Tomorrow, Wednesday 19th October is the (optional) Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), the founder of the Passionists, the “Barefoot Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion.” He came from near Genoa of a devout family. From an early age, he committed himself to a life of austerity and religion, renouncing the chance of both marriage and a sizable inheritance. At the age of 20, he volunteered to fight with the Venetian Army against the Turks, but after a few months realised he was not suited to military life. he was discharged from the army and spent the next years living as a hermit in prayer and penance, searching for a direction for his religious zeal. Finally in 1720, he received the enlightenment he sought in a vision of the Blessed Virgin wearing a black habit with a cross and the name of Jesus in white. She instructed him to found a congregation, whose mission would be centred on the Cross and passion of Christ. He went to Rome to seek papal approval for a proposed Rule. After an initial disappointment, he returned in 1725 and Pope Benedict XIII granted permission. He began the order in 1720 with his brother John and a few companions. The Congregation was characterised by an austere and penitential regime, by fervent preaching almost exclusively about the passion of Christ and a commitment to active ministry in the service of the sick, the lapsed and the dying. The order gradually expanded with the founding of a new convent for Passionist sisters and other houses by the time of his death in 1771. Paul himself had a compelling personality and he was credited with miraculous powers of healing. His letters revealed an intense interest in mystical theology, although he distrusted some of the mystical experiences to which he was subject. He died in Rome in 1775 and was canonized in 1867. One of his major concerns was the restoration of England to the fold of Catholicism and in the 19 century his disciples worked tirelessly for this intention in England. Indeed, one of those was Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received Cardinal John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church in 1845 and who subsequently died in Reading of a heart attack in 1849. (For more about Bl. Dominic Barberi, and about the Passionists, click here.