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«AT THE CENTER IS JESUS CHRIST,
WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE
»

Synthesis of the papers of the Seminar
on the Spirituality of the Pauline Family (1984)

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

by Antonio F. da Silva ssp

 

II. CHRIST WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE,
CENTER OF THE ALBERIONE VISION

After the work of contextualization, it was important to face more directly the theme of the Christocentric heritage of Fr. Alberione. So, the second part of the Seminar was dedicated to the study of Christ Way, Truth and Life as center of the Alberione vision. (return to summary)

 

5. Fr. Alberione’s christology (pp. 177-213)

Fr. Giovanni Roatta ssp was assigned to study the Christology of Fr. Alberione, a topic he discussed in two parts: "L’eredità cristologica del nostro Fondatore" (The Christological heritage of our Founder) and "Tentativi di approcio da parte della Famiglia Paolina" (Attempts for an approach by the Pauline Family).

In a short introduction, he immediately establishes the boundaries: "Fr. Alberione’s Christology uti jacet in the Alberione texts which up to now we possess, and in attempts promoted by him to theologically frame it, is not a whole wherein one can easily establish the boundaries and the internal developments: it is presented, instead, as if a sowing of seeds, as a sequence of affirmations, a repetition, and a superimposition of indications from which we need to still build something authentically organized, something that could be communicated, that is persuasive, capable of giving spiritual unity to very many lives who journey together in the path traced by the trinomial of Christ ‘Way-Truth-Life’" (p. 179).

Then, Fr. Roatta presents in six points a synthetic approach to the Christology of Fr. Alberione:

  1. For the first thing, he affirms that we find in Fr. Alberione the entire vision of the mystery of Christ and he adds that nothing is so remarkable in the personal practice and in the pointers by the Founder as the relationship with Christ Eucharist, "the place of his reflection and of his most intense and continuous prayer, and the source and nourishment of his Christological vision" (p. 180).
  2. Taking up again a 1973 study of his, Fr. Roatta makes a second step by affirming that this Christological vision of Fr. Alberione has been concentrated in the evangelical terms of "Master Way, Truth and Life" and it found difficulty in being accepted by the Pauline Family.
  3. The next step pointed out by Fr. Roatta is that of the relationship between the title "Master" and the trinomial, "Way, Truth and Life": "Fr. Alberione connected them as one logical whole, which necessarily call for and complete each other. And we must say that, although he always worked for the theoretical-practical application of Christ Way, Truth and Life, the term "Master" has assumed for him the value of indication of his Christ: Christ is simply for him the "Master," the "Divine Master." To indicate the whole Jesus Christ, it was enough for him to say, "Master," the "Divine Master" and also the great trinomial he was concerned of, Way, Truth, Life, was included in it: for him, it was already understood in the word "Master".
  4. As regards the start of the choice of the title Jesus Master by Fr. Alberione, Fr. Roatta says that he did not have any precise indications. As for the trinomial Way, Truth and Life, he refers to the information given by the Founder, that is, the direction given by Leo XIII, in Tametsi futura, for the new century. Fr. Alberione made his such a spiritual and apostolic orientation of the Church to the point of saying, "I have neither gold or silver, but I give you what I have: Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life."
  5. Fr. Roatta presents the content indications and the theological and operative connections of the trinomial Way, Truth and Life as searched and proposed by Fr. Alberione drawn from his prayer and his reflections on the Trinity, on history, on sin, redemption, man’s restoration in his three faculties and the connection with faith, hope and charity. The Schema di studio su Gesù Maestro, published in San Paolo, in the August-September 1959 issue, stands as the last effort of Fr. Alberione to present to his religious Family the vision of Christ, Way, Truth and Life. A point especially dear to Fr. Alberione has been the method Way-Truth-Life: "It is not our method, but it is simply the method!" because it is Jesus Christ who becomes ours, who becomes the daily thought of our mind, of our manner of journeying, of our life in union with God.
  6. Lastly, Fr. Roatta draws the Christological heritage centered on Christ, Way, Truth and Life, and entrusted by Fr. Alberione to the Pauline Family as a life program, a responsibility, goal, principle of unity, personality and apostolate.

 Fr. Roatta dedicates the second part of his paper to the attempts for an approach by the Pauline Family to the Christology of Fr. Alberione, in three phases.

