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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

 

2. THE GOOD SHEPHERD WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE

The Pastorelle Sisters place "at the center of life Jesus Way, Truth and Life, Divine Shepherd(22) The reference to the Good Shepherd bears then the unique marks of the Pauline spirituality.(23) Also in the fourth Congregation, the heart that beats in the whole family also beats fully. (return to summary)

2.1. Since the beginning

Fr. Alberione has constantly interpreted the Gospel of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18) under the perspective of Jn 14:6. Already during his first visit to the newly born community of Genzano, he explained that the Good Shepherd is Way, Truth and Life.(24) The postulants who were preparing themselves to put on the habit of the Pastorelle Sisters were invited to put on the virtues of Jesus Good Shepherd, who could speak of himself: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.(25)

The connection between the two texts is synthetically expressed in the formula "Jesus Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life," (26) a synthesis which must form the prayer and the whole existential dynamic ascetics and the apostolate. In a beautiful meditation in September 1942, the Founder asks: "Who is the good shepherd?" And he answers, "it is he who makes himself so, for the sake of his fold, in imitation of Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life." Then he explains, "Way, that is, model. The Good Shepherd indicates to the people the way more with his life than with his words... He tends to us with his holy examples. – Truth, Jesus taught the loftiest truths, necessary for all, in an easy practical, way. The Church in the catechism and in sermons transmits his doctrine to us. She fills the theological treatises and libraries. It is necessary that everyone should possess it in some measure. Jesus tends with his doctrine. – Life, Jesus Good Shepherd makes us live with his own life. "My life is Christ" (Phil 1:21), St. Paul thus says. In order to reacquire this life, Jesus died on the cross. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep... Jesus tends our hearts." (27)

It is a matter of completeness very dear to the Founder, who affirms: "Jesus has given so many definitions of himself but the most complete is certainly this: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." The Pauline Families have the complete Jesus as model, because this devotion brings the whole man to God: mind, will and heart." (28) In short: "to live Jesus Good Shepherd" is proposed by Alberione in the form of "Way, Truth and Life." (return to summary)

2.2. Complementary definitions

Finally, let us take note of a certain need for a theoretical justification, or at least the desire to demonstrate the convenience of the connection between Jn 10:11 and 14:6. During the Spiritual Exercises of December 1948, he affirms: "The two definitions ‘Ego sum Pastor Bonus’ (Jn 10:11) and ‘Ego sum Via, Veritas et Vita’ (Jn 14:6) complete each other.(29) And he sees well. The two texts in fact are connected also in Liturgy and precisely in the antiphon to the Benedictus of the Good Shepherd Sunday (II after Easter in the Roman Breviary of 1914, familiar to Fr. Alberione, the IV Sunday of Easter in the current Liturgy of the Hours). The Latin text thus reads: "Ego sum Pastor ovium: Ego sum Via, Veritas et Vita. Ego sum Pastor bonus, et cognosco oves meas, et cognoscunt me meae, Alleluja, Alleluja."

One of the more elaborate reflections of Fr. Alberione on the relationship between Jn 10:11 and 14:6 is found in a sermon of 1959, of which I quote three principal passages:

"Your spirit is centered on Jesus Good Shepherd, Jesus considered under this most lofty title, which he himself chose for himself: ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (Jn 10:11)... But Jesus also said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’...

If on one hand there is the pastoral spirit, on the other this pastoral spirit has to be completely lived. It is then that either as our sanctification or as apostolate, we have to model ourselves as a method under this invocation, after this definition which Jesus has given of himself: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’...

What does it mean? It means that the whole of spiritual work and also of study in the greatest degree the apostolate also, have to bear in mind, have to assume the spirit which is indicated in this definition: Jesus Master (!) Way, Truth and Life." (30)

Also here is evident a concern for a synthesis: if Jn 10 says in an eminent form the pastoral spirit of the Congregation, Jn 14:6 states the completeness with which this spirit is interpreted and lived. In 1960 Fr. Alberione would speak of "Pauline spirituality according to the Good Shepherd." (31) (return to summary)

3. THE EUCHARISTIC GOOD SHEPHERD

Instead of "Eucharistic Master," Fr. Alberione speaks of "Eucharistic Good Shepherd" to the Pastorelle Sisters, but the two formulae are twins and lead into the same source.(32) Also the Pastorelle Sisters are born of the Host! In a letter of the first of January 1948 he writes:

"You were born and nurtured by the Eucharistic Good Shepherd; in 1911, after the thought and the desire: when a group of Priests decided to pray and to offer sacrifices so that the Church might soon have an Institute Cooperator in the zeal of Pastors of souls. Then from 1923 you were in the intentions I placed in the daily and nocturnal adoration of the Pious Disciples. Move on securely, lean on the Eucharistic Good Shepherd." (33)

The Eucharist brings to reality the promise of the continued presence of the Good Shepherd in the midst of his people and the singular paradox of love, the "making one’s self food" for the sheep. Fr. Alberione expresses wonderment for all this: "We adore you O Jesus eternal Shepherd of mankind! You live in the Tabernacle in order to continually stay in the midst of your fold. From here you nourish, you watch over, you guide towards the heavenly fold." (34) Jesus is the Shepherd who gives himself as food: "The shepherd feeds the sheep and Jesus gives the Eucharistic Bread, gives himself as nourishment. What food more precious? The Son of God incarnate!(35)

Furthermore, he presents Liturgy as the privileged place for knowing the Good Shepherd: "In the first place, you will know him in fractione panis (Lk 24:35). You will know him by how well you make your communion and the visit to the most blessed Sacrament. Cognoverunt eum in fractione panis.(36)

Let it be noted finally that the same phrase "Eucharistic Shepherd" expresses a connection that has profound roots in the biblical-liturgical tradition, with Psalm 23 where the Divine Shepherd prepares the table, at the sequence "Lauda Sion": "Bone Pastor, panis vere, tu nos pasce nos tuere..." (return to summary)

Continued: Side by side with the Pastors of the Church

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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