Paolo Danei, from 1720 to today:
300 years of light
We are in January 1694 when Paolo Danei was born in Ovada, an Italian town in the province of Alessandria, who will be the man with a heart full of multiple values, desires, dreams, human and spiritual integrity. Paul was born and lives in a family rooted in the Christian faith so much that he taught him what it means to be a believer in the concreteness of everyday life and that is why he excels since he was a boy because he has a particular consideration for others, has a strong personality sometimes perhaps gruff and austere – but never devoid of attention to the needs of the other. The large family increases in him a sense of solidarity and fraternity so high as to refine his heart to the needs of others always and in any case.
Paolo has different experiences and has the advantage of being trained. He also receives the offer to create a wealthy life for himself but renounces this legacy because he wants to make his life something different …
Paolo has no exact knowledge of what reality may be underpinning under the pyre that melts his heart and he does not yet know well to delimit it and outline it in its distinctive features, but he knows that it is something more, something that perhaps will call him to make a design which he absolutely does not know but which he feels latently present in his soul.
Paul does not yet understand that this flame will give history, the Church, Italy and the rest of the known world a brushstroke of vivid faith and clear love capable of enclosing – through the chromatic shades that pass from cold to warm colors – the heart of man in his essence before the mystery of the greatest love that God could give to humanity: the Crucified Lord.
Ovada is the cradle that welcomes the limbs of a child who, as a boy and a man, will leave a trail of light in history.
His childhood and youth are characterized by life experiences that allow him to mature within himself the beautiful aspects of donation and sacrifice but also the most penetrating ones of suffering and mortification. He is nourished with Christian values that make him a man capable of living with the heart. The human and virtuous training ground that Paolo Danei experiences in his family and in his work, leads him to such a maturation as to be circumscribed by himself as “rebirth and spiritual conversion”.
He is a restless man because he is an essential and existential person, attentive to the nuances of life which at times are breakable and lovable, at times they are dense and unpleasant; he is restless because he has a warmth, a passion in his heart that does not yet allow him to give an explanation of the features of his future.
This flame is for him a push and a torment, a caress and a beat, an impulse and a block until a period of great spiritual enlightenment begins in his life just when – renouncing his conspicuous inheritance and his usually indubitable future – he decides to dedicate his life to the Lord because he understands that that flame has the features of a burning bush that never burns out and that always burns and is that of God’s love, a love expressed passionately and copiously in the Lord’s Passion.
The aspiration in his heart begins to sip the distinctive features of his vocation and so on November 22, 1720, Paul takes on the tunic of penance from the hands of Monsignor Gattinara. On November 23 of the same year he retires to a very small room attached to the sacristy of the church of San Carlo – in Castellazzo – where he writes the rule and the diary and this is the mystical experience of the 40 days, known as Castellazzo.
Ovada is the cradle of his human existence, Castellazzo is the cradle and bed of his vocational and religious subsistence.
At the end of August 1721 he went to Rome to obtain the approval of the Congregation but was unable to speak with the Pope and went to Santa Maria Maggiore where – in the Salus Populi Romani chapel – he made a vow to spread the Memory of the Jesus.
On 14 September 1737 he inaugurated the first retreat of the Congregation dedicated to the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, on Monte Argentario as a reminder of the vow made in the Salus Populi Romani chapel and as a manifest of his filial love for the Mother who is the guide of the Congregation itself.
On May 15, 1741, Benedict XIV approves the text of the Rule, on June 11 Paul makes his profession and takes the name of Paul of the Cross.
From 1744 to 1761 the expansion of the congregation took place.
In 1768 he had the mystical phenomenon of the embrace of the Crucifix and in 1775, full of grace and faithful to the gift received, he died in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, in Rome.
“The Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ was founded in 1720. Its members, commonly called” Passionists “, (priests, brothers, nuns, nuns and laity) take a vow to spread and proclaim God’s love for the world revealed through the Passion of Jesus Christ for 3 centuries, continuing to carry today a message of compassion and hope in 61 countries around the world.
The Charism of Paul of the Cross makes it possible to seek unity of life and apostolate in the Passion of Jesus. Every Passionist is called to share the life and mission of the One who “stripped himself, assuming the condition of a servant”, contemplates Christ with assiduous prayer.
The Passionist’s participation in the Passion of Christ, which is at the same time personal, community and apostolic, is expressed by a special vote. With this vow the Passionist undertakes to promote the memory of the Passion of Christ with word and deed, in order to deepen the awareness of its meaning and value for every man and for the life of the world.
With this bond the Congregation takes its place in the Church and consecrates itself to fulfill its mission.
The Passionists live the evangelical counsels in the light of this vow and try to make it concrete in everyday life. In this way their communities become a leaven of salvation in the Church and in the world and they commemorate the Passion of Christ today.
The mission of the Passionists is directed to evangelization through the ministry of the word of the Cross so that all may know Christ and the power of His resurrection “1.
In the light of this passion for humanity which finds its foundation in the Passion of Jesus for man, and taking into account how and how much it is necessary to preach and evangelize by coloring the world, with its joys and sorrows with red of the passionate love of Christ, the Gloria Crucis Chair is born.
“The Gloria Crucis Chair, established on the initiative of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus in the CIPI juridical body (Interprovincial Community of Passionists of Italy), aims to promote the memory of the Passion of Christ and to deepen awareness of its meaning of its value for every man and for the life of the world. The Passion of Christ – “the greatest and most stupendous work of divine love” (St. Paul of the Cross) – becomes the most effective remedy for the evils of the world. In this there is all the strength of the particular mission in the Church: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), of whom we also proclaim: “He is risen” (Mt 28,6). Knowledge of the Passion of Christ and of men constitutes the only mystery of salvation.
The Chair constitutes an interdisciplinary operational structure and each activity carried out is carried out under the supervision of the pro tempore Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, who authorizes the execution of the annual activity plan proposed by the Director of the Chair itself “2
From 1720 – the date of the foundation of the Congregation of Passionists – 300 years of history, of holiness, of passion, of love, of memoria passionis, of life spent in the service of humanity have passed.
There are numerous initiatives and celebrations planned and organized for this jubilee, including the IV International Theological Congress for the Jubilee of the third centenary of the foundation of the Passionist Congregation: The Wisdom of the Cross in a plural world to be held in the Pontifical Lateran University from 21 to 24 September 2021.
The Congress is an event within an event that aims to extend and invest the horizons of Passionist spirituality in a globalized and pluralized world; it is an opportunity for evangelization and pastoral care that is as high as it is qualitatively profound because – with the topics covered and with the speakers indicated – it offers a flexible, effective, efficient and functional range to qualitatively undermine learning and comparison.
2 Cfr https://www.pul.it/it/cattedra-gloria-crucis/