1. Passionist Saints

For the Saints and Beati connected to St. Gabriel please see that page.

For Blessed Dominic Barberi and Fr. Ignatius Spencer please go here.

St. Paul & St. Gabriel

St. Paul & St. Gabriel

Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist Congregation, was born on January 3rd 1694. He was the son of a wealthy merchant family, and experienced a conversion to a life of prayer at the age of 19, after a very normal and pious life. When he was 26 years old, Paul of the Cross had a series of prayer-experiences which made it clear to him that God was inviting him to form a community who would live an evangelical life and promote the love of God revealed in the Passion of Jesus. In a vision, he saw himself clothed in the habit he and his companions would wear: a long, black tunic on the front of which was a heart surmounted by a white cross, and in the heart was written “the Passion of Jesus Christ”. On seeing it, he heard these words spoken to him: “This is to show how pure the heart must be that bears the holy name of Jesus graven upon it”. The first name Paul received for his community was “the Poor of Jesus”; later they came to be known as the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or the Passionists. With the encouragement of his bishop, who clothed him in the black habit of a hermit, Paul wrote the rule of his new community (of which he was, as yet, the only member) during a retreat of forty days at the end of 1720. The community was to live a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. His first companion was his own brother, John Baptist, who was ordained to the priesthood with Paul by Pope Benedict XIII on 7 June 1727, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. After ordination they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were not a sufficient number of priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow. The austerity of life practised by the first Passionists did not encourage large numbers, but Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. The first Retreat (the name Passionists traditionally gave to their monasteries) was opened in 1737 on Monte Argentario (Province of Grosseto); the community now had nine members. Paul called his monasteries “retreats” to underline the life of solitude and contemplation which he believed was necessary for someone who wished to preach the message of the Cross. In addition to the communal celebration of the divine office, members of his community were to devote at least three hours to contemplative prayer each day. He died on 18 October 18 1775, at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul (SS. Giovanni e Paolo). By the time of his death, the congregation founded by Saint Paul of the Cross had one hundred and eighty fathers and brothers, living in twelve Retreats, mostly in the Papal States. There was also a monastery of contemplative sisters in Corneto (today known as Tarquinia), founded by Paul a few years before his death to promote the memory of the Passion of Jesus by their life of prayer and penance. Saint Paul of the Cross was beatified on 1 October 1852, and canonized on 29 June 1867 by Blessed Pius IX.

Saint Vincent Strambi was born on January 1 1745, His father was a pharmacist known for his charitable works and his mother was noted for her sanctity. Vincent was a troublesome child who excelled in athletics and who, in his teenage years, became more devout. Educated by the Friars Minor he taught his fellow students the Catechism. Despite initial resistance from his parents, Vincent entered the seminary and began his studies for the priesthood in November 1762. At seminary he became attracted to the religious life but because of his frailty he was refused admission to both the Capuchins and the Vincentians. Noted for his oratorical gifts he was sent to Rome to study Sacred Eloquence and thereafter continued his theological studies with the Dominicans at Viterbo. Whilst still a student he was appointed Prefect of the seminary at Montefiascone and thereafter acting-Rector of the seminary at Bagnorea. Before his ordination Vincent made a retreat at the monastery of Vetralla. The monastery belonged to the Passionist Congregation and it was here that Vincent met the Congregation’s founder Saint Paul of the Cross. Impressed by the devotion of the Passionists he asked Paul to be admitted to the Order. Feeling that Vincent did not have the stamina for Passionist life, Paul refused him. Vincent was ordained priest in December 1767 and then returned to Rome to further his theological studies. He still felt called to the Passionist Congregation and made several trips to see Paul to beg to be admitted into the Congregation. In September 1768 Paul finally agreed and Vincent became a novice, taking the name Vincent Mary of St. Paul. In 1773 Vincent was appointed Professor of Theology at the Passionist house in Rome, SS John and Paul, and it was here that he was present at the death of Paul. Thereafter Vincent was appointed to several high offices in the Congregation, serving as Rector of the Roman house and Provincial of the Roman Province. After the death of Pope Pius VI Vincent was nominated for the Papacy by his friend Cardinal Antonelli and even received a number of votes. In July 1801 Vincent was appointed Bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, becoming the first bishop coming from the Passionist order. During a seige by the French Vicencent saved his town from ruin. In 1823 Pope Leo XII gave him permission to retire. He was then appointed the Pope’s personal advisor and took up residence at the Quirinal Palace. When the pope fell ill Vincent asked God that his life should be taken rather than that of the Pope. The Pope recovered and Vincent died a few days later on his 79th birthday, January 1 1824. Vincent was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1950. 

