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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


4. The apostolic formation: "Be light of the world"

Studies of sacred matters are at the service of the Divine Master: this is the meaning of the repeated exhortations of Fr. Alberione. Such is the meaning above all of the book Apostolato Stampa, born out of the Alberione lectures and proposed as theoretical-practical guide for formation to the apostolate.(171) This brief but dense tract, undoubtedly the most original among the writings of our Founder, defines the nature, the objective, the divine origin of the Press Apostolate, understood as "ministry" equal to oral preaching and, similar to this, endowed with sacramental efficacy for evangelization, moral formation and the spiritual life of God’s people. The book further describes the different concrete expressions of the publishing apostolate: from the image to periodicals, from the book to parish and roving libraries; the different stages of work: from editorial to diffusion, to conclude with a conclusion of significant pastoral interest: for example, on the cult of the Word of God and on the "Feast of the Divine Master." The short chapter which deals with this last initiative is an exemplary summary of what Fr. Alberione taught and lived in the most fruitful years of his creative activity: obviously from the proposal and pastoral point of view, even when he drastically counterpoised the two "schools", that of the Truth and that of lies.(172)

Hence: diligently prepare yourselves so you may be in the position to preach the doctrine of the Divine Master. Also art must aim at this goal and hence the more gifted students were advised to cultivate the taste for drawing, graphics and painting.(173) In 1934 Paolo Pazzaglini, then a cleric, was assigned to contact painter Giuseppe Mazzana and to commission an image of Jesus Master which would serve first for the covers of the Gospels and then for the pictures to hung in the Pauline localities to substitute those of the Sacred Heart.

The instructions given by Fr. Alberione are meaningful: Jesus Master must show clearly visible the open book on which would be read the words "Ego sum Via Veritas et Vita," or else, "Magister Via Veritas et Vita". Unlike the traditional iconography which presented the seated Master, Jesus has to be standing erect, standing over the globe, or else as if walking and at the same time blessing.(174) That image of the Divine Master became the usual in all the pictures shown in Pauline surroundings to substitute, as we have said, that of the Sacred Heart. It was a visual innovation having a great impact, not only in terms of imagery and it was "canonized" by the Founder so that it became the ideal model from which all the successive representations would draw inspiration.(175)

In the same year 1934, the picture of the Queen of Apostles was ordered from the painter Giovanni Battista Conti of Rome, for the church of St. Paul in Alba.(176) On March 25, 1935, that painting was inaugurated with a solemn ceremony during which Fr. Alberione explained the thought that it had to illustrate: Mary, after having "written Jesus in herself" presents him to the world thus herself becoming the icon of every authentic apostle (cf. SP 1 May 1935; CISP 37-38).

If in every study or work place the image of the Divine Master had to be seen, it was because it had to be remembered by all that He is the specific object and the ideal of the apostolate, beginning from editorial work. A circular letter of 15 December 1934 asserted that the Apostolate of the Press ought to be decisively taken up as "preaching, explanation and application of the Divine Truths for the peoples," aiming not only at collaboration but also to the "direction" of periodicals. It was on that occasion when the Founder wrote the celebrated text on the "Secret of Direction."(177)

This classic text, signed with the signature "Maestro Alberione," represents – so we believe – the constitutional document of the Pauline magisterium in its globality, well beyond the confines of the Apostolate of the Press. A following echo of those words could be gathered from a circular letter of 16 February 1936, wherein the Founder informed the brothers and the sisters regarding the triple formation program which the Pauline Family had to undertake "in order to correspond to the plans of God: the family of writers, the family of teachers for higher studies, the writers of the Daughters of St. Paul" (cf. CISP 53-56).

Regarding such formation, Fr. Alberione declared, "The Congregation must specialize in this [= editorial], which comprises one of its principal reasons of existence. Let us be pen and mouth of God through Jesus Christ our only Master" (cf. CISP 53).(178) Always concerning apostolic formation, he reminded the priests regarding two concepts worth underlining: above all that sacred studies, like all sacramental realities, are composed of "matter" and "form": the matter, almost as if the "corpus" of knowledge, is made up of individual disciplines; the form, or the soul of such studies, is "pastorality". The second concept was an invitation to consider the Divine Master as "scientiarum Dominus": the Lord of sciences, He who assures a complete intellectual and moral formation, thanks to his three attributes: Truth, Way and Life. Being inspired by Him, every candidate and disciple finds the interior balance among his faculties by enriching himself of truth, of grace and of goodness (SP 1 March 1936; CISP 56-58). (summary)

5. The testament of Alba: the "First Sunday of the Month"

To conclude a preceding circular letter on sacred studies, dated 1 June 1935, Fr. Alberione suggested some "acts of homage to the Divine Master" in order to underline the religious attitude that must always accompany one’s search for truth (cf. CISP 41-43). In the next interventions, while reflecting on the theme of spiritual exercises, he confided: "I pray the Lord and Master Jesus that in everything and always, but especially those days, be for us Way, Truth and Life, for the glory of God and peace to men" (cf. CISP 44). He further informed that for his individual spiritual exercises he had chosen the topic "Jesus Master, Way-Truth-Life in the holy Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles" and, as a result, he recorded the discovery of being bearer of a two-fold mission: his own and that of Jesus Master (cf. CISP 63-64).

During the same course of spiritual exercises, Fr. Alberione took a decision which proved to be crucial for the following course of his life: that of transferring definitely to Rome, and to assign in his place Maestro Giaccardo as "Vice Superior of all our small Pauline Family."(179)

Departing from Alba, the Founder wanted to leave a first testament to that mother-city by associating the name and the devotion to the new house of the Daughters of St. Paul.(180) Some charismatic values which deserve to be rediscovered and reevaluated remain to be indissolubly bound to that church: the first is the identification of the specific Alberione gift in Christ Master Way Truth and Life;(181) and the second value is the "First Sunday of the month dedicated to the Divine Master."

