Paul Daneo was born on January 3, 1694, in Ovada, Italy. He was the second of 16 children, six of whom survived infancy. Even as a young person, Paul felt strongly connected to God and moved by the passion of Christ.
At the age of 19, Paul enlisted in the Venetian army when volunteers were requested by the Pope. But he realized that neither the adventure of a military career, the financial promise of the business world, nor the joys and sorrows of marriage were to be his life’s journey.
While listening to a simple sermon on the sufferings of Jesus, Paul suddenly experienced what he called his “conversion.” He heard the voice of God calling him to a life of the spirit and a path of spiritual rigor.
He spent long hours in prayer, wrestling often with his own inner darkness and fierce temptations, a struggle that continued throughout 40 years of his life. It was in his connection to the Crucified Jesus that Paul found solace and meaning, and in his meditations on Christ’s passion that new inner directions opened up for him. Paul’s prayer life became an experience of the tremendous love God has for us.
Paul soon began to notice that many of his peers felt that God had deserted them. The sick, the poor, the working people of his day had few hours of rest, little hope of healing, and lived in crippling fear of war and bloodshed. There were those who were living at the margins of society, it was these abandoned people who Paul wanted to reach. It was to their side that Paul traveled long hours throughout the harsh countryside to preach a message of faith, compassion and loving redemption.