Saint Charles of Mount Argus was born Joannes Andreas Houben on the 11 December 1821 in the village of Munstergeleen in the south of the Netherlands. He joined the Passionists in 1845 at Ere in Belgium. Ordained in 1850, he was sent to England in 1852 and was never to see the nation of his birth again. In 1857 he was sent to the newly founded Mount Argus monastery in Dublin where he became popular confessor and was renowned as healer. He lived almost the remainder of his life in this retreat and was greatly loved by the Irish people to point that they referred to him, ­ a native of the Netherlands,­ as Father Charles of Mount Argus. He was a particularly pious priest. He was outstanding in exercising obedience, in the practice of poverty, humility and simplicity and to an even greater degree, to devotion to the Passion of the Lord. He spent most of the rest of his life at Mount Argus where he died on the 5th January 1893. The cause of his Beatification and Canonization was introduced on 13 November 1935, and on 16 October 1988, His Holiness John Paul II proceeded with the beatification of the one whom everyone called the saint of Mount Argus. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2007. 

Blessed Lorenzo Salvi was born at Rome on October 30, 1782. He studied for the priesthood at Jesuit-run the Collegio Romano in Rome; his classmates included the future Pope Gregory XVI. He was greatly impressed by the preaching and zeal of Saint Vincent Strambi and soon followed him into the Passionist Congregation. He became a novice at Monte Argentario in 1801, the first monastery of the Passionists. He received the religious name Lorenzo Maria of Saint Francis Xavier and professed his vows on 20 November 1802, being ordained priest on 29 December 1805. The anti-clerical laws of Napoleon saw the Passionist house suppressed and its members dispersed. When at last Lorenzo was able to return to Passionist life he preached missions and encouraged devotion to the Passion of Christ, these two things are the hallmarks of the Passionist life. He was devoted to the Infant Jesus and often wrote about and preached on the wonders of the Incarnation, ever since he has been depicted in religious art with a picture of the Child Jesus. He was made Rector of the Passionist mother house in Rome, SS John and Paul, but spent much of his time preaching missions, his Vice-Rector was Blessed Dominic Barberi. He died at Capranica, Viterbo, Italy of natural causes. Lorenzo Maria of St. Francis Xavier was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 1989.

Blessed Pio Campidelli was born to a family of impoverished farmers on April 29 1868. He was the fourth child born to Giuseppe and Filomena. Giuseppe caught typhoid in 1874 and died, leaving the family destitute. An uncle came to their aid, but his lax morality was a trial for the devout family. In his schooling Luigi was an admirable and in his teens he became more active in the life of his parish. He was known throughout the neighbourhood as a good child and soon he felt a call to the priesthood. He was especially loyal to the Pope at a time when his native province of Romagna was torn between Catholics and atheistic secularists. He encountered Passionist priests at the age of 12 and immediately wanted to join them. From this time on he was a frequent visitor to the Passionist house at Casale. He was invited to join the novitiate and on May 27th 1883 he was clothed in the Passionist habit and received the religious name Pius of Saint Aloysius. The novitiate was temporarily transferred to Viterbo, the city in which fellow Passionist Blessed Dominic Barberi was born. Pius continued his theological and philosophical studies and on April 30 1884 took his vows. He received Minor Orders but was struck down with tuberculosis before he could be ordained priest. He died on November 2 1889, offering his life for his troubled home region of Romagna. Pius of Saint Aloysius was solemnly beatified by Pope John Paul on November 17 1985. 

Blessed Grimoaldo Santamaria was born to Peter Paul and Cecilia Santamaria on May 4 1883 and baptised Ferdinando the following day, his parents ran a small rope-making business. They were a devoutly Christian couple and in an extra-ordinary occasion Grimoaldo received the sacrament of Confirmation at the unusually young age of five months. An altar server from a young age, Ferdinando was also a member of the church choir and the Solidality of the Immaculate Conception. A neighbour testified that on one occasion he saw Ferdinando lifted from the floor whilst in prayer. In 1850 members of the Passionist Congregation took possession of a monastery in the locality and Ferdinando soon became familiar with them, copying their lives of penance. His father encouraged him to continue working in the family business, but Ferdinando had become convinced that he wanted to join the Passionists. He was not yet 16 and his age prevented him from entering the monastery, whilst waiting until he was the required age Ferdinando took up lessons in Latin. He entered the novitiate of the Passionists on March 5 1899 at the monastery of St. Mary of Pugliano taking the religious name Grimoaldo of the Purification. Grimoaldo was especially keen to model his life on Saint Gabriel. He made his vows as a Passionist religious on March 6 1900. Grimoaldo began his studies for the priesthood at Ceccano where he found difficulty in adopting a scholastic discipline; a difficulty soon overcome. Amongst the Passionists he was known for his great holiness and charity. In November 1902 he was diagnosed with acute meningitis and after many trials and temptations he died on November 18 1902. On his deathbed he prophesised the date of his own death and that of a Cardinal; ”His Divine Majesty is here, he has come for me today, and I, together with him, must go to Rome for Cardinal Aloisi-Masella. I must be his companion in death.” The Cardinal died four days later. In 1957 his cause for beatification was opened. His body was buried in the monastery chapel in October 1972. Grimoaldo was solemnly beatified by Pope John Paul II on January 29th, 1995. 