Along this line, here is the concluding passage of a famous letter of Fr. Alberione to Maestro Giaccardo, written from Rome on 29 October 1936: "Let us resolve to give the first Sunday of the month to Jesus Master and as much as possible to start immediately; this practice comes from the divine will; we have a physical sign of it, perceivable to the eye, to hearing, to touch. – As soon as this letter arrives, I ask the priests, the professed members (men and women) to welcome this very warm invitation from Jesus Master and as much as possible to start practicing it. Manner: Substantially, one must honor Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life; and be united with him with all our mind, our will, and our heart. It would be a very good thing if the monthly retreat were done that day; otherwise, evangelical instruction. Solemn mass, hour of adoration dedicate to the examination of the month and to resolutions. Where it is possible: external solemnity to be made to coincide with feasts, solemn exposition, procession, solemnity in hymns, sound and decoration. The Divine Master shall come amidst his children and disciples with life, comfort and effusion of graces. In Jesus Christ Way Truth and Life. M(aestro) Alberione."(182) - (summary)

6. The "maternal way": "Through Mary Teacher to Jesus Master"

On 8 September 1895, a month before the 11-year-old Giacomo Alberione entered the seminary, Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Adjutricem populi christiani, wherein he affirmed: "In all truth, Mary must be considered Mother of the Church, Teacher and Queen of Apostles, to whom she also imparted those divine oracles that She kept in her heart." These words were impressed in the mind of the young seminarian and guided the formation of his future mariology. In those three titles: "Mother," "Teacher" and "Queen" which well corresponded with the Christological trinomial, one could see almost a female version of the full magisterium of Jesus.

In 1959, Fr. Alberione took those words as a starting point of his booklet Maria Discepola e Maestra, which proposed to offer to the "masters" of formation a point of access to the Divine Model. Here are the opening lines: "Our devotion to Jesus Divine Master shall be perfected if it is prepared and preceded by the devotion to Mary Teacher." Then, after quoting the aforementioned affirmation of Leo XIII, the author continued, "Hence Mary is "Teacher". And if we say, "Per Mariam ad Jesum," the phrase: "Per Mariam Magistram ad Jesum Magistrum"shall also be worthy [of faith].(183)

The booklet deserves the maximum attention because it summarizes the whole Marian doctrine and spirituality of Fr. Alberione since the start of the twenties, when he decided to give a final orientation to the Pauline practices of piety while pointing out to them its essential objectives and the emblematic figures of the Divine Master and the Queen of Apostles, aside from that of St. Paul.(184)

In Mary, the Founder venerated her who, having become the first "pupil" of the Word and then Teacher in his Spirit, accompanies the whole Church in the encounter with her Son and introduces the Church to his school.(185) Above all she makes us understand the exact meaning of Master and of disciple; she makes herself "the way to Jesus: and "the way of Christ." She proposes herself to us then as "example of holiness," as "book of all the virtues". She becomes "life" thanks to the efficacy of her prayers and to her mediation of grace. She is "Teacher" by the authority of her magisterium: as Mother of Good Counsel and Seat of Wisdom, as educator of Jesus and Teacher of the Church. It is in this role that she is the support and the model of every educator who has to draw inspiration from her to become a worthy representative of the Divine Master.(186)

Such concepts which we find expressed since the first written interventions of Fr. Alberione and of Maestro Giaccardo (between 1920 and 1924, cf. PP 468-498) guided the formation of the first groups and, in a certain sense, inspired the foundation itself of the institutes for women. From this comes the insistence of the Founder on the importance of the devotion to Mary, devotion related to the magisterial mission of the Pauline Family.

This devotion, as Fr. Alberione loved to remember, is perfectly "Pauline," more so, it is an essential part of the "Pauline spirit" thanks to the ministeriality as regards the Word and its coherence with the specific charism of preaching through the media. A formulation of such a reality Fr. Alberione expressed in the following prayer which closed a note on God-Publisher: "O Mary, you have published the incarnate Divine Word; you who are the Queen of Publishers and of publications; you who are the life of every apostle... bless this work which we shall accomplish with you and in you" (Vad *919).

Mary, "publisher of the Word" is also the leading theme of the Regina Apostolorum Sanctuary in Rome just as the Founder wanted to underline in the feast of its dedication: "On the human level, publishers have the mission that in God’s plan Mary had: she welcomed the invisible God and made him visible and accessible to men as she presented him in human flesh." This is an exemplary compendium of a "theology of publication" and, at the same time, an actual spirituality for those who work in the difficult field of social communication (cf. CISP 595-600).

Going back to the golden little book on Mary educator, we consider, after having considered the figure of Mary Disciple and Teacher, some conclusions suggested by the author as enlightening and of much relevance. They can duly summarize what we have said till now.

"The Pauline Family has the mission of proclaiming, imitating, living Jesus Christ as Master; it shall holily accomplish this privileged mission by making Mary Teacher known, loved and prayed to: [inasmuch as] dedit orbi Magistrum Jesum, qui est benedictus fructus ventris sui."(187)

"The Pauline magisterium shall be immensely more effective if it is inspired, guided, comforted by Mary... No one would want to be deprived of such a great help. – The Pauline discipleship has to be grafted completely into Mary who shall form Jesus Christ in every aspirant: this means becoming Christians, apostles, saints" (MDM 17). (summary)

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