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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

 

4. SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE PASTORS OF THE CHURCH

I take note of another aspect of the Founder’s teaching: the recognition and the service to Christ in the Pastors of the Church.(37) The Pastorelle Sisters are called to honor Jesus Christ, eternal Shepherd, "living in the person of the Pope, the Bishops, the Priests." (38) This is why they honor Peter, aside from Paul! If at first glance the devotion to the apostle Peter further marks their difference, it is as well that such devotion expresses a characteristic of the whole Pauline Family, which is the generous fidelity to the Church.(39) "He who is with the Pope is with Jesus Christ," so Fr. Alberione states with not much ado.(40)

He further states: "We have to take into consideration the apostles Peter and Paul, pray to them and imitate them because they were supreme pastors in the Church and because they had great love for Jesus and for souls. A supreme love for Jesus and for souls ‘makes’ the Pastorelle Sister." (41) (return to summary)

4.1. Feminine pastoral ministry

"The good Pastorelle Sister," Fr. Alberione insists, "shall always see Jesus Christ Good Shepherd in the priest." (42) It does not refer only to the devotion to the priesthood;(43) there also is the idea of a feminine pastoral ministry. In effect, Fr. Alberione points out the specific mission of the Pastorelle Sisters with the exhortation that the Apostle Peter addresses the presbyters: "Pascite qui in vobis est gregem Dei" (1 Pt 5:2).(44) This legacy sounds entirely audacious and prophetic inasmuch as it concerns a text that in the ecclesial tradition constitutes a kind of "rule" for ordained ministers. It is a rule that Fr. Alberione, already in December 1947 extends to the Pastorelle Sisters: "Tend the flock of God in your midst" (1 Pt 5:2). Yes. Ever more and ever better".(45)

Like the apostles and pastors, so he explains in 1949, also "the first office of the Pastorelle Sister is founded on the Lord’s words: ‘Go and preach’.(46) "The Pastorelle Sister takes the word from Jesus and gives it to the people... The Lord has called woman to be associated with the ministry of the divine word. Preach, preach always." (47)

In a suggestive comment on the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, embedded with numerous glossary manuscripts, Fr. Alberione delineates the vocation of the Pastorelle Sister parallel with that of the presbyters, and concludes by affirming: "The Pastorine make up with the priest Pastor a single mission; they have the same concerns, the same goal, the same means." Here is their identikit:

"The Pastorine are:

1. Souls who have penetrated the doctrine of Jesus, who have acquired the love of Jesus, who live close to Jesus and all and each one are of Jesus;

2. They then are divided into small groups that establish themselves in a parish where they consider the souls as their own by adoption; to them they feel bound in life, in death, for eternity, in a single aspiration of saving them all; and as regards apostolate they collaborate with the parish in instructing and watching over; in the destruction of evil and in the establishment of good; in converting and sanctifying; in leading others to Christian life and to a good death... They shall be the sisters, the mothers, the teachers, the catechists, the consolers of every sorrow, a ray of light and of sun beneficial and continuous in the parish." (48) (return to summary)

4.2. Beyond the ecclesial confines

Like the entire Pauline Family, also the Pastorelle Sisters are called to confront themselves with the openness of the apostle Paul, and in this sense they are invited to go beyond the ecclesial fences. The holy apostles, so Fr. Alberione remembers on 29 October 1938, "never got tired of evangelizing the people. Oh! The immense love of St. Paul." (49)

In March 1953, he commented: "The population keeps on increasing; mankind has now reached two billion and a half. Think of those people who do not know our God! Don’t you feel some zeal for souls? There are persons who burn with love for souls. The Pastorelle Sisters should have the heart of Jesus Good Shepherd: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). Here is the grace we must obtain: the heart of Jesus Good Shepherd." (50)

Fr. Alberione reads the "come all you to me" in parallel with another imperative: "make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19), as if to reproduce the systolic and diastolic movement of the heart: the attraction to Jesus pushes towards mission, beyond the folds’ fences, "to the lost sheep, to the roots of society, to hearts and to souls thirsting for truth, for goodness for peace." (51) "Extend your heart like the heart of Jesus: Venite ad me omnes. He has such a big heart! And such a big heart brings us happiness, joy! Think of doing something good for all." (52)

We should not forget that also the Pastorelle Sisters are born from the apostolic passion of the Founder, as a response to the debt he feels for contemporary humanity: to do to everyone the "charity of truth." The irresistible attraction of the Master in the night between the two centuries, that special light coming from the Host and the invitation, "Venite ad me omnes" (AD 15), run across the entire life of Fr. Alberione, never tiring of the replies already given and totally thrust forward, like the Apostle Paul, even as he feels debtor to all of the truth of the Gospel: "He felt ever alive: ‘Go, preach, teach, baptize.’ It was then that I thought of forming the collaborators of the Pastors: ‘the Pastorelle Sisters’" (AD 82). (return to summary)

CONCLUSION

I think I can conclude that the teaching of Fr. Alberione to the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd reflects the constants of that common patrimony which we call "Pauline spirituality": the novelty consists essentially in the pastoral perspective within which the various elements are located. It is, however, this pastoral perspective that ought to make us think. How is it that in the maturity of his life Fr. Alberione introduces into the Pauline Family a Congregation "in honor of Jesus Good Shepherd?" Does he perhaps intend to say that the reference "to the Divine Master, which summarizes every devotion to Jesus Christ" (AD 180) has to be understood in the perspective of Shepherd? In a Family that honors Jesus Master and at the same time is characterized by "pastoral spirit" (53) what brings about the entrance of a group that "lives of Jesus Good Shepherd?"

