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THE MASTER-SHEPHERD:
THE INHERITANCE OF FR. ALBERIONE
FOR THE PASTORELLE SISTERS

Acts of the International Seminar
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)

by Elena Bosetti sgbp

 

1. The reference to the Good Shepherd

Why and when was the explicit reference to Jesus Good Shepherd born in the bosom of the Pauline Family? Some research points go back to the experience of the young Alberione when he was a pastor in the parish during the years 1908-1911.(1) Others point to a later period – from 1936 to 1938 – during which a series of events related to the Good Shepherd (2) took place. These were: a parish was entrusted to the Paulines in Rome for the first time,(3) the international magazine Pastor Bonus (4) came out, and the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd were founded. (return to summary)

1.1. Sisters who live "of" Jesus Good Shepherd

There are no doubts: in the mind of the Founder the new Congregation has been conceived "in honor of Jesus Good Shepherd." In fact, even before the official foundation date (7 October 1938) and precisely in April 1937, the bulletin Unione Cooperatori Apostolato Stampa announced the new institute:

"To the honor of Jesus Good Shepherd, a religious family whose

primary objective is the glory of God and the sanctification of self, living Jesus Good Shepherd.

Its second objective is to work with and serve with zeal the pastors of souls..."

In the same month also the internal circular letter of the Daughters of St. Paul broke the news of a new group of religious who would be engaged in pastoral work while "living in Jesus Good Shepherd.(5) This new decisive directive "devotion" is quite a surprise when we think that the group was not yet distinct from the Daughters of St. Paul.(6)

What does "to live of Jesus Good Shepherd" mean? In a manuscript which was to be a broadening of art. 2 of the Constitutions of 1947, still in a private form, Fr. Alberione affirms: "The Pastorelle Sister lives in Christ Pastor; forming with him only one mind, one heart, one life; she puts on the spirit of Mary Mother of the Divine Shepherd; she loves the pastors of the Church and cooperates in their formation, ministry, sanctification." (7)

He explains the name given to the Congregation in terms of belonging and of following: "let us take into consideration the name ‘Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd.’ They are sisters destined to follow the Divine Shepherd Jesus and the pastors of the Church: the pope, the bishops and the priests, the religious who take care of souls. ‘Of Jesus’ means that you belong to Jesus Good Shepherd who can dispose of you as he wants... I live now not I, it is Christ who lives in me. Many sisters do not understand the beauty of their vocation." (8)

This "to live of Jesus Good Shepherd" is concretely expressed in the mission, by prolonging his care for the people of God, for the exhausted and disoriented crowds of our times. From here comes the second name, "Pastorelle Sisters." (return to summary)

1.2. "You should be shepherdesses"

In his sermon in January 1955, Fr. Alberione brought out the problem of the "different devotion(9) of the Pastorelle Sisters and explained its specific mission, thus: "You asked me: ‘Why do we honor Jesus under the title of Shepherd and not of Master like the rest of the Pauline Family?’ The answer: ‘Because you should act as Shepherdesses. Jesus is always the same, but you should form yourselves for souls and, like Jesus, know how to give your life for the sheep’.(10) Here clearly emerges the apostolic function of the two titles and their connection. Therefore, no more nominalism, but a concern for a synthesis: Fr. Alberione proposes contemplation of what one is called to live/do in order that there should be agreement between spirituality and practice.

He teaches on 5 June 1958: "Transform the [Eucharistic] visit into apostolate by representing all souls before the Good Shepherd, ... especially that parish entrusted to your care." (11) The apostolic dimension transpires clearly from the prayer specifically composed for the Pastorelle Sisters,(12) like the following prayer to Jesus Good Shepherd that is recited at the start of the Eucharistic visit. The manuscript (13) bears the date of 1942:

"O Jesus Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life of our souls, turn your merciful look on these your sheep. Enlighten us with the wisdom of your Gospel, strengthen us with the splendor of your holy examples; nourish us by the Divine Eucharist; enkindle in us zeal for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls.

We intend to make reparation for the offenses done to you in the person of the Pastors of the Church, through humble docility and cooperation to their teachings and to their zeal, through prayer and work, according to our vocation.

Send, O Jesus Shepherd, your Spirit so that he may increase in us the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; infuse in us the true religious spirit; grant us the simplicity, prudence, fortitude, temperance of the apostle St. Paul.

O Mary, Mother of the Divine Shepherd, keep your holy hand on our head so that we may imitate you in the spiritual life and in the active life so we may reach the eternal glory in heaven. Amen."

Let it be noted that the prayer begins by invoking the mercy of the Good Shepherd Way, Truth and Life and unfolds in the request for wisdom, strength, zeal, while the conclusive thought is addressed to the Mother of the Divine Shepherd.(14) A singular point is that in the manuscript Peter is not mentioned, only Paul.(15) A strong pastoral orientation characterizes also the chaplet to Jesus Good Shepherd,(16) of which I quote the conclusive passage:

"Give us your heart O Jesus Good Shepherd, come into the world in order to enkindle the fire of love on earth. Let the desire for God’s glory and insatiable thirst for souls burn in us. Make us participate in your very apostolate. Live in us and fill with yourself all our powers so that we may radiate you in word, in suffering an in work."

The Founder sent this prayer to the community of Genzano on 1 April 1948 with the following note: "In reply to your wish, I am sending you a chaplet to Jesus Good Shepherd. This devotion: honors Jesus Christ, eternal Shepherd of our souls; shows Jesus Christ living in the person of the Pope, of bishops, of priests; it forms our souls to the true spirit and to the true interior perfection; it enkindles in the heart zeal for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls; it spiritually cheers life having such a lofty ideal. Let us recite it and let us have others recite it.(17) (return to summary)

1.3. The pastorality of the Divine Master

What does the entrance of the new Christological title mean in the Pauline Family? More than adding or substituting, it seems to specify an eminent characteristic of the Divine Master.(18) On this matter, the story of the Founder’s first visit to the house of the Pastorelle Sisters in Genzano in 1938 could be enlightening. Fr. Alberione introduces himself very familiarly, as was his habit: "Here are all of you. How many are you? Twelve? Do you want to be the twelve apostles? I am glad..." And from the game on the symbolic number of the community, he goes on to explain the connection between Master-Good Shepherd:

"Your family, born last, has the most beautiful mission, the most similar to that of the Divine Master, (!) who wanted above all to be the Good Shepherd, the good savior, the great benefactor of humanity, he who cured every spiritual and temporal ailment.(19)

Here the figure of the Master is undoubtedly close up: the second title, in fact, is subordinated to the first and specifies it. But one could not miss the relevance of that "above all" ("the Divine Master, wanted above all to be the Good Shepherd"). One could then conclude that the fourth Congregation is called to make visible the pastorality of the Divine Master.(20)

In 1964 Fr. Alberione clarifies: "The spirit of the Pauline Family lies in the devotion to Jesus Christ Master Way, Truth and Life. Then every Institute of the Family has an indicated apostolate and the title, which is given, is a title to indicate the apostolate. For example, the title Jesus Good Shepherd is added inasmuch as it indicates the (Institute’s) apostolate." (21) (return to summary)

Continued: The Good Shepherd Way Truth and Life

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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