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in the spirituality according to Fr. Alberione
Acts of the International
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)
by Guido Gandolfo ssp
5. The itinerary of conformation to the Master
Fundamental stages and practical modalities
In concrete, what path is indicated to the Pauline who, in order to live his vocation and mission, desires to positively respond to the divine proposal and decidedly walk towards the objective of conformation with the Master?
Fr. Alberione obviously goes back to the indications more commonly followed during his time. That is, the spiritual itinerary developed through "the three ways": the purgative way, the illuminative way and the unitive way.
He shall be formed thus: the just man (Purgative), Jesus Christ shall transform him into Christian (Illuminative) in order to become Religious Priest, Saint by the work of the Holy Spirit (Unitive) [DF 16].
It is notable, however, that the Founder, embracing a line of thought already advanced by E. Dubois,(14) binds each of the aforementioned ways to one of the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity: respectively, the purgative way with the Father, the illuminative way with the Son, the unitive way wit the Holy Spirit. Precisely this three-fold theology of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit turns out to be a quite innovative aspect with respect to the preceding tradition and, for many aspects, inviting. In fact, it is an authentic "re-creation" on the part of the Father; of the conformation done by the Son who "incarnates" himself in the believer; of the sanctification which is done by the Holy Spirit.
In union with the Three persons and with the Angels: "sanctus... laudate..., benedicite..." [DF 17].
There is nothing left for us but to follow, although along essential lines, the outline(15) of spiritual-apostolic formation which the Founder proposes with extreme clarity and punctuality. It is a journey which, let us remember for the nth time, shall bring the Pauline to receive the "form" of the Divine Master according to the example of St. Paul, and therefore become "apostle" in the fullest and most authentic sense of the term. (summary)
5.1. 1st Stage: The re-creating action of God
(theology of the Father purgative way)
a) This first stage, different from the following others, is introduced by two quotations(16) which ought not be neglected. The first picks up the opening of the prayer of St. Augustine quoted wholly at the start of the book (DF 3) and the second is a quotation of the so-called Priestly Prayer of Jesus (Jn 17:3). The bond between the two passages is given by the theme of intimate knowledge of God and of self, in response to the fundamental questions which every profound search must face: Who are you, O God? Who am I? In sincerely approaching God, in fact, the problem of ones own identity cannot be set aside.
Who is God? The necessary being. "Ego sum qui sum". "Tu solus Dominus": pure spirit: highest greatness: for science, strength, eternity, omnipotence, glory, most perfect. Need for no one, most happy by himself... "My God and my all".
Consequences: a) Admiration: consideration-first part of the visit. b) perennial, total praise "ab omni creatura". c) Perfect love "as infinite goodness, above everything".
Who am I?: a most contingent being: "you are he who is not". You are nothing, as for body and soul, by yourself you are nothing as for being and doing by your own: most imperfect.
Consequences: Truth: humble: as for knowledge, strength, life, existence: I am nothing in person.
Life in the right position: in the beginning and end Respect, honor.
Humility of heart: general fruit [DF 17-18].
I, a most "imperfect" being, a "nothing," who mirror myself before God the "necessary being, pure spirit: highest greatness, most perfect." Nonetheless, the very same knowledge, given by the "truth," of being a fragile and poor being, instead of bring to discouragement, opens the heart and lips to the only wise attitude: "admiration, perennial and total praise, perfect love." From here comes the "general fruit" (mentioned for three successive numbers): Humility of heart.
b) Humility of heart, fruit joined with the awareness of our condition of being creatures and of the disposition for divine praise and for perfect love, opens the person to receive the great, fundamental teachings:
Examination - Instruction. In order to live as honest men: special goal of the first part of the Spiritual Exercises.
The will of God is the great sun which, like the sunflower, the soul must always face.
The will of God: in superiors; in facts; within. "Doce me facere voluntatem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu" (Ps 142).
Commandments: Here one needs to go through all the commandments to find how they are observed.
For becoming: Christian, religious, priests, one needs to be man first.
Natural virtues: justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude.
Humility of heart: general fruit [DF 22].
