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St. Paul of the Cross – pray for us


Our Lady of the Rosary Library


J.M.J.ST. PAUL OF THE CROSS (1694-1775) – Feast Day: April 28





The lives of the saints are great sermons. They preach the Gospel by their

deeds and their preaching’s are perpetuated by their history. The note of

sanctity in the Catholic Church gets its fullest expression in their

characters. The life of St. Paul of the Cross fits the above description

perfectly. His personal sanctity was of the highest order, for his was a

long life of heroic self-abnegation blessed with the choicest favors of



The gift of miracles has never ceased to show its presence in the

Church. St. Paul of the Cross, who was born in Ovada in Northern Italy on

January 3, 1694, wrought stupendous miracles – not only in Italy, and not

only in his lifetime, but in England, in Ireland and in America after his

death. Proofs, natural and supernatural, of this great fact are so abundant

in his life that it is difficult to choose which ones to record.


The childhood of St. Paul had everything in it which could mold a future

saint. His parents, pious and simple, were content with their lot and had

rather see their children free from sin than raised to honors and riches.

The father read the lives of the saints to his children and perpetually

cautioned them against two things, gambling and the bearing of arms. The

mother took great care to make them admire the beauty of modesty.


She kept

them away from society until they were grown up and had them all instructed

in their catechism. It is very refreshing to go back in spirit to this holy

household; the father and mother were models of virtue and the children so

fervent that they were obliged to be watched lest they might injure their

health by the severity of their penances or the length of their prayers.


Donna Anna, the mother of sixteen children, had her failings like all

mothers, but we are told by her son that her most angry exclamation was:

“May the Lord make saints of you all.”


After Father Paul became a priest, he dealt with his family’s spiritual

needs without limit but he chose not to better their material well-being

even though they were approaching real poverty. They were above absolute

want and that was enough for him. Here is an extract from one of his

letters to his family: “Believe me my dear brothers and sisters, you are


the most fortunate people in the world; poor in this life, but rich in a

faith which will make you rich indeed in heaven. Do you know why God leaves

you to contend against so many trials and miseries? In order that you may

thereby receive your eternal salvation. Brief and transitory is the day of

suffering, but long and lasting is the day of eternal joy. Courage then,

God will never abandon you, and you shall always have what is necessary.”

St. Paul always celebrated Holy Mass with great fervor. To the end of his


life, he had the gift of tears and his humility made him continually repeat

mentally to himself as he approached the altar: “The hour cometh, and now

is, when the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of a sinner.”


Often at the mysterious parts of the sacrifice his face was seen to glow

with heavenly beauty. He was often raised aloft in the air while

contemplating his Incarnate God as he lay open the Corporal and he was

often again enveloped in a strange but livid cloud.

His devotion to the Passion of Jesus would not be complete without its

counterpart – devotion to the Dolors of the Blessed Virgin. He had a


tremendous devotion to Our Blessed Lady. He began everything with her

blessing. Nearly all his greatest favors were received on her feasts and he

was blessed with many surprising visions of her glory. He never pronounced

the name of Mary without bowing his head or taking off his cap. The mystery

of her life which had the greatest attraction for him was her sufferings at


the foot of the Cross. He used to say, “Whoever goes to our crucified Lord

will find His Mother with Him; where the Son is, there is the Mother.”

During the last months of his life, he was troubled with some scruples

about the confessions he had heard. The Blessed Virgin, with the infant

Jesus in her arms, appeared surrounded by rays of glory. The saint cast

himself upon his knees and our Lady said to him: “Son, ask me for graces.”


St. Paul asked for the salvation of his soul. Mary answered: “Be in Peace;

the grace is granted.” Rosa Calabresi, a witness to this vision, was

deprived of sense and feeling with wonder and reverence. When she came to

her senses, she saw the saint, raised about five feet from the pavement in


the air. He was about an hour in this position. In this vision, the Blessed

Virgin foretold him the day and hour of his death. Such was the great

reward he received for his devotion of the Cross of the Son of God and

Dolors of His Mother.


This will give the reader some idea of the daily routine of St. Paul and

his confreres: They were clothed in a simple tunic of course black cloth.

They used no better food than legumes and herbs, except fish occasionally

when they received it in alms. They fasted every day except on Sundays and

the principal feasts and they ate meat only three times a year: Christmas,


Easter and the Assumption. After a few hours of sleep, they arose at

midnight to chant matins, after which they made an hour’s meditation, and

four times a week, took the discipline (self imposed scourge).

St. Paul had a close friendly relationship with Pope Clement XIV. When the

Pope first met him he was struck by his simplicity, sincerity and


straightforwardness. In all the marks of respect which he received in the

Vatican, it only made him the more reverent in the presence of the Vicar of

Christ. The Pope used to ask his blessing sometimes and he could scarcely

conceive it possible that he was in real earnest. The Pope’s confessor had

a stroke of paralysis and fears were entertained of his recovery. Saint

Paul was sent for, blessed him and he recovered perfectly and speedily.


St. Paul was kind and gentle in invoking the power of Our Lord to aid those

in need and for those who persecuted him. But all did not respond to his

warnings that were in habitual sin or those who were working against his

apostolate. There are several examples of this in his life such as the one

in Viterbo where an old woman, who bore hatred against her neighbor, who

refused to forgive her neighbor even after much effort by our saint to have


a change of heart. He finally threatened her by merely saying God would

punish her. In a few days she became suddenly ill, no priest could be found

to attend to her and in a few minutes she was one of the most hideous and

deformed corpse that the neighbor ever laid eyes upon.


