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THE MASTER AND HIS SISTER DISCIPLES:
A LIFE RELATIONSHIP

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

by M. Regina Cesarato pddm

 

I. PIOUS DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER:
A
NAME AS PROGRAM (1924-1929)

1. The Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life

Fr. Alberione, during his mature years, speaking of the foundation of the Pious Disciples in 1924, attributed its origin in Jesus Master by the expressed will of God.(1)

The year 1924 is an especially meaningful year in the order of the "devotion" to the Divine Master. This for many reasons:

1) In the month of January, immediately before the foundation of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, the explicit connection between the title "Master" and the Johannine trinomial "Way, Truth, and Life" appears to have been already acquired.(2)

2) In the same year, news is given about the solemn exposition of the book of the Gospels at the Altar, beside the Tabernacle, and in the other places of the house.(3) The Founder taught that the same veneration was to be given to the Gospel as to the Eucharist: "In order to unite to himself the whole man, the Divine Master gave us his teaching and himself: the Gospel and the Eucharist.(4) In this sense, with their own charismatic accentuation, the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master represent in the Pauline Family above all the Divine Master who says: I am the Life, as it shall be explained later.(5)

3) With the bulletin UCBS,(6) the readers are informed about the "Month of the Divine Master" with this explanation: "We celebrate it in January: a month of meditations... on the examples of Jesus, on the teachings and on the grace that the Divine Master gives us," who "is in our midst and who from the Host wants to enlighten" and in this way, reveals himself truly as "the Master" inasmuch as "he is the way that leads, the truth that enlightens, life that sanctifies." (7)

4) The penitential and reparatory prayer was expressed with the formulation of the Pauline offertory (8) that was prayed in the community in order to inculcate the feeling of "thirst for souls like Jesus." (9)

The Founder himself, with his very serious sickness in 1923, found himself associated as little victim with Christ’s passion. It is then, not simply a matter of a formula to be recited but the transmission of a profound spiritual experience of identification with the Divine Master,(10) of an authentic journey of discipleship. (return to summary)

2. The disciples reside at the Divine Master

In this climate filled with the presence of the Divine Master, under the gaze of Mary Most Holy and in the spirit of the apostle Paul, the Founder introduced to his young community the new family, that of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, which, unknown to them, became a prophetic proposal of a complete itinerary of vital adherence to the Divine Master who already is honored in the House and forms its vital Center.(11)

We read in the chronicles of the time: "The house at the end of the garden is now being adjusted for the Pious Disciples... The House had a divine name and is called ‘Divine Master’ and to him who wants to know where the Pious Disciples are, the answer is: they are at ‘the Divine Master’s’(12) as if to mean the mutual inhabitation between the Master and the Disciple, expressed in the Gospel of John.(13)

Since God’s gift is always greater than what we can understand, the presence of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master represents, in 1924, a time of maturation and of enrichment of the House in relation to Jesus Christ "the Master" inasmuch as the reality of discipleship is be made explicit.

The name given by the Founder to the new group contains the term disciples and to the first young person chosen, Orsola Rivata, to whom is entrusted the responsibility over the new religious family, was given the name Scolastica, that is, disciple.(14)

Fr. Alberione’s own profound experience of living God’s project with docility was itself an experience of discipleship. "Everything was school to him," he himself affirmed,(15) starting from the experience of the night that oriented all the rest of his life.

The Pious Disciples were not called maestre as the Daughters of St. Paul were,(16) but simply suore (17) or madri (18) along the line of the Donna associata allo zelo sacerdotale and of being complementary as the lives of St. Benedict and St. Scolastica.(19)

It is interesting to note how the discipleship of the Pious Disciples has been expressed since the beginning along the line of the Eucharistic mystery and with a style of life that is characterized by humility, silence, hiddenness, the spirit of sacrifice, and by unconditional giving of self.(20) Theirs is a life of discipleship that is profoundly immersed in the Paschal mystery as "hidden life with Christ in God(21) and that supposes a strong and radical call to live the maturity of faith that culminates always in the "I live now not I but Christ lives in me" of the Apostle Paul.