  1. He first of all describes the first stage of the history of the Pauline Family as characterized by its deafness to the theme of Christ Way, Truth and Life, as it clearly shows from a series of interviews conducted among the first generations of Paulines. He records, instead, as a positive resonance, the publication of Fr. D. J. M. Costa’s Via, Verità e Vita, literal explanation of the Catechism of the Christian Doctrine of Pope Pius X, 3 voll. (1936-1937).
  2. The second stage, instead, is that of the studies initiated while Fr. Alberione was present and under his request.
  3. The third stage begins with the studies on the Christocentric heritage of Fr. Alberione, or the period following his death. Fr. Roatta refers to the rejection of the proposal Way, Truth and Life of the Founder and of the reaaction for a positive acceptance on the part of the chapter activities of the different Pauline congregations. He also narrates the occasion after the Chapter which allowed him to dedicate himself to the preparation of the third volume of his trilogy on Punti di riferimento della nostra vita spirituale: La Famiglia Paolina sul cammino di una Parola di Dio: Gv. 14,6: Io sono la via e la verità e la vita.

Finally, thinking of the future, he points out three Christological themes to deepen within the Pauline Family, always based on Christ Way, Truth and Life: 1) a well documented, broad and popular presentation on Jesus as Master; 2) to encourage the study, on the part of the Pastorelle Sisters, on Christ Good Shepherd; 3) to penetrate and present Christ as the perfect communicator. (return to summary)

 

6. Christ, Way, Truth and Life, center of the life, the work and the thought of Fr. Alberione (pp. 214-339)

The research of Fr. Antonio da Silva ssp is meant to be an essay on the need of connecting in Fr. Alberione these three aspects: life, work and thought.

As a starting point, the four volumes of Ut perfectus sit homo Dei, regarding the Month of Spiritual Exercises of April, 1960 were taken and analyzed also under the light of the talks of Fr. Alberione during the Month. After few steps into the research, I took the direction of delving deeper into the Instruction regarding the Spiritual Exercises – which I called Documento-base – to verify the connection between those dispositions and the experience or journey made by the Founder.

One of the first observations made is that together with the Documento-base on the Exercises, I had to take into consideration also the Instructions regarding daily meditation, the eucharistic visit and the examination of conscience.

Starting from these texts, I managed to describe the genesis of the spiritual journey lived and proposed by Fr. Alberione, to indicate the principle of synthesis and to draw the global vision that supports it.

The study of the genesis of Fr. Alberione’s spiritual journey consisted in a backward course in time which, starting from the Documento-base and other sources related to him, has led me to identify the elements that could be documented through the preceding decades in the writings of Fr. Alberione with stops in Abundantes divitiæ gratiæ suæ (1953) and especially in Donec formetur Christus in vobis (1932) to arrive at the manuscripts of youth (around 1900).

Researching on the genesis of Fr. Alberione’s spiritual journey, we find the presence of some manuals or books of spirituality: the texts of A. Tanquerey, A. Royo Marin, Pollien, Chautard, St. Alphonsus, Colin and others (pp. 220ff).

Starting from daily practices of the meditation and the examination of conscience, it is possible to arrive at the influence of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (pp. 226ff), crucial for the interpretation of the Pauline life of the first years.

As for the practice of the visit and for the whole eucharistic spirituality of Fr. Alberione, certainly we find St. Peter Julian Eymard as the major inspirer. The influence of the Method of the four goals for the Eucharistic Adoration emerges as having a special influence.

It is a Eucharistic spirituality which, in Fr. Alberione, is related with the experience of the night of passage of the century and the influence, in that context, of the Encyclical Tametsi futura, which inspired Fr. Alberione and has become the principle of synthesis of his thought, "to gather all things" (Eph 1:9-10) in Christ, "Way, Truth and Life" (Jn 14:6).

This principle of synthesis has been further deepened along the trinitarian perspective offered by the Esemplarismo divino of Dubois in view of an encyclopedia of sciences. As a first fruit along the systematic line we find this principle expressed in the Lectiones theologiæ dogmaticæ of Fr. Chiesa, an expression of the theological vision which, for Fr. Alberione, shapes the Pauline spirit. Although slightly different from the Lectiones of Canon Chiesa, Fr. Alberione deepened the experience and the understanding of Jn 14:6 under the light of the salvific functions of Christ: Christ Truth (Master/Prophet), Way (King/Pastor), Life (Priest) thus making this key for reading the principal hinge for interpreting not only his ecclesiological vision, but also his pastoral orientation and the setup of his foundations.

Guided by Eph 1:9-10 and Jn 14:6, Fr. Alberione found, in his mission as Founder of the Pauline Family, a consistent help and orientation in two masters of pastoral. For Fr. Alberione’s pastoral vision (pp. 241ff), the contribution of the analysis of the sociological context by E. Swoboda in La cura d’anime nelle grandi città, and the biblical-theological makeup of pastoral by C. Krieg in Scienza Pastorale was fundamental. The study of these writings seems important for deepening the foundational project and the mission of the Pauline Family centered in Christ, Way, Truth and Life.

