St. Paul of the Cross (Priest and Founder) was born in 1694 to a large middle-class family which was very devout. He was the second of their sixteen children and worked for a time to help support his younger brothers and sisters. He joined the army of Venice at age twenty.
In 1720, Paul entered the seminary, convinced due to a spiritual experience that God desired him to found a missionary order that would focus on the Passion and Cross of Christ. Paul and one of his brothers received the sacrament of Holy Orders in Rome in 1727; they then established the Passionist Order.
As founder of the Passionist Order, Paul had a difficult first ten years. But his fervent preaching attracted others, and gradually the order grew.
In order to bring inactive Catholics to a deeper commitment to Christ, Paul developed the concept of parish missions, which involved public processions, street preaching, vigils, and penitential works.
Known as a mystic, Paul's powerful sermons moved even the hardest hearts. One soldier told him, "Father, I have been in great battles without even flinching at the cannon's roar, but when I listen to you I tremble from head to foot." He preached with arms outstretched and a crucifix held in his hand.
Though Paul's preaching was often challenging, he dealt in a gentle manner with penitents in the confessional, urging them to bear their crosses in life in whatever way possible. St. Paul died in Rome in 1775.