Like all spiritual formation, the spiritual exercises have as objective that of bringing us "to live as honest men." In fact, at the base of the journey of growth for becoming "Christians, religious, priests," there is one condition that could not be given up: "one needs to be man first."
For this end, the "great sun": which the human creature, "like the sunflower," must always face, is the will of God: from this "great sun" one receives light, warmth and life. Contrary to what one might naturally, or according to nature, think, we become true men only in the measure with which we know how to perceive and obey what God points to us. It is in this context that the "natural" virtues come in, virtues that are known better as cardinal virtues: "justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude."
c) In such context, what is the role of creatures? [ Fr. Alberione has in mind a three-fold order of "creatures": physical (earth, plants, body, animals, elements, etc.), which provide physical progress; moral (intelligence, heart, family, social interaction, various roles in society); spiritual (sacraments, priesthood, religious life, etc.).
Purpose of creatures. Creatures have to serve man in the service of God on earth in order to obtain eternal happiness in praise of God.
Abuse of them is eternal ruin.
Because of this, we must walk according to the example of Jesus Christ who made the most right use of them; he taught us this with the word; he has merited grace for us [DF 25ff].
The ultimate purpose of creatures is clear: being gift of God, placed by Him in our hands, they must serve "man in the service of God on earth." Everything therefore is expressly directed to the "eternal happiness in praise of God." In fact, one must never forget that man is destined for Heaven: "Heaven is the whole and only destiny of ours: ours because God created us for it and O. L. J. C. (Our Lord Jesus Christ) has opened again for us the lost paradise" (DF 31).
After whose example must we inspire ourselves for such a commitment? Here, Fr. Alberione immediately brings to our attention the Person of the Divine Master: Jesus has taught us "with the word," he himself is the model of the "most right use" of creatures, along with the offer of life "he merited grace for us."
d) If the last end, as stated, is the glory of God in the beatitude and eternal praise of the Father, man has, in this context, the serious duty of knowing, of acquiring knowledge of God, of nourishing the mind with thoughts and eternal considerations:
God, the purpose. 1. Ultimate end: glory of God. (...)
2. The more it is achieved on earth, the more perfect is the knowledge of God in J. Christ... Religious instruction, good reading, but most of all the infusion of faith, of hope and of knowledge of God produce this effect.
Perfect ones knowledge of God (...) [DF 34-35].
It is not surprising that Fr. Alberione should re-emphasize strongly the urgency of knowing. And with knowing, the urgency of loving. It is the very category of Master, integral Master, that demands such dimension.(17)
The process of knowing is extremely broad: it starts from ignorance, perhaps from error, and through a difficult regimen of "religious instruction," leads decisively to acquire the "mind" of the Master,(18) to the point of reaching, in Him, "to think like God."
Such a punctual commitment of man is further enriched and rewarded with "the infusion of faith, of wisdom and of knowledge of God."
e) If all this becomes profound conviction in men, then one sees the flowering of personal, decided and concrete commitment: "the first resolutions."
Proposals. To the meditation on the purpose of the world follows the first resolutions. On these resolutions, one employs convenient time according to the difficulty and special importance.
- a) The first is the abandonment of sin, conversion, confession with deep dispositions.
- b) The second concerns the choice of ones state (if this not yet done) according to the vision of God and our eternal advantages.
- c) The third is the special determination to do well the will of God to equip ones self for eternity in ones special, embraced state in life [DF 64].
The first resolution, the principal decision of the "purgative" stage, is therefore conversion. It consists, as one could see, in the commitment to abandon sin which finds concrete expression in confession done "with deep dispositions." One could recognize in this the evocation of the charismatic assignment of the Divine Master, "cor poenitens tenete," and similarly with the following "ab hinc illuminare volo" for the illuminative and "nolite timere Ego vobiscum sum: for the unitive way.(19)
These are the closely related components: choice of state in life, done no longer based on instinct or caprice, but taking into due consideration "the vision of God and our eternal advantages"; the strong decision "special determination" to live "well" the will of God, according to the embraced state of life.
