Feast of St Paul of the Cross by Fr Brian Gleeson CP Melbourne Australia


Founder of the Passionists and Inspirer of the Passionist Family.


By Brian Gleeson CP

Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870) once wrote this now famous verse: ‘Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in our own.’ As far as they go, they are wise words and good words. But in answer to the question, ‘Where do you get kindness, and where do you get courage?’ they tell us nothing.

St Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists, both vowed and lay, also put a high value on those two human qualities. But he was very clear and definite on where to find and how to develop them. He kept stressing that the way to both kindness and courage is to remember with love and gratitude the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. Loving reflection on the different scenes of the Passion, he insisted, is both a revelation of the goodness of God and a school of virtue. It’s there that Jesus our Teacher shows us how to react and respond to every life situation – with dignity, patience, courage, kindness, generosity and forgiveness. No wonder then that the Holy Founder of the Passionists kept saying over and over again: ‘the Passion of Jesus is the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love’! (Passionist Constitutions Ch1, #1)

But if the Passion of Jesus is a story of God’s unlimited love at work, on the part of those who crucified him it is also a story of love refused, of love denied, of love betrayed. So, it is a story of evil too. The evil of human coldness and callousness, indifference and cowardice, pride and envy, malice and hostility, viciousness and cruelty!

But, thanks be to God, that’s not all there is! The passion story is the story of the light shining in the darkness, of goodness triumphing over evil, of love defeating hatred, and of resurrection trumping death and destruction. No wonder, then, that the writer of our fourth gospel can proclaim with such conviction: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes 2 in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (Jn 3:16)!

Jesus died with nothing but love and generosity, compassion and forgiveness in his heart. How he died was, in fact, the summary and climax of how he lived. How he died was the completion and fulfilment of his mission to love, his mission not only to keep telling people that God is love, but also to show people in dozens of different ways, just how real and warm, how strong and constant, how kind and caring, how understanding and forgiving, how patient and enduring, is God’s love for them! He demonstrated this in his powerful preaching and teaching. He showed it too in his remarkable healings, which were much more than practical help. They showed what goes on in the mind and heart of God, of what God thinks of his suffering people, of how God ‘feels’ for them, and of how God shares in their hopes and struggles, doubts and fears, sorrows and joys.

Yet those evil men that killed Jesus could not bring themselves to accept the kind of God that Jesus was representing and proclaiming – a God who loves ordinary people, who loves the little ones, and who welcomes sinners to his table and eats with them. A God of the ‘lost’! A God of aliens and outsiders! A God of the grief-stricken and broken-hearted! A God, in fact, with love for all!

The passion story is definitely then a story of the enduring love of Jesus – dying for what he believed in, dying for what he lived for, dying as he had lived, dying with words of love and forgiveness and compassion in his heart and on his lips. So, John does not hesitate to comment with a sense of triumph: ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:17).

Today the triumph of Jesus of goodness over evil, continues in you and me – continues in who we are, what we say, and what we do. Accordingly, as expressed so powerfully in the Passionist rule of life:

We are aware that the Passion of Christ continues in the world until he comes again in glory; therefore, we share in the joys and sorrows of our contemporaries, as we journey through life towards our Father. We wish to share in the distress of all, especially those who are poor and neglected, we seek to offer them comfort and to relieve the burden of their sorrow. Ch. 1, #3

The power of the Cross, which is the wisdom of God, gives us strength to discern and remove the causes of human suffering. Ch. 1, #3 3

So, brothers and sisters, on this Feast of our Founder and Hero, St Paul of the Cross, let us renew our dedication to showing and telling with all our might, in word and deed, that stunning and challenging good news, the best news ever told, of God’s overwhelming love -shown in the living, suffering, dying and rising of Jesus Christ, who remains forever our loving Saviour and our strongest Hope!


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