The Cross is the way to Paradise, but only when it is borne willingly.
Saint Paul was born as Paolo Francesco Daneii on January 3rd, 1964. He was born in the town of Ovada in northern Italy. Both of his parents were by all accounts exemplary and devout Catholics - his father ran a small store near Genoa to provide the family and his mother raised the children in the Catholic faith. Paul was the second of sixteen children, but only six total survived the early years of infancy. Saint Paul was sent to Cremolino, Lombardy for his early education at a school for boys run by the Church.
It was this time at school that formed him deeply in his faith - he attended daily Mass, spent an extraordinary time in prayer and devoted much of his free time before the Blessed Sacrament. At the age of fifteen, he left the school and returned to his home. When he arrived at home he bgan reading the Treatise on the Love of God (Saint Francis de Sales). In 1715, he briefly left home to join a crusade against the encroaching Turkish army but found that he had not been called by God to be a soldier. He turned down a marriage proposal in 1716, wishing to dedicate himself to Christ.
At 26, Saint Paul had a series of visions , including one in particular where he saw himself clothed in a black habit with his companions - the message was that he was to form a community to live an evangelical life and to promote the love of God through the Passion. For the next 40 days he lived in retreat to write the rules of this new community - rules that would dedicate the community to poverty, solicitude and teaching. This group would be known formally as the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ or the Passionists. Saint Paul wrote of these rules:
"I began", he says, "to write this holy rule on the second of December in the year 1720, and I finished it on the seventh of the same month. And be it known that when I was writing, I went on as quickly as if somebody in a professor's chair were there dictating to me. I felt the words come from my heart"
With his brother (who was also his first companion), Saint Paul moved to Rome to secure approval of the order formally. Cardinal Corrandini asked their help in founding a new hospital and the two brothers fully devoted themselves to to caring for the patients and ministering. Both brothers were formally ordained priests by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727 and began providing pastoral help to remote parishes that lacked a sufficient number of priests or pastoral resources. Pope Benedict XIII also issued vivae vocis oraculo, permission to form a congregation. Pope Benedict XIV formally approved the Rules of the Institute by an Apostolic rescript on May 15th, 1741. (Later, Pope Clement XIV would confirm these rules and approved the institute by the Bull Supremi Apostolatus in 1769 - giving the Passionist Congregation all the privileges granted to other religious orders. Pope Clement XIV would also grant the congregation the church of Saints John and Paul in Rome. These churches are built on one of the ancient seven hills of Rome).
The Passionists opened their first Retreat (Monastery) was opened on Monte Argentario in 1737 with nine members. He named his monasteries retreats to underline the life of solicitude necessary for those preaching the message of the Cross. Over two thousand letters written by Saint Paul of been preserved and over the rest of his life he founded eleven other monasteries. At the age of 77, he opened the first monastery of Passionist Nuns. Today, there are over 500 enclosed Passionists across the world.
In 1773, the Passionists moved into the church of Saints John and Paul in Rome that had been given to them by Pope Clement XIV. It was here, on October 18th, 1775, that Saint Paul of the Cross died.
Saint Paul of the Cross was beatified by Pope Pius IX on October 1st of 1852 and then quickly canonized by the same Pope on June 29th, 1867.
His feast day was originally inserted into the Roman General Calendar for celebration on the 28th of April but moved in 1969 and placed on October 19th, the day after his death and the day after the feast of Saint Luke.