A few examples of great miracles that St. Paul worked throughout his

priestly life need to be mentioned. He had the gift of perceiving a stench

from souls infested with the sin of impurity and would often walk up to a

friend and say; “Brother you have committed such a sin; go to Confession at

once.” Certain individuals, who were not present at his sermons, heard him

distinctly even though they were a mile or more away. He restored life to a

child who had died falling out of a window. St. Paul often had visions of

souls in Purgatory. A priest friend of his had some small failings which


St. Paul tried to correct without success. After his death, the priest

appeared to him the night he died and told him that he was condemned to

Purgatory for the faults that St. Paul had tried to correct. “Oh, how I

suffer,” said the priest, “it seems a thousand years since I passed from

this temporal existence,” though he had been dead only fifteen minutes. The

power that Our Dear Savior gave St. Paul to convert hardened sinners was

tremendous. In a mission he was giving, the captain of a band of smugglers,


armed to the teeth, came with his gang of ruffians to hear the saint. It

was enough; he threw aside his arms, and himself and all of his followers

became so penitent that they were the edification of the town. The leader

led the life of a saint for fifteen years and then died in peace with God

and man and fortified by all of the rites of the Church.


In Gaeta, the mother of the local archbishop had the privilege of a talk

with St. Paul. He told her at parting to prepare herself, for that on the

next feast of St. Joseph, she would die. Her death came about just as our

saint had predicted.


The effectiveness of St. Paul’s preaching was tremendous. Don G. Paci, a

Canon of the Church, was asked by our saint to hold the cross on the

platform on which he was speaking. The Canon gave testimony that he heard a

voice as of a prompter and he observed that every word Fr. Paul spoke, he

had heard already. The Canon concluded that the voice was supernatural as


there was no other explanation of where it came from. Divine it must have

been, for no human words could produce such effects. There was not one

present who did not weep abundantly. The words of the missionary would have

softened the heart of a flint.


In Arlena, a poor woman was very deaf and wished to hear the mission

sermons. In following the saint one night, she applied his habit to her ear

and recovered her hearing perfectly. In another miracle, he cured a

malignant cancer by making the Sign of the Cross upon it with the oil of

the lamp before the Blessed Sacrament. In a year of great scarcity of corn,


a charitable lady, who every year supported many poor, told St. Paul that

she must omit her charity this year because her granary was almost empty.

Our saint told her: “Give the usual alms and even more and God will

multiply your store.” She obeyed him strictly. With only 30 quarts of grain

at the time of his visit, they used it themselves and gave larger alms and

at the end of several months, found exactly the quantity of grain they had

in the beginning.


Once he passed by a plowman who was cursing and swearing at a yoke of oxen

which were not sufficiently obedient to his wishes. The saint reproved him

and said that cursing could not improve either man or beast. The man was

not in the humor for being preached to at the time, so he took up a gun

which lay beside him and pointed it at him. The saint raised his Crucifix

and said, “Since you will not obey the voice of God, nor respect His Image,

let us see if these poor beasts will not.” The oxen fell on their knees

immediately, with such an effect that the blasphemer dropped his gun and

reformed his evil habits.


There is no doubt of St. Paul’s being always spotless in purity. His maxims

on the point of treating with the opposite sex deserves attention. “As long

as our bones are covered with skin, there is reason to be afraid.” He

states that many persons, advanced in years, even though meritorious in

most walks of life, have fallen into sins for want of caution. Beautiful

and practical were the rules laid down for the custody of this virtue. His

advise to priests and religious was: Let your conversation  with ladies be


brief and stiff. One fruit seen everywhere the saint had been was that his

penitents could be distinguished from their companions by their modesty in

dress and deportment. He performed miracles more than once to save female

modesty from the surgeon’s knife and many were deprived of his friendship

because they would not come up to his standards of decorum.

At a mission given in Orbetello, our saint preached strongly against the

immodest dress that even occurred in the church. His sermons had great

effect with the exception of a French woman who resented his restrictions

on her vanity so that she resolved to defy the saint. She planted herself


church under the missionary’s eyes. The saint said not a word. He gave one

reproving look at her and in a moment her face, hands and arms became as

black as charcoal. All were horrified. Grace did its work, she repented. By

the prayers of the saint, in a few days she recovered her former color

but such was the effect of the incident, that about 40 of the most


respectable ladies in the town dressed henceforward almost in the garb of

as many (traditional) nuns.


On his missions he preached with great force and caution upon impurity. He

gave practical lectures for raising children to have a love and admiration

for chastity imprinted on their minds while they were still tender and

capable of receiving good impressions. He strove to abolish the destructive

practice of company-keeping and he inveighed against the evil of scandalous

tongues of older people, who by obscene language or impure jokes, kill

daily innumerable souls.


The Hand of God was always with him and demonstrated to his own age and to

all succeeding ones how acceptable in His sight was a soul which loved Him

so much and suffered so much for the glory of His Holy Name. St. Paul died

on the 18th of October, 1775, at the age of 81 years. His life teaches us

how to live and his death animates us to a holy death. The body, after


death, was found to be as flexible as when he was alive; a fragrant odor

emitted from it and the Sacred Name of Jesus was found engraved over his



This article was taken from the book on St. Paul of the Cross by Rev. Fr.

Pius A Sp. Sancto, a Passionist, published in 1867.


(Available on our website at–


Sincerely in Christ,


Our Lady of the Rosary Library


“Pray and work for souls.”


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