f) The not small impulse to the authentic return to the Father, shall bring, then, the assiduous meditation of "the Last Things," on which the Author reflects for many numbers (cf. DF 44ff). It is well known how the long reflections on the last realities rest on irrinunciable conditions so that we can dispose sure and perennial points of orientation. Besides to note as, coherently with the vision of life as a journey of trial, also the "the last Things" may be considered as a category of "trial": the death is "the end of the trial, of fidelity" (DF 46); as per the judgment: "put to trial, it corrects the task" (DF 55); the hell is "eternal ruin, consummation of the destruction of sin... failure of life" (DF 77), i. e., of the given trial; while, as regard the paradise, the accent is put on the fact that it competes us as inheritance promised: the paradise is "the true property of man," "our only and whole destiny" (DF 31).
g) The qualifying passage of the first state theology of the Father is meanwhile conversion. This, we know, is return to God, is change of mentality, is rejection of only earth-bound horizons, is serious decision to arrange ones own life, the today and the here, only on what brings glory to God and could grant us a blessed eternity. All this is said according to the lexicon of Fr. Alberione: to think and work like God, in Jesus Christ, our Master.
We are aware that radical transformation is not fruit of human initiative, as much as strong attraction of the Father. Fr. Alberione has good reason, when he wants to sum up in few lines and together to explain all the process of conversion, introduces the illuminating paragraph titled Mercy: passage of great importance because in the reading of the episode of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32), with the eyes and above all with the heart of God the Father, Fr. Alberione bases biblically his way of reasoning and further clarifies that the first stage is decisively the theology of the Father:
Mercy. 1. Fallen Adam, the Father reveals in distance the Riparator; the sinner fallen there remains the confession, the mercy.
To bring mercy to man is the reason for the incarnation: darkened in the lost coin, in the lost sheep, in the prodigal son.
2. Why did he go away from the house of the father? Was junior! desire of liberty.
How did he get immersed in evil? Far away from the father living "luxuriously" squandered everything.
How does he return to the father? Abandoned by the friends, reduced to the extreme, meditates, takes confidence in the father.
How is he received? He is anticipated receives everything like before, and still more.
3. In whatever state the soul may be, hope! The sinner, with superabundance of grace, can climb up with penitence, much in high.
Grave responsibility on the one who does not take profit of the mercy [DF 80f].
h) And what is the daily instrument of verification and control of our conversion?
The examination of conscience. The examination of conscience is an investigation of the state of ones soul: attitudes, graces, dangers, duties, sins, struggle, merits, victories. It is the timepiece of the soul. It gives us the state of health or of sickness, more than anything else, and together with individual faults [DF 82].
Here is the secret for walking rightly and speedily in the ways of God: the daily "investigation on ones state of soul," which is the examination of conscience to be practiced every day and many times during the day, as it is clarified in the following number (DF 84). And the spheres of the examination of conscience are: "attitudes, graces, dangers, duties, sins, struggle, merits, victories".
The examination of conscience is like a timepiece:(20) it keeps the soul at peace with the light and the invitations of the Father. Furthermore, beyond the "individual faults," it furnishes us "the state of health or of sickness," or a general view, important as ever, of the state of spiritual health.
Conclusion (of the first period, that is, meditation on the theology of the Heavenly Father):
a) We come from Heaven: we go to Heaven, let us keep the only and secure way; should we get lost, let us go to confession; if we are already on the right path, let us accelerate our journey.
b) In the yearly Exercises, the yearly program is set; during the monthly retreats, the program is taken up point by point; in the weekly confession, reparations are made, one receives light, strength; in the daily examinations, one checks himself up.
c) To become saints, let us incarnate God in us; we need to set aside ourselves: "we with God"; that is: Examination: yearly, monthly, weekly, daily: Daily meditation, Direction and confession with which we give worth to our effort.
"Donec formetur Christus in vobis" [DF 94-96]
(From the summary review at the end of the book)
We have meditated: man is created for heaven; only for heaven. All of mans work is in order that his heart may not be won over by the present goods, but to make use of present goods as means for heaven. All the mistake is in exchanging the end with the means. If these are done, it is necessary that we be converted: and to definitively set our heart, our efforts, our work for heaven. Fruit of the first part is then total conversion of life in view of eternity [DF 265].
The first stage theology of the Father, purgative way presents the following moments:
The itinerary of conformation to the Master - 2
Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever A historical-charismatic survey
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