The trinitarian perspective with which Fr. Alberione read Jn 14:6 has had a strong application in his anthropological vision (pp. 251ff), which attributed to the human person three "faculties": the mind, the will and the heart or emotion.

Especially useful for deepening this anthropological vision is the reference to the published works of F. Chiesa, works done under pressing stimulus by Fr. Alberione. Consider especially his Antropologia, in Metaphysica specialis, and the books La Chiave della vita and Per l’unità nella formazione del clero.

After having considered Jn 14:6 as principle of synthesis of the theological, pastoral and anthropological vision of Fr. Alberione, it is possible to trace the global vision (pp. 260ff) to which he referred not only implicitly, but which he successfully expressed also in some significant documents.

As regards the makeup of the Pauline life, we certainly find a complete formulation in its fundamental lines presented in the book Donec formetur Christus in vobis. We know that the content of Donec formetur, still on the manuscript stage, was followed by Fr. Alberione in the formation of the first Daughters of St. Paul. The makeup was certainly that of an interpretation of the itinerary of the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius, but in order to express something new: the Pauline formation.

The examination of the text and of the structure of the book brings to the affirmation that the formation proposal of Donec Formetur has, as foundation, the spiritual journey (the three ways), which generates a style of life (means of grace) and leads to the mission (apostolate of the press). It is, in substance, the same structure of Appunti di Teologia Pastorale which touches on zeal (Mission), but founded on piety (spiritual life) and on study (formation).

Donec formetur could be considered as the expression of the first Pauline Ratio formationis, strongly centered on Jn 14:6, under the trinitarian perspective. Practically, the lines of Donec formetur were taken up again by Fr. Alberione in 1949 in the Introduzione to the book of Fr. Lamera (2), where the Founder summarizes his global vision of the pauline formation and where the expression, "At the center is Jesus Christ Way, Truth and Life," the theme of our Seminar appears. Many times Fr. Alberione tried to communicate his global vision regarding the Pauline Family united in the light of Jn 14:6. Although, it seems, after the last foundations he did not leave documents interpreting the different components of his religious Family under the light of the title Truth, Way and Life, still it is difficult to think that Fr. Alberione had given up seeing in this light his "work" par excellence, that is the whole of his foundations.

Fr. Alberione certainly expressed the global vision of his thought in his "Progetto di Enciclopedia" of Jesus Truth, Way, Life (pp. 277ff), which certainly includes also that which he stated in other important documents like, for example, Via Humanitatis.

The fact that these global formulations of the thought of Fr. Alberione were not adequately given importance in significant moments of the search for the identity of the Pauline Family could make one wonder. (return to summary)

 

7. Jesus Master Way, Truth, Life and the exercises of St. Ignatius (pp. 340-381

Fr. Pietro Schiavone sj dedicated his attention to our theme and presented his paper in two parts: Gli Esercizi nella vita di Don Giacomo Alberione and Gli Esercizi Ignaziani a servizio del carisma della Famiglia Paolina.

In the first part he intends to put into focus the convergence between the proposal of Alberione and the Ignatian method and, in order to do this, he reviews the vocabulary of the Truth, Way, Life method; he presents the contents, or the theological vision of Fr. Alberione and underlines some elements of the Pauline spirituality particularly in line with the Exercises: meditation, the style of prayer, discernment, silence, reflection, etc.

In the second part, he goes directly to the sources of the Spiritual Exercises: "Ours is a directed topic: we intend to see how the theme Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life, aside from the charismatic intuitions of Fr. Alberione, can be taken into consideration and developed without falling short from some part of the Ignatian thinking. And he suggests how to set up the four Weeks of the Exercises: first: the Truths proposed by Jesus Truth; second: The way that Christ Way proposes; third and fourth: the Life in Christ Life. (return to summary)

 

8. The theological heritage of canon Francesco Chiesa, immediate source for Fr. James Alberione (pp. 382-410)

Not being able to take to Ariccia the most indicated person to discuss our theme, Fr. Natale Bussi, decided to make a videocassette, enriched also by an interview with Fr. Luigi Rolfo, on the relations between Francesco Chiesa and Fr. Alberione.

Fr. Bussi summarizes his thought by indicating three characteristics in this Course of Theology: it’s explanatory, unifying, and practical intent. He also points out the three novelties: 1) the understanding of fundamental theology as formation of a Catholic mentality, or philosophical, Christ-like and universal mentality; 2) the trinitarian setup of Theology; 3) the passing from the setup of De Gratia to that of a treatise on the Holy Spirit taking into consideration his action in the Old Testament, in the Church and in the individual’s life, starting from an innovative thesis on the Fundamental Grace (which in certain aspects anticipates what would the great theologian Karl Rahner say many years later). (return to summary)

 

9. Mind, will, heart:an attempt for philosophical vision (pp. 411-426)

Closely linked to the Christocentric heritage of Fr. Alberione, one finds his anthropological vision according to which the human person has three faculties: mind, will and heart or sentiment. As has already been recalled, we find this thesis explained in the works of F. Chiesa.

