and begin to see him as a loving father. There is a vast array of personalities that he directed, which allows for great diversity in his individual teaching. There is definitely someone for everyone to relate to. Tom related well to Thomas Fossi because he was an extremist. (For those of you who know Tom very well, I don’t think I have to say any more about that!) I related well to a few of the lay women, one of them being Agnes Grazi, probably because of Paul’s great and abiding love for her in the midst of her hard headedness and demanding personality. (Also enough said!)
All of you take a moment now. Close your eyes and bring into your mind the person dearest to you. Can you see them clearly? Now, say to yourself, what would it be like to be separated from this person for years? Your only contact was letters that came infrequently because of the poor mail service. Would your heart beat rapidly when a new letter arrived? Would you savor every word of love that was placed upon the page? Surely you would preserve each letter and protect it, not only in that box or drawer but greater still - in your heart. The letter and his or her words would live within you. This is what it’s like to begin to know Paul in his letters.
Mother Catherine has asked all the new Oblates to take part in a study of the Passionist saints and/or some of the themes which abound in Paul’s letters. We encourage you to allow your mind and heart to be captivated and lead by this great hunter of souls. He will guide you and enlighten you in unbelievable ways. The most significant theme in Paul’s letters of direction encompasses all the themes that Mother has listed. It is HOPE.
He used words like our strength, be sure, rely on, confident, our assurance, our certainty and confidence. All of these relate to one aspect in the heart of our holy founder, TRUST. Which was total and complete. Paul wrote: "My confidence in my crucified Lord is such that I am more than certain all will succeed. God gave me the inspiration and a very certain sign that God willed it. What should I fear? I would believe I sinned by infidelity were I to doubt." (L 3/11/1721)
Paul’s great confidence in God prompted his love and hope to be given to others. He said, "Trust in God, Who will bring to perfection the good begun." (L 12/3/1742)
So we end by saying let us, as Paul did, put all our trust in our Crucified Lord and have confidence in our endeavors to enrich our Passionist family.