Blessed Isidore de Loor was born on April 13, 1881, in the small town of Vrasene, located in the diocese of Gent-Gand, in Eastern Flanders. His parents, Aloysius and Camilla had been married for two years when Isidore was born and they were a deeply Christian couple. Isidore’s education came to an end when he was aged 12 and from then on he joined his father in working on the family’s farm. He grew up to be a devout and hard-working young man and often thought of following a vocation to the religious life. At a mission given by the Redemptorist Fathers he discussed the matter of his vocation with a priest who advised him to join the Passionists. On April 15 1907 he set off for the Passionist monastery at Ere (which had been founded by Blessed Dominic Barberi). Here the French language was spoken and the Flemish-speaking Isidore found it very difficult to navigate his way to the monastery. Initially shy, Isidore quickly put himself to work and greatly impressed the superiors with his determination. On the feast of the Birthday of the Virgin Mary he was vested as a Passionist lay brother and received the religious name Isidore of Saint Joseph. A year’s novitiate followed during which Isidore became an example to his fellow novices who were impressed by his charity and joyful disposition. On September 13, 1908 he professed his vows as a Passionist. After his profession Brother Isidore was transferred to the Passionist monastery of Kortrijk where he was employed as gardener and cook. Despite suffering with a painful tumour in his eye Isidore was reluctant to complain about it, cancer was diagnosed and his right eye was removed. The cancer had spread throughout his body however and Isidore was given only a few years left to live. He then served as porter of the monastery thereafter. As World War I took its toll on Belgium more and more visitors prevailed upon the monastery for help, help Brother Isidore was only too willing to offer. In late summer 1916 his health worsened and finally, having asked the permission of his superior to die, he died of cancer and pleurisy on October 6, 1916. He was only thirty-five years of age, and had lived as a religious for only nine years. Pope John Paul II declared him blessed on September 30, 1984. 

Blessed Eugene Bossilkov Born to a family of Bulgarian Latin Rite Catholics on November 16th 1900, Vincent Bossilkov entered the Passionist Congregation at the age of 14. The Passionists are an Italian religious order founded by Saint Paul of the Cross in the eighteenth century and present in Bulgaria since 1781. Vincent studied in the various Passionist houses in Holland and Belgium and took the religious name Eugene. He professed his vows in 1920 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1926. He had returned to Bulgaria in 1924 and from then had pursued his theological studies further. In 1927 he went to Rome to take his doctorate at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, where he wrote his thesis on the subject of the Union of Bulgarians with the Holy See during the early 13th century. On his return to Bulgaria he served in various Diocesan offices, but he preferred actively working with the laity. He took up a post as parish priest in the Danube valley. Here his reputation for scholarship grew and he was noted for his work with the youth of the parish. In the wake of World War II the Kingdom of Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviet Union and a new Communist government was installed by Joseph Stalin. The new regime began to enacts laws which were aimed at the destruction of religion. In the midst of all this, Eugene was appointed Bishop of Nicopolis in 1947. From 1949 the attitude of the State to religious orders worsened. In the same year the Apostolic Delegate was deported, Church property was seized and religious congregations suppressed. In 1952 the mass arrests of Church dignitaries began. On July 16, Bishop Eugene was seized in Sophia. Bishop Eugene faced both physical and mental torture in prison where he was asked to confess to being the leader of a Catholic conspiracy aiming to subvert Communism. At a political show trial, two guns supposedly seized from the Catholic college in Sophia were presented as evidence. In fact the pistols were part of a museum exhibit. Bishop Eugene was found guilty and the official sentence against him read; “By virtue of articles 70 and 83 of the penal code, the Court condemns the accused, Eugene Bossilkov, to be sentenced to death by firing squad, and all his goods confiscated… Dr.Eugene Bossilkov, Catholic bishop; completed his religious studies in Italy and was trained by the Vatican for counter-revolutionary activities and espionage. He is one of the directors of a clandestine Catholic organization. He was in touch with diplomats from the imperialist countries and gave them information of a confidential nature. The accused convoked a diocesan council in which it was decided to combat Communism through religious conferences, held in Bulgaria, activities called ‘ a mission.’ No appeal of his sentence is possible.” Eugene was executed by firing squad in the grounds of the Prison on the night of November 11 at 11:30 pm. His body was thrown into a mass grave and has never been recovered. Pope Pius XII had mentioned Bishop Bossilkov in his encyclical letter “Orientales Ecclesias” to the Oriental Churches in 1952. On March 15, 1998 Pope John Paul II declared Bishop Eugene ‘Blessed’. 