Fr. Giuliano Nava after recalling the prevalent adoption of Thomism in the neoscholasticism and having traced the anthropological teaching of Neothomism, clearly summarizes our theme by speaking about the "facultates".

For the scholastic the distinction is between intelligence and will. And around these two points all the spiritual faculties, that is those typical, characterizing of man, are summarized.

The Church, instead, does this kind of reasoning: modern psychology leads us to hold that, aside from the two kinds of spiritual faculties seen in man, there exists a third, the sentiment, the heart, precisely as a special faculty. The faculties then could be summarized, insofar as they refer to those typical to man, into: 1) cognitive; 2) operative, 3) sentimental.

Which one to follow? Having emphasized the need to abandon the use of the term "faculty," to express the three-part mind, will and heart and after having affirmed the closeness between the Thomist and the Alberione vision as regards the totality of man, Fr. Nava attempts "a possible philosophical foundation" by referring to Rosmini, and he thinks that the anthropology founded on mind, will and heart could be held as adequately founded, and thus he concludes his study:

"What can we say then of ‘Way, Truth, Life’ understood as a philosophical method? It is adequately founded with the proposed acceptable corrections. It is adequately adherent to man seen in his reality, the way he is and not the way he is wished to be. It allows the undertaking of a study of man in an analytical manner (mind, will, heart) and in synthetical manner (the whole man). It allows the building of an integral humanism, without mutilation and fragmentation. Besides, we know how a mutilated, broken and fragmented anthropology is inhuman So, it is my opinion that it is a good philosophical method." (return to summary)

 

10. «I am the Way, the Truth and the Life» (pp. 427-441)

Once the various aspects of the Christocentric heritage of Fr. Alberione were presented, it was important to verify the true weight of Jn 14:6 from the point of view of the IV Gospel.

Fr. Salvatore A. Panimolle osb presents in two parts his paper on Christ, Way, Truth and Life.

In the first part he explains the text by presenting the context and the exegesis of Jn 14:6, and then move on to the explanation of the terms Way, Truth and Life.

In the second part he presents Il Cristo Via, Verità e Vita, centro della cristologia giovannea (pp. 434ff).

As Way, Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and men, according to a dual mediation: descending and ascending.

Jesus Truth is the eschatological revealer of the Father, thanks to the divine origin of his doctrine; to his being witness of heavenly realities as Son of God; to the maximum concretization in symbols of the divine wisdom; to his being the personified revelation or the living and personal theophany of the Father.

Jesus Way is the savior of the world, he being the personified life and the Son of God come to save the world.

Fr. Panimolle concludes by saying that his fast panorama of the Johannine Christology shows the centrality and the exceptional weight of the Jn 14:6 passage. (return to summary)

 

11. «Jesus Way Truth and Life» in the pauline theology (pp. 442-499)

According to Fr. Alberione, St. Paul "presents to us the total Christ, just as he defined himself Way, Truth and Life" (AD 159).

Fr. Lorenzo De Lorenzi osb went through the Pauline texts to present Jesus Way in Paul; Jesus Truth in Paul; Jesus Life in Paul.

His long review can be summarized but with difficulty and it has certainly to be retaken, verified and deepened. (return to summary)

 

12. Jesus Christ Way Truth and Life: Jesus Master in the trinitarian perspective (pp. 500-543)

Fr. Bruno Forte divides the discussion of the two themes into three parts: the problem, the interpretations and the message. Here, we limit ourselves to summarize his presentation of the problem: the problem, he says, which lies under the reflection of Way, Truth and Life is the contemporaneity of Christ:

"Where and how does Christ become for us the Way to go to the Father, the Truth that enlightens the meaning of our life, the Life itself of our life... This is also Fr. Alberione’s question. The anxiety of his life, which we can figure out through his work and the witness of his writings, can be put together in the Pauline expression of Gal 2:20... The problem is to see to it that the event of salvation, which is Christ dead and risen for us, living for the people of our origins, becomes, in our present moment, our experience. That is, it has to become he who reaches and transforms our life. It is the urgency to actualize the message of Gal 2:20 in the present in history, of mediating between the Word and the today in time, between salvation given in the Paschal event and the present of men. It is an extremely modern problem". (return to summary)

 

Notas: G. Alberione, Introduzione, in S. Lamera, Gesù Maestro, Via, Verità e Vita. Appunti, EP, Alba, 1949, 18. (come back to text)

Segue: Fixed points of the spirituality of the pauline family

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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