By Devin Watkins
The Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, commonly known as the Passionists, was founded in Italy by Saint Paul of the Cross on 21 November 1720.
As the religious order celebrates its third centenary, Pope Francis wrote a message on Thursday to the Superior General, Fr. Joachim Rego, C.P.
New apostolic goals
Reflecting on their charism of living and proclaiming the memory of Christ’s Passion, the Pope urged the Passionists to adapt their mission “towards new apostolic goals”.
He said humanity is experiencing a “spiral of changes” that call into question the “intimate constitution of its being.”
“You too,” he said, “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.”
Gratitude and the future
Pope Francis encouraged the Passionists to implement the commitment they made at their recent General Chapter to renew their mission on the basis of “gratitude, prophecy, and hope.”
Gratitude, said the Pope, “is the experience of remembering the past within the context of the Magnificat and walking toward the future with a Eucharistic attitude.”
The Passionists, he added, can find happiness and fulfillment in contemplating and proclaiming Christ’s outpouring of love on the Cross.
Prophecy adapted to the present
The Pope said the dimension of prophecy means “thinking and speaking in the Spirit.”
“This is possible,” he noted, “for those who experience prayer as the life breath of their soul and can grasp the movements of the Spirit in the depths of their hearts and in all of creation.”
Living in this way, he added, ensures that the word they proclaim “is always adapted to the needs of the present moment.”
Hope in the Spirit
Pope Francis said the virtue of hope allows Passionists to perceive the “on-going generating action of the Spirit” in their religious and parish communities, despite the fact that their numbers are on the wane.
“Hope means rejoicing in what exists, instead of complaining about what is missing,” he said.
Needs of humanity
Recalling their founder, St. Paul of the Cross, Pope Francis encouraged the Passionists to “set the world on fire” through their ministry.
He said they should never tire in their commitment to the needs of humanity.
“This missionary calling,” he noted, “is directed above all towards the crucified of our age – the poor, the weak, the oppressed and those discarded by many forms of injustice.”
Discovering how best to carry out this mission, said the Pope, will require “a sincere effort of inner renewal on your part”, which grows out of their relationship with the Lord.
Word and deed
Pope Francis concluded his message urging the Passionists to back up their verbal proclamation of Christ’s Passion with concrete gestures of love.
“Only those crucified by love, as Jesus was on the Cross, are able to help the crucified of history with effective words and actions.”