The Founder transmitted his own life experience after having learned to nourish his own docility to God with the light that comes "from the Host" (AD 15) and in that "light", to read the social-religious situation of his time inasmuch as "only in Jesus-Host can one have light, nourishment, comfort, victory over evil" (AD 15-16).

For the Pious Disciples the reality of discipleship is expressed as community in a manner that, as Fr. Alberione would say, "the community shall be totally grafted into Christ and not only that indeed everyone of you could say, vivit vero in me Christus – Christ lives in me, but the community should be able to say: Christ lives in the community, in this community Jesus Christ Master lives. Hence rejoice to think of the happy day when the first Pious Disciples put on the religious habit; be happy about the great good things that the Lord has granted to the Congregation. And greater the graces, so much the greater should your fervor grow." (22) (return to summary)

3. The Master, source of light

If on one hand the symbol of light recalls the experience of interior enlightenment of the Founder, on the other, it is closely related with the Pauline Mission of radiating of the Master.

Together with the Gospel, the source of light is the Eucharist and the Pious disciples draw from it for themselves, for the House and for the world while living a mission that compares them with the candle that burns; gives light and is silently consumed.(23) In the language of the House and in the vocation pastoral addressed to the Parish Priests, the Founder exhorted that they procure a living candle by sending a vocation to the Pious Disciples.

In fact, we read in the bulletin UCBS of 21 June 1923: "The devotion to the Divine Master in the House is concentrated on the Holy Tabernacle. When the house was still small and made up of everything small, Jesus was happy that one went to him in the morning for the Mass and to receive him in Holy Communion. We knew, however, that when the House would have developed, we would have the Eucharistic laus perennis as in the Cottolengo." (24) The living candles were indispensable for sustaining the apostolate.

The Sig. Teologo wrote regarding the Pious Disciples: "They consecrate themselves to take turns in worshipping the Divine Master, Jesus in the Sacrament in order to let "the kingdom come", especially through the Good Press... They must be chosen from the daughters more inclined to piety, especially to Eucharistic piety(25) so they may become: "most happy grazing ground of the Divine Master." (26) In fact, they "only know to love much and to serve well the Divine Master in those who preach his Gospel.(27)

In the House the principal devotion is given to the Divine Master: "He is the way, the truth and the life. Also the priests of the House are called masters in his honor. Perpetual adoration is given to him, to Him are dedicated the Disciples of the Divine Master and the Pious Disciples." (28) (return to summary)

4. The Master’s invitation: Venite ad me omnes [Come all of you to me]

Fr. Alberione felt the apostolic urgency that the Gospel should reach the masses and that the three principles of salvation in Christ Way, Truth and Life, enunciated by Leo XIII in November 1900 with the Tametsi futura (29) should transform culture, society, and individual persons.

Marxist ideology has brought to the atheistic humanism ultimate consequences, and contemporary man, mostly agnostic and indifferent, finds himself disoriented within history, now more than at the start of the century when the 16-year-old seminarian, Giacomo Alberione, began to assume responsibility over his life.

The passion for history that always characterized him,(30) he passed on, with a particular vibration for prayer, to the whole apostolate of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, "a religious family of withdrawn life, given to adoration and to the priestly and liturgical apostolate: a family belonging entirely to Jesus Divine Master, present in the Eucharistic mystery... so that it may become a source of grace for other religious families dedicated to the apostolic life" (AD 279).

