O good St. Paul of the Cross, you revealed the wonders of God’s power by proclaiming the Passion of God’s only Son. By your words and mighty deeds, you became a spiritual guide and preacher of the Gospel to a world grown cold to the love of Jesus Christ. Turn our hearts and minds to the merciful cross of Jesus. Help us to persevere in faith and love, and assist us in every need. By sharing the Passion of Jesus in this life, may we come to share in the glory He has promised. Amen.
Our Novena readings are taken from the book In This Sign, by Fr. Martin Bialas, CP.
During his intensely active life, Paul came in contact with many people. Apart from his two hundred missions, he conducted eighty retreats, mostly for religious sisters. Many who got to know him trusted him and asked him for advice in the difficulties of their spiritual life. Since missions and the business of his institute often took the saint away from the monastery, most of his spiritual direction was by letter. He regarded this correspondence as an important apostolic work and, according to his own accounts, he wrote an average of twenty-five letters a week. The content of these letters is not confined to brief practical hints or pithy pieces of information. It often encompasses questions of a spiritual and mystical nature. Such letters frequently extend to four or five printed pages.
People of various social strata and from different walks of life entrusted themselves to him for guidance. Priests and religious, fathers and mothers of families, single people, young and old, rich and poor are all represented among his correspondents. It is amazing to see how sensitive he is to the needs of each.
There are personal letters too, written to people who were very close to him. Sometimes we find in them words of deep human warmth and friendship along with the steadfast faith and practical wisdom, a combination that is a sure sign of true Christian religion and mysticism. These two components, humanity and holiness, were deeply integrated in Paul's personality and, as he developed in Christian holiness, his humanity flowered all the more.
Since Paul had not taken advanced courses in theology, how could his knowledge of the spiritual life have been so deep and accurate? The answer: he was self-taught. His diary reveals a knowledge of the works of Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, and Frances de Sales; later in his life, he developed a great love for the writings of the mystic John Tauler. From the study of these classics came the solid principles of his theology.
Paul's own experience also, served to make him a suitable guide for others. His advice did not spring from untested theories, but rather from his own deep relationship with God. It is not surprising that those who were striving for Christian perfection found in Paul an expert in the ways of God and one to whom they entrusted themselves.
Suffering and a fruitful evening of life
Given the trials encountered by Paul, his title of the Cross seems particularly well chosen. In the first place, his foundations were plagued with the envy, jealousy, and calumny of enemies who wished to halt his work. Serious physical illness often threatened his life. On several occasions he was thought to be at the edge of the grave. These numerous sufferings provided opportunities for him to bring his passion mysticism to perfection and he cheerfully accepted them as a sharing in the sufferings of Christ.