The Passionist Martyrs of Daimiel were a group of priests and brothers of the Passionist Congregation killed by anti-clericalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 1 1989. At 11:30pm on the night of 21 July 1936 a group of armed men arrived at the Passionist monastery of Santo Cristo de la Luz in Daimiel, Spain. The members of the community were gathered for prayer when the superior of the community, Father Niceforo of Jesus, upon hearing the armed men exclaimed “Gethsemane – this is our Gethsemane. Our spirit is deeply distressed as it contemplates the daunting perspective of Calvary, as was that of Jesus, and so too our human nature, in its weakness, trembles, becomes cowardly… But Jesus is with us. I am going to give you He who is the strength of the weak.. Jesus was comforted by an angel; it is Jesus himself who comforts and sustains us… Within a few moments we will be with Christ… Citizens of Calvary, take heart! Let us die with Christ! It is my duty to encourage you and I myself am encouraged by your example.” Father Nicefore then gave the community absolution and Holy Communion. The Passionists were ordered out of the church and led to the local cemetery under armed guard. One of the five survivors later remarked ; “Our imagination ran wild as we saw the already dug graves. Would they bury us alive…or dead? The thought of death frightened us, but the idea of being buried alive was even more terrifying.” The armed men split the Passionists into groups and headed in different directions. The religious were set free but their movements had been observed by the Popular Front and information regarding their locations was sent to various armed fighters in the error using phrases such as “The Passionists of Daimiel are going to going to pass through here. Fresh meat! Don’t let them get away…” On 23 July 1936, Father Niceforo and four others were shot dead, seven more survived but after suffering from their injuries were executed three months later by firing squad. Nine others were placed on a train to Ciudad Real. They were put in gaol, accused of being religious who were killing people. Then they were led down the street to be mocked and stoned by crowds. These Passionists were shot dead and buried in a mass grave, their alleged crime written on their wrists ‘For being Passionist religious from Daimiel’. Ten other Passionists tried to get to Madrid by train or walking. They were taken off the train at Urda station and there, on the morning of July 25th, shot dead.Two others, Father Juan Pedro of Saint Anthony and the elderly Brother Pablo Maria of Saint Joseph managed to walk to Carrion de Calatrava in Ciudad Real where they hid for two months. They were discovered and shot as they kissed their crucifixes and exclaimed “Long Live Christ the King!” Eye-witnesses reported that all of the Passionists had forgiven their murderers before they died. A witness to the murder of Father Niceforo reported that after being shot the priest turned his eyes to heaven then turned and smiled at his murderers. At this point one of them, now more infuriated than ever, shouted: “What, are you still smiling?” With that he shot him at point blank range. 

Another Passionist martyred in the Spanish Civil War was Saint Innocencio of Mary Immaculate. He was born on March 10, 1887 at Santa Cecilia del Valle de Oro, near the Cantabrian coast in the province of Lugo (Galicia) and joined the Passionist seminary at the age of 14 at Peñafiel, near Valladolid. He joined the Passionist Congregation at Deusto (Biscay) and then continued his philosophy and theology. At Mieres, not far from Turón, he was given the sub-diaconate in 1910, the diaconate in 1912 and was ordained priest in 1920. As a priest he preached missions and also taught in various schools. Whilst he was in Mieres he had been asked by the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) to hear the confessions of the children on their school as they prepared for their First Communion. This was at the time of the so-called “Revolution of Asturias” when communists and anti-clericalists had risen up against the Spanish government. On Friday October 5th 1934, a group of loyalist soldiers forced their way into the Brothers’ school in Turón. At the time Father Innocencio was in the school exercising his priestly ministry. Alongside the Brothers, Father Innocencio was imprisoned in the so-called “House of the People” where they would wait the judgement of the Republican committee. They were condemned to death and executed by firing sqad in the early hours of October 9th, 1934 they were all executed by a firing squad, their bodies buried in a common grave. Innocencio and his eight fellow martyrs were declared venerable in 1989, beatified on April 19, 1990, then canonized on November 21, 1999 by Pope John Paul II.