The Founder would say in a meditation: "The Visit would not have enough spirit if one thought only of herself or only of your religious family. It must be a Eucharistic apostolate, which is, Eucharistic prayer for the entire world, and in a special way for the Pauline Family. This is fundamental; it is the first reason of your Family. Yes, to obtain the healthful sap for souls, that is, to obtain spiritual nourishment that comes from Jesus Christ and that he, the vine may transform the branches." (31) (return to summary)

5. A feminine discipleship

The name itself of the Institute is a permanent memorial of the mystery of Christ and of the Christian reality of the feminine discipleship: "The name of Pious Disciples comes from their office: they ought to accomplish towards the Divine Master the office of the Pious Women, of the first among the Pious Women, that is, the Blessed Mother: to adore Jesus, console him in the Most Blessed Eucharist, to stay in vigil before the Holy Tabernacle for love while burning more or better than the candles of wax, to invoke from the Divine Master the triumph of the Press and render the services that Our Lady did for Jesus and the Apostles. This is the summary of their humble life lived in silence, in love, in prayer, life that is remembered also by the habit that bears the colors of Our Lady, which is blue, with a flaming Eucharistic ray on the chest." (32)

In the book La donna associata [The woman associated with priestly zeal] there were enough frequent and articulated references to Jesus Master.(33) The text reverts to a view of woman as educator and hence mother and teacher of life in the home and more so as disciple of Jesus Christ along the line of the women in the evangelical following of Jesus together with his Mother, counselor of the Apostles.(34)

Along this line worth noting is the fact that Fr. Alberione gave Orsola Rivata, the future St. Scholastica, a book on the topic to read hurriedly and in great secrecy (35) after having "set her aside" with Metilde Gerlotto on November 21, 1923, for a special mission that was entrusted to them and for which other young women would join them till they were eight in all.(36)

Certainly the need for domestic work, ever increasing in the House, was impelling but it does not seem that this was the first motive of the foundation of the Pious Disciples as was affirmed (37) granted that such household work was already previously set up beforehand at their foundation.(38)

The charismatic idea seems instead to rest on the fact that in the House, everything is complementary (39) and the Pious disciples "know how to love much and serve well the Divine Master and those who preach his Gospel(40) giving, with the Daughters of St. Paul, an organic vision of the Divine Master synthesized in the binomial Gospel-Eucharist: "The Daughters of St. Paul take care of the Gospel of the Divine Master: hold classes, write, diffuse, print. The Pious Disciples take care of the Divine Master and his ministers: adoration, works, of church and of the house..." (41)

Like the women of the Gospel, the Pious Disciples follow and serve the Divine Master. "The divine Master so loved those who had the grace of serving him, the first ones! What delicateness and what closeness there was in the castle of Bethany, with Mary and Marta at the resurrection of Lazarus! When he died, He wanted the women disciples beneath the cross with his Mother and he wanted these disciples as the first witnesses of his resurrection. These facts are the proof and the pledge: the women disciples took care of Him, the Divine Master and of everything the apostles needed. Like these women, the Pious Disciples in the House, take care of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: of his alter, of his flowers, of his vestments, and of the House that the Divine Master educates for Him: sewing, cooking, cleanliness, sick persons. They never leave the Divine Master alone and they do whatever is needed in his House: for Him and for those who work for his Gospel." (42)

The insistence on the women of the Gospel (cf. Lk 8:1-3) and especially on the example of Mary Most Holy, virgin and mother always referred to in the preaching of the Founder to the Pious Disciples,(43) suggests to us a message (and perhaps a secret) of great human and spiritual balance in the Pauline Family comprised of men and women, precisely in living the depth of the relationship with the Master.

The passage through Mary, Mother, Teacher and Queen of the Apostles, who accomplished "her sublime apostolate by offering to humanity Jesus Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life," (CISP 1476) humanizes and personalizes with the typical grace of femininity our relationship with Christ which could remain only on the doctrinal or speculative level.

No human existence has ever been so intimately formed by God’s mystery in Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit than that of his Mother.

The gift of feminine discipleship expressed since the beginning of the House with the presence of all the consecrated women that constitute the predominant part of the Pauline Family (44) called to live and to give to the Church the whole Christ: Way, Truth and Life, relying on the two great mediations of Mary Most Holy and of St. Paul: one, masculine and the other, feminine. (return to summary)

Continued: In "the great silence" (1929-1947)

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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