The Pauline Fathers is an Order which has laboured for almost 800 years for the salvation of souls and to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As one of the oldest Orders in the Roman Catholic Church, its members humbly look back upon a grace-filled history and look forward to a blessed future here in Australia.
What is the History of the Order?
The Monastic Order of St. Paul the First Hermit was founded in 1215 in Hungary. The founder was Blessed Eusebius. It was through his efforts that the saintly hermits of Hungary were united in monasteries under the patronage of St Paul the Hermit who had lived the solitary life some 870 years earlier. It is from St. Paul that the Order gets its coat-of-arms. The raven, according to legend brought him bread, and the palm tree dates for food. The two lions dug the grave in which he was buried.
The Order spread rapidly throughout Hungary and then into Croatia, Germany, Poland, Austria and Bohemia. There was a time when there were over 5000 Pauline monks in Hungary alone.
A highlight in the Order's history took place in 1382 when they became the custodians of the miraculous picture of Our Lady, believed to be painted by St Luke the Evangelist. The Icon was brought to Poland by Ladislaus, Duke of Opole, from a castle at Belz, in modern day Ukraine. He invited the monks to come from Hungary into Poland to safeguard the holy picture. The monks established a Shrine for the venerable image of the Blessed Mother in the small town of Czestochowa (pronounced as chen-sto-hova). Today this Shrine is the Mother house of the Order, and is also the largest monastery, with over 100 Fathers and Brothers, belonging to the monks of St Paul the First Hermit. It is seen as the spiritual capital of Polish Catholics and is visited by more than 2 million pilgrims each year from all over the world.
Today there are less than 500 members in the Order throughout the world. The sad history of Europe ravaged by so many wars and religious persecutions, has dramatically reduced the numbers of a once large and flourishing Order.
The majority of the Order's monasteries are presently located in Poland. In the Seminary in Krakow there are over 80 students and in Novitiate more than 30 novices.
The Order has monasteries and Shrines also in Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, Italy, United States of America, South Africa and United Kingdom.
The Pauline Fathers in Australian at their shrine at Penrose Park.
There are two monasteries belonging to the Order in Australia. Their first foundation was made in Berrima, NSW, in 1984, where approximately 2000 pilgrims go each month to pray at the Shrine of Our Lady. In 1989 another Shrine was established on Mount Tamborine, Qld and later permanently moved and blessed as The Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, by the Most Reverend Bishop EJ. Cuskelly, M.S.C, D.D., on 10th December 1995 at ''Marian Valley'', Beechmont Road, Canungra, Qld.
From the very beginning the apostolate of our Order, Mary has played a special role. She is present in its life and in all spheres of its activities. Our Order has always venerated Her as the Mediatrix of All Graces and has zealously propagated devotion to Her. (Pauline Constitution)
St. Paul the First Hermit
St Paul the Hermit should not be confused with St Paul the Apostle. St Paul the Hermit is traditionally considered as the first saint living the solitary life. He was born around the year 228 in Alexandria, Egypt, of wealthy and noble parents.
St Paul the First Hermit
During the persecution of the Christians by Caesar Decius in 250, young Paul fled to the Desert in Thebes by the Red Sea and learned to enjoy his solitary life "alone with God alone" so much, that he remained there for the rest of his life. He lived nearly ninety years in prayerful solitude, constant penance, and contemplation of God. Before he died he was discovered by St Anthony the Abbot who spread the news about his holiness.
It is believed that St Paul was kept alive by the fruit of a palm tree and by a raven which daily brought him a piece of bread. He died at the age of 113, at which time, as related by St Anthony, two lions dug a grave for him.
This story is captured in the coat-of-arms of the Order, showing the palm tree, two lions and a raven. The Pauline Order chose St. Paul the First Hermit as its Patron and Patriarch and thus took the name "Order of St. Paul the First Hermit".
The feast of St. Paul is solemnly observed by the Order on January 15th.
In a spirit of appreciation, the Pauline Fathers offer each year a novena of prayers in honour of St. Paul the Hermit for all their benefactors, friends and supporters.
Blessed Eusebius of Esztergom
Blessed Eusebius was the founder of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit.
Eusebius was born in the Hungarian town of Esztergom in the early thirteenth century. He stood out from others even when very young. Those who knew him marvelled at his knowledge and piety. He often stayed awake all night keeping vigil. He devoted all his time to prayer, the psalms, meditation and learning. Sometimes he spoke to people about ways they could gain special wisdom which would bring them closer to God. Eusebius was made a canon in Esztergom.
Eusebius was not only famous for his virtues, but also for his generous hospitality. He was often visited by hermits who lived in abodes scattered throughout the mountainous region around Esztergom. On these occasions the hermits exchanged woven baskets for food. Eusebius admired these hermits so much that he decided to become a hermit himself. The invasion of the Tartar hordes into Hungary interrupted his plan.
After the Tartars had left he still remained at his post and may have helped in the rebuilding of his country. In all it took him three years to ask permission from his superior, the Archbishop Istvan Vancsa to leave and begin a new life as a hermit. He thus did not flee from difficulties but made a peacetime, conscious decision for a life of self-sacrifice and penance.
At this time many others also become hermits, determined to serve Christ in solitude. Their parents and friends tried to persuade them to return. Eusebius made this reply to them: Although Christ loved his Mother and also his cousin John the Apostle and knew his crucifixion was causing them both untold sorrow, Christ did not save himself from the cross. Christ died the way he chose to. Following Christ's example Eusebius and his fellow hermits cannot choose to descend from the cross of penitence in spite of the lamentations of beloved ones. We are staying! Hearing these words from the depths of Eusebius' soul the parents and friends could make no reply.
Eusebius moved into a triple cave near Szanto. He placed a large wooden cross in front of the cave. It was there where he prayed and meditated. One night while praying he had a vision. The entire Pilis mountain range was fill of tiny flames. These flames started to move towards him and finally in front of the cross by his cave, the flames converged into one enormous blazing torch. Eusebius then heard a voice coming from the cross: Eusebius, summon all the hermits and found a monastic community. The love present in each will be the bond that will unite you and enable each to give loving service.
The vision was followed by deed. At the beginning of the second half of the thirteenth century Eusebius established the first Hungarian monastic order. At the National Synod at Esztergom in 1256 he signed his name as the first provincial of the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit. In 1262 Eusebius and some fellow monks journeyed to the Court of Pope Urban IV. There the pontiff was asked to endorse the Order. Eusebius had the support of St. Thomas of Aquino and also of the first Hungarian Cardinal, Istvan Vancsa, the very same person who gave permission to Eusebius to become a hermit.
Eusebius was the abbot of his cloister for 20 years. When he was near death he gathered his brother hermits around him and blessed them. On the 19th January 1270 in the cloister of Szentkereszt (Holy Cross) Eusebius died. There were sixteen Pauline cloisters during Eusebius' lifetime and after his death this number rose to nearly 150.