The symbol of the Passionists at the order’s motherhouse in Rome. Credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew OP.
Pope Francis urged members of the Passionist order Thursday to deepen their commitment to “the crucified of our age” as they mark the 300th anniversary of their founding.
In a message to Fr. Joachim Rego, superior general of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, the pope challenged the order to focus on helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed.
“Do not tire of accentuating your commitment to the needs of humanity,” the pope said in the message issued yesterday. “This missionary calling is directed above all towards the crucified of our age — the poor, the weak, the oppressed and those discarded by many forms of injustice.”
The pope sent the message, dated 15 October, as the Passionists prepared to launch a Jubilee year celebrating the foundation of the order by St. Paul of the Cross in Italy in 1720.
The Jubilee year, whose theme is “Renewing our mission: gratitude prophecy, and hope,” will begin on Sunday 22 November, and end on 1 January 2022.
The pope said that the order’s mission could only be strengthened by an “inner renewal” among the Passionists’ over 2,000 members, present in more than 60 countries.
“The implementation of this task will require a sincere effort of inner renewal on your part, which derives from your personal relationship with the Crucified-Risen One,” he said. “Only those crucified by love, as Jesus was on the cross, are able to help the crucified of history with effective words and actions.”
“In fact, it is not possible to convince others of God’s love only through a verbal and informative proclamation. Concrete gestures are needed to make us experience this love in our own love that is offered by sharing the situations of the crucified, even totally spending one’s life, while remaining aware that between the proclamation and its acceptance in faith there is the action of the Holy Spirit.”
At 10.30 a.m. local time on 22 November, the Passionist Jubilee will begin with the opening of the Holy Door in the Basilica of Sts. John and Paul in Rome, followed by an inaugural Mass. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will be the principal concelebrant and the event will be livestreamed.
The Jubilee year will include an international congress, on “The wisdom of the cross in a pluralistic world,” at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome on 21-24 September 2021.
There will also be a number of opportunities to gain indulgences throughout the year, including by visiting the founder’s birthplace of Ovada in the northern Italian region of Piedmont.
The Passionists trace their origins back to 22 November 1720, the day that Paul Danei received the habit of a hermit and began a 40-day retreat in a small cell in the Church of San Carlo in Castellazzo. During the retreat, he wrote the Rule of “The Poor of Jesus,” which laid the foundations of the future Congregation of the Passion.
Danei took the religious name Paul of the Cross and built up the order that would come to be known as the Passionists because of their commitment to preaching the Passion of Jesus Christ. He died in 1775 and was canonized in 1867 by Pope Pius IX.
Passionists wear a black habit with the distinctive emblem over their hearts. The Passion Sign, as it is known, consists of a heart with the words “Jesu XPI Passio” (the Passion of Jesus Christ) written inside. There are three crossed nails beneath these words and a large white cross at the top of the heart.
In his message to Passionists, the pope quoted from his 2013 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium.”
“This significant centennial anniversary represents a providential opportunity to move towards new apostolic goals, without giving in to the temptation to ‘leave things as they are,’” he wrote.
“Contact with the Word of God in prayer and reading the signs of the times in daily events will enable you to perceive the creative presence of the Spirit whose outpouring over time, points out the answers to humanity’s expectations. No one can escape the fact that today we live in a world where nothing is the same as before.”
He continued: “Humanity is in a spiral of changes that call into question not only the value of the cultural currents that have enriched it so far, but also the intimate constitution of its being. Nature and the cosmos, subject to pain and decay due to human manipulation, take on worrying degenerative traits. You too are asked to identify new lifestyles and new forms of language in order to proclaim the love of the Crucified One, thus giving witness to the heart of your identity.”