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.
This evening we come to the end of our solemn novena in preparation for the feast of our holy founder, St. Paul of the Cross. Let us listen again to excerpts from his Last Will and Testament as well as to the account of his holy death.
On August 30, 1775, Paul received Viaticum, and then blessed his spiritual sons and daughters with what we call his last will and testament. He meant these precious words for all who will share with him the Passionist charism, down through the ages.
Excerpts from the Last Testament of our Holy Founder
Above all, I recommend most urgently the observance of that most holy admonition that Jesus Christ gave his disciples: In this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Behold my dearest Brethren, what I desire with all the intensity of my poor heart, I give to you: to you who are present here and to all the rest who are now wearing this garb of penance, of sorrow in memory of the Passion and Death of our most amiable divine Redeemer, as well as to all those who, by the mercy of God, in times to come, shall be called to this little flock of Jesus Christ. And, furthermore, I recommend to all, especially to those who shall hold the office of Superior, that there flourish ever more and more in the Congregation the spirit of prayer, the spirit of solitude, and spirit of poverty. Rest assured that if these things are maintained, the Congregation will be brilliant like the sun in the sight of God and of the nations.
With most special insistence, I also recommend a filial love for Holy Mother Church, and a total submission to her visible head, who is the Roman Pontiff. Let all implore [God], day and night, in their prayers both for the Church and for the Supreme Pontiff, and let them endeavor to cooperate, as much as they can for the welfare of Holy Church and for the salvation of the poor souls of their neighbors, with missions and spiritual exercises, and with other means in harmony with our Institute, promoting in the hearts of all devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ and to the Sorrows of Mary most Holy.
In a particular way, I also recommend that prayers be offered with great fervor for the present Holy Father, that the Divine Mercy let him prosper many years for the welfare of His Church, and console him with blessed success in all his endeavors, that he may desire what is pleasing to God and carry out that desire with all his power.
Yes, my dear Jesus, I hope, albeit a sinner, soon to come to see you in Paradise and to give you at the moment of my death a holy embrace and so to remain ever united to You for all eternity and to sing your mercies throughout all ages. And now I recommend to you the poor Congregation, which is the fruit of your Cross, of your Passion, of your Death! And I beg you to give all members of the Congregation and its benefactors your holy blessing. And you, Virgin Immaculate, Queen of Martyrs, also you, in view of the sorrows you underwent in the Passion and death of your most loving Son, you also, give to all your maternal blessing. I place them all and leave them under the mantle of your protection.
Here, then, my dear Brethren, are the remembrances that I leave you with my whole poor heart.
I leave you, and I will stand expecting all of you in Paradise; there I will ever pray for the Supreme Pontiff and for the Church, which I love so much, and for the whole Congregation, its benefactors and for all for whom I know I should pray. I leave all of you, present, absent and future my blessing.
Paul had finished his life's work and now nothing remained but to commend his spirit to the Lord who had given it. On the afternoon of October 18, 1775, Paul asked Brother Bartholomew, who sat by his bedside, to call Father John Mary, his confessor, to help him prepare for death, since now he was about to die. The brother was not too ready to do this, so Paul repeated his request, then turned toward the huge crucifix in his room to wait. Brother Bartholomew asked him, "Father, are you not willing and ready to die to do the will of God?" Paul answered with great fervor as he raised his eyebrows, "Yes, I am ready to die to do the most holy will of God." The brother then said, "Take courage, then and trust in God." Paul uncovered his hand, gestured towards the crucifix and said, "There are my hopes, in the most holy Passion of Jesus Christ and in the sorrows of Mary Most Holy."
The community was summoned and gathered around Paul with their eyes filled with tears. By now Paul could no longer speak but kept his eyes fixed on the crucifix and on the image of the Sorrowful Mother. Bishop Thomas Struzzieri, the first Passionist bishop, was present, and he said to Paul, just before Paul breathed his last, "Father Paul, when you are in paradise, remember the poor Congregation for which you have toiled so hard, and all of us, your poor sons." With great fervor Paul made a gesture signifying Yes. Then he quietly closed his eyes and went to sleep in the Lord.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his holy ones. St. Paul of the Cross – our spiritual father and founder - pray for us your spiritual daughters and intercede with Our Lord that we be filled with deep and tender devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary so we may spend our life praying and working to make His Passion fruitful in souls.