Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland – Passionists

Passionist FatherArticle

Mixed, Under Simple Vows. Founded 1720. Motto: Jesu Christi passio sit semper in cordibus nostris.

The Passionists, or “Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord,” were founded by Saint Paul of the Cross, who first put on the habit of the Congregation in 1720. His name was Paul Francis Danei. He was bom at Ovada, in Piedmont, in 1694, and from his earliest youth had a great devotion to Our Blessed Lady. He grew up in innocence and holiness, practising mortification, and exercising himself in frequent contemplation of the Passion of Our Blessed Lord, and longing to work and suffer for the Faith. At first he wished to fight against the Turks, but, recognising that God had other work for him to do, he gave this up, and, with some companions, retreated to Monte Argentaro, near Orbitello, where subsequently the first monastery of the Congregation was built.

At Castelazzo, an important town in the Diocese of Alessandria dell Paglia, to which his parents had removed in Paul’s childhood, God revealed to him in a vision the rule, and Our Lady showed him the habit of a new Order which He desired him to found. He wrote the rule, sometimes pausing and waiting as if for inspiration, and then writing very fast. After careful examination the Bishop clothed him with the habit Our Lady had shown the Saint in 1720, and Paul then began to preach repentance, to hold spiritual conferences, and to nurse the sick.

In 1727 he was ordained priest, and from that time preached repentance more zealously than ever. He had the gift of prophecy, and his work was supported by miracles, so that he made numerous conversions among heretics and hardened sinners. Ten years later the first monastery at Monte Argentaro was founded, and the future Saint from that time called himself Paul of the Cross, and the Constitutions he had drawn up ten years earlier at length received the Papal approbation, which had been at first withheld, from Pope Benedict XIV, in 1741. The rule consisted of forty chapters, one of which ordered that if it became necessary to modify it this was to be done with the approbation of the Holy See. It was considerably mitigated before it received the final confirmation, in 1769, from Pope Clement XIV, and it has since been modified still further to prevent the Congregation from dying out in modern times, but it is still very austere.

Clement XIV gave the Congregation the church and monastery of Saints John and Paul, on the Caelian Hill at Rome, which became the mother- house and seat of the General of the Order, and remained so till the present day; and later the care of the Sancta Scala was given to the Pas- sionist Fathers by Pope Pius IX, and they still have charge of it. It was at this monastery on the Caelian Hill that the Saint lived, and here he died in 1775. He was canonized in 1867 by Pius IX.

The Congregation spread fast after the holy founder’s death, and now has eight provinces, besides two missions in Wallachia and Bulgaria, where, seven years after the death of Saint Paul of the Cross, his sons went as missioners, and from 1782 to 1834 flourished exceedingly in both these countries. At the present day there are still Passionist missioners in these provinces, and one Passionist Bishop in Bulgaria.

The great wish of Saint Paul’s life, however, was the conversion of England. For this he passion- ately longed and prayed; but it was not till 1842 that his sons were able to establish themselves in this country, where they now have eight houses.

Of the nine existing provinces, four are in Italy, one in Spain, one in France and Belgium, one in the United States of America, one in England and Ireland, and one in the Argentine Republic. The Congregation first was introduced to America in 1852 at Pittsburg, U.S.A. There are, besides these provinces, single houses in Valparaiso, Chili, in Mexico, and also in Australia, in which latter place three retreats are well established.

The Congregation is governed by a General, who is elected by the General Chapter every six years; the Provincial of each province is elected by the Provincial Chapter every three years. The Superior of each house is called the Rector, and is elected for three years, and can be re-elected once. The rule is a severe one. Originally meat was forbidden, but it is now allowed four times a week, except during Advent and Lent, as the Congregation was dying out. The religious take the usual three (simple) vows, to which they add a fourth – to contemplate constantly and promote devotion to the Passion of Our Blessed Lord; hence their name of Passionists. The Fathers keep this fourth vow by preaching and by means of the confessional; the Brothers are bound to say five Paternosters and five Ave Marias daily for this intention, by which means they fulfil this fourth vow.

The work of the Congregation is principally giving missions and retreats, and labouring for the conversion of sinners by preaching the Passion of Christ.

The habit is black; on it is worn the Passionist badge, worked in white on a black ground. The Fathers wear a badge on the breast of the habit and another on the mantle; the lay- Brothers wear it on the habit only. Only sandals are worn on the feet.

The novitiate lasts a year and a day.

All the community rise for matins and lauds at two, and go back to bed at half-past three till six; while the Fathers say the Divine Office the Brothers say other prayers.

The Congregation of Passionist Nuns was founded by Saint Paul of the Cross, in the city of Corneto, towards the end of his life.

Father Dominic of the Mother of God, who reconciled Cardinal Newman to the Church, introduced the Passionists into England, and founded the first house of the Congregation here in 1842. He was buried at Sutton, near Saint Helens, and after fifty years his body was found to be incorrupt. The celebrated Passionist Father Ignatius Spencer, who founded or assisted in founding, the Congregation of Passionist Sisters in England, is also buried there.

The cause of Brother Gabriel, the Passionist Aloysius, is now before the Holy See. He was a student only when he died, in the odour of sanctity, in 1862, at the age of twenty-four. He was born at Assisi; he had a special devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows and the Passion of Our Blessed Lord.

The Passionists have five houses in England: at Highgate; Broadway; Harborne, near Birmingham; Sutton, near Saint Helens; Herne Bay; one at Carmarthen, in Wales; one in Scotland, at Glasgow; and two in Ireland, at Dublin and Belfast. The house and Church of Saint Joseph, in Paris, belongs to the English province. The novitiate is at Broadway, in Worcestershire.

In connection with this province a Retreat of the Congregation was founded at Sydney, N.S.W., in 1887, at the invitation of the present Archbishop, Cardinal Moran. Now there are three flourishing Retreats well established in Australia: one at Marrickville, Sydney; one at Goulbom; and one at Adelaide, all belonging to the Anglo-Hibernian province of Passionists.

The novitiate house for the United States is at Pittsburg; there are houses of the Congregation also at Dunkirk, New York; West Hoboken, New Jersey; Baltimore, Marylandd; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; besides these, there are houses in Mexico and Buenos Ayres, and two in Valparaiso, Chili.

MLA Citation

  • Francesca M Steele. “Passionists”. Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland, 1903. CatholicSaints.Info. 1 December 2018. Web. 15 December 2018. <>