Featured Entrepreneur of the Spirit: St. Paul of the Cross

Hardworking. Patient. Grounded.

St. Paul of the Cross is our featured Entrepreneur of the Spirit this week because he models the humility of working in the light of Christ’s great work: salvation on the Cross. A hardworking and talented student, a patient sufferer, and a grounded entrepreneur, St. Paul continues to communicate effectively to the hearts of the faithful the truths of Christ’s sacrifice. He emphasized sharing this truth with people individually. His witness can be a model for dedication to prayer and how to value interaction with clients and colleagues, seeking to nurture our ultimate goal in varied circumstances of life.

Formation

Born in 1694 into a family of sixteen children that owned and ran a dry goods store, Paolo Francesco Daneii learned early in his life how to face uncertainty and address issues as they arose. He worked beside his father the first nineteen years of his life, and after a short time with the Venetian army, he determined his place was working in the store with his family. The mixing of home and work lent itself to the formation of a strong spiritual life.

Whatever Work Was Necessary

Meditation on the Passion of Christ had a particular impact on young Paolo. At 26 years old, he received visions from God of the symbol of and habits for a new order, one devoted to evangelizing about the love of God shown by Christ on the Cross: the Passionists. At its heart is the command to seek solitude so as to allow God to manifest His love in the Passion to every person. Paolo knew that if he wanted the Rule approved, he needed to reside in Rome. Thus he and his brother devoted themselves to the development of a hospital in the Eternal City, providing for the spiritual and physical needs of those they encountered. Their willingness to take up a new kind of work that didn’t seem to apply directly to their goal—and do so joyfully—assured their success. This often happens in the life of founders, entrepreneurs—and saints. The work they set out to do is not necessarily the same work that emerges over time. St. Paul of the Cross did not initially intend to establish hospitals but the ministry became a necessary outlet for his call to solitude and contemplation.

Passionists with Pope Francis in Rome

Beginning Where He Was Planted

Ordained at 33, Fr. Paolo approached his assignment to a rural parish with an evangelizer’s heart. His preaching, acts of mercy, and call to mission inspired the love of his parishioners, and they became interested in this new preaching apostolate. Paolo and some of his followers led retreatants into the ways of their spirituality. Through consistent efforts, Paolo affected countless conversions and renewals in the Faith.

Patience With The Process

Ten years after he first began his work in the country, Paolo and his nine fellows opened their first Retreat, or monastery. He chose the name “Retreat” to remind all community members of the spirit in which they were to contemplate the Cross so that they might share its message. Three hours a day were given to contemplation, and while this intense solitude did not draw huge numbers immediately, Paolo preferred this more natural, slower growth for the community. A prolific letter writer, he consistently reached out and offered spiritual direction to those outside the Retreat. By the time of his death, there were 12 Retreats, nearly 200 brothers, and a budding Second Order of the Passionists. 

The Legacy of St. Paul of the Cross

Paolo’s gentle, cheerful, and simple way constantly beckons. Like their founder, modern Passionists serve as preachers, spiritual directors, retreat masters, and manual laborers, with a particular affinity for gardening and the arts. Their fondness for these occupations sprouts from their conviction that the Passion is “the most overwhelming work of God’s love” that illuminates all of their activity. Several Passionists have been canonized, including one of their pupils, Maria Goretti.

Summary

Although St. Paul of the Cross’s life followed no predictable career path, his willingness to be gentled again and again by the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ affected and ordered his work daily. Because of the place in his work ethic for the Holy Spirit, Paolo’s memory glows with the light of Christ and teaches us the strength of patience and compassion.