Our Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection is the central event in human history - and St. Paul of the Cross was devoted to Our Lord's Passion for nearly his whole life.

Paul Francis Danei was born in the Republic of Genoa in Italy on January 3, 1694, and spent his first 20 years in great innocence, piety and austerity.

Paul joined the Venetian army in 1714 to fight the Turks, returning home a year later unsullied by war. He refused marriage and spent the next several years at home in Castellazzo on an extended retreat. The Mother of God was the woman in his life; he was as devoted to her as to her Son's Passion. In 1720 he saw her wearing a black habit with her Son's name and a white cross on the chest. She told him to found a religious order devoted to preaching her Son's Passion. Paul began work at once - by sharing in that Passion to the last moment of his life.

Bishop Gastinara of Alessandria was Paul's spiritual director, and he decided Paul's message came from Heaven. On November 22, 1720 the bishop vested Paul with the habit Paul saw the Mother of God wearing - a habit still worn by Passionist fathers today.

In 1721 Paul wrote his new congregation's basic rule during a 40-day retreat. Then he went to Rome for approval with his brother and closest confidant, John Baptist Danei.

The Holy See did not grant final approval until 1769. Paul, the soldier and man of action, must surely have learned the patience of Christ Crucified in those 48 years! Still, he and John went into action. Paul ordained the first novices of the "Barefoot Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion" as early as 1727 - though many were lost at first, because the rule was so austere. But he persevered. Paul followed his usual procedure - intense prayer, followed by great action.

Perhaps at this time, Paul began to pray most intensely for the conversion of sinners. Then he put prayer into action for the next 50 years by preaching the horror of sin - and the incomparable majesty, glory and sweetness of Divine Mercy. He preached to huge crowds throughout the Papal States of central Italy. Eventually he became the most famous preacher in Italy.

Sometimes he even scourged himself in public. People fought to touch him at these tumultuous events, to tear off a piece of his tunic as a relic. Christ Himself allowed something very, very similar in His own life for the redemption of all humanity. And Paul was devoted to Christ's Passion.

Like the Lord Himself, throughout his public life, Paul helped the most hardened sinners and criminals trust in Divine Mercy and reform their lives.

St. Paul of the Cross died in Rome at age 81 on October 18, 1775 - an exact contemporary of St. Alphonsus Liguori - and Pope Pius IX canonized him in 1867. St. Paul's feast is April 28.