With all probability, in the mind and in the heart of the Founder the titles of Master and Shepherd are much closer than what it may seem at first: one sheds light on the other. On this matter, I think Mt 11:28-30 could be helpful since it is a part of the common charismatic heritage, inasmuch as it has profoundly marked the spiritual experience of Fr. Alberione. In that text, the Divine Master invites all to his school, the way Wisdom does: "come to me, learn from me." (54) Let us observe, however, that in the Matthew text, that come to me all of you is not at all general. It is addressed to "those who are burdened." It is as if to say that Jesus Master has the eyes and the heart of a Shepherd. He pities those who are stooped under too much weight (he is a "compassionate shepherd"!) and promises rest, even more "peace", to him who is willing to carry "his burden" upon himself.(55)

Let us note, however, a contrast: on one hand this Master has compassion on all those weary and burdened with too much weight, on the other hand there are no discounts: there is a "burden" that must be borne nonetheless. The consolation lies in the fact that "his" burden is "easy and light". For what reason? Because relieved by the weights of pharisaical interpretation: Undoubtedly. But more so because he himself intends to carry it with us. Jesus is the Master who makes himself "conjugated" (cum iugo, with/under the same burden). But this is on the condition that one takes seriously the invitation to learn from him, meek and humble of heart. It is not licit, in fact, to place under the same burden animals of different nature!(56) Metaphors aside, it is necessary that we assiduously come to our Master in order to learn to live as he did, with the same heart.

I propose an icon, which I take from Mk 6:34: "the Master with the shepherd’s heart." Jesus was leading with his disciples to a solitary place, to rest. Disembarking, however, he sees a big crowd and was filled with compassion (esplagchnisthe).(57) They were, in fact, "like sheep without a shepherd". And immediately "he began to teach" (erxato didaschein). Behold the pathos of the Divine Master for the crowds of yesterday and of today, victims of ignorance and of no-meaning? The Master of the Pauline Family has the heart of the Shepherd, even more its motherly viscera of compassion. (return to summary)

Enclosure: Homily to Catholic Teachers *

This fact would seem a contradiction: Catholic Teachers have chosen to celebrate their own organization on the day wherein the liturgy of the Church celebrates Jesus Good Shepherd.

But it is an apparent contradiction; it’s unreal; and the Catholic Teachers in fact are persuaded entirely by it.

In fact on the day of light and of prayer for Teachers, they have wanted to use the Mass in honor of Jesus Christ Master.

The thought is clear to everyone: Jesus is Master and Shepherd: different titles, but the same content; different words, but used to indicate and explain the same concept.

To be Teachers is a great honor and commitment, which has at its head and model the Divine Master Jesus Christ.

* * *

He said: "I am the Good Shepherd." And also said: "You call me Master and Lord and you say well for so I am."

We know that the word master had a meaning quite different from that of teacher.

The teacher imparts the knowledge he has learned; the master communicates life.

The teacher speaks to the intelligence; the master speaks at the same time to the mind, to sentiment, to the will.

The teacher makes a learned individual, the scientist; the master forms the righteous person, the Christian, the citizen.

The teacher keeps an eye on time; the master keeps his eyes both on time and eternity.

For a teacher, it is enough that he be competent in a subject. The master is busy with giving example, imparting moral formation, establishing communion of life.

This is the Catholic Master. Jesus Christ teaches the loftiest doctrine; Jesus Christ draws spiritual life in baptism. And he summarizes everything in his self-definition: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

It is thus that he prepares the new man. New, because he forms a new being composed of three elements: body, soul, grace. New, because man is furnished with a Christian mentality, feelings, and will. It is the greatest upliftment: true son and heir of God.

* * *

In the tract of the Mass in honor of the Good Shepherd, the various expressions are equivalent. Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd"; and he explains: first: "The Good Shepherd leads and guides the sheep, he calls them by name, precedes them; they follow." "I know my sheep and they know me; they follow me". (He is Way).

"He who passes through me shall be saved...he finds pasture." "I have other sheep that do not yet belong to my fold; I must draw them to me; and they shall listen to my voice; and there will be one fold with one shepherd". (He is Truth).

"I have come so that they may have life; and abundant life". "The good shepherd offers his life for his sheep." "And I give them life eternal, and they shall not perish, and no one shall take them away from me." (He is Life).

* * *

The Catholic Master has, after the dignity of the father and of the priest, the first and noblest mission. We remember with tenderness and veneration the true masters. They did not sculpture a statue or paint a canvass, but they have shaped our lives, they have transfused themselves in our souls; we remember them; let us speak to God for them in suffrage and to others in order to let them know of the good we have received. (return to summary)

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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