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A historical-charismatic survey

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

by Eliseo Sgarbossa ssp



Heirs as we are of the heritage left us by the Founder at the close of his spiritual maturity, we have received also his Christological experience summarized in the formula "Jesus Master Way and Truth and Life," with the conviction that such a formula would always be used the way it sounds, with all the other titles globally associated, including the following danger: to flatten its meaning and not to understand its respective richness.

When, in occasion of his 80th birthday, Fr. Alberione affirmed to have "practiced and preached the devotion to Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life, from the year 1900" he said an indisputable truth. However, this it became a full reality only at the end of a long process of explication. In truth, an elementary historical research on the experience of Fr. Alberione and of the first generation of Paulines reveals to us that the vision of the Divine Master, the way we profess it, is the result of the convergence of two evangelical trends – on one hand the title, "Master" and, on the other hand, the Johannine trinomial, "Way, Truth and Life" – which trends, like two rivers, follow different stretches, a self-sufficient course, and then flow in together thus forming a vast and expanse river which we would never succeed to fathom.

In 1984, on the occasion of the centenary of Fr. Alberione’s birth, a first International Seminar was celebrated to explore the riches of the Johannine trend. Now we are called to explore another river which we shall call "magisterial," by analyzing its meaning, its implications and its consequences on the level of spirituality, formation and apostolate in view of an updated re-expression of all the heritage treasured in it.

The present "excursus," necessarily summarized and limited in time, proposes to trace the remote springs of such a river, the emergence of the first references to the Master, the slow clarification of its physiognomy, then its vigorous growth till its fullness. And this covers three decades: from 1904, with the appearance of the first significant documents, till the end of the Alba residence of Fr. Alberione in 1936: the date that marks also the end of the Pauline infancy.

It is necessary to immediately clarify that our research cannot but be coherent with the personal journey of Giacomo Alberione, which was not principally a process of the intellectual type, but an experience, theological in nature, made concrete in an apostolic spirituality, vital for himself and normative for us. As always, we have to start from the lived experience and from history than from theory.

Even from the start of our journey, we take note that the discovery of the "Master" by the young Alberione – a vibrant and charismatic discovery – cannot be dissociated from his youthful experience dramatically lived during the historical tempests at the end of the 1800’s and at the start of the 1900’s. The salvific light of Christ appeared to him so much providentially as much as expected and invoked by a spirit in crisis, lost in the fog of a general disorientation. It is from this experience that one can understand the exact perspective of Alberione’s discovery and proposal. It is then from here that we shall start or exploration.

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