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JESUS, THE MASTER
YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOR EVER
The spirituality of the Pauline communicator

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

Document of the General Government
at conclusion of the International Seminar
on "Jesus, the Master"

 

1. CHRIST MASTER IN THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
OF THE YOUNG ALBERIONE

"For me life is christ" (Phil. 1:21)

1.1. Itinerary of Faith of Fr. Alberione

A gold vein runs from one end to the other of the earthly existence of Fr. Alberione: the intimate relationship of faith with Christ Master. The choice of the Christological title "Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life" is the fruit of an itinerary of faith traversed by Fr. Alberione before its turning into a patrimony of spirituality transmitted to the communities of the Pauline Family, in order that it could animate the persons and the "apostolates".

The emotional and intellectual crisis of the young Alberione, made manifest in the spring of 1900, on one hand, allows us to understand some aspects of his psychology as a "converted," and, on the other, it underlines how his insatiable intellectual curiosity made him experience the spiritual disorientation common to many young people of the time. In his intimate notes, written between 1901 and 1906, we can trace the state of soul of those "dark and fatal" years. At the peak of the interior tempest, the young Alberione sought and called for something to hold on to, a total salvation which could draw him out of a fragmented and meaningless life. From the experience of confusion, he emerged with a decided orientation of faith, and with the awareness of having been saved: "The grace of God and Mary saved me" (SC no. 93).

The personal crisis of the adolescent Alberione refers to a much broader problematic situation in the society and in the Church of the close of the 1800s and the start of the 1900s. Recalling those years in 1954, Fr. Alberione notes: "From 1895 to 1915, there were many deviations in social, theological and ascetical matters, so as to shake the foundations of every truth and of the Church-indeed, to attempt its destruction" (AD 89; cf. 48-56).

In this sprouting of novelties in every field, which often was translated into conflicts of opposing currents, Fr. Alberione succeeds to draw his own evaluation: "Everything taught him a great deal" (AD 90).

The night between 31 December 1900 and 1 January 1901 becomes the determining event of his life as a person and as Founder: "A special light came from the Host, a greater understanding of the invitation extended by Jesus: ‘Come to me, all of you...’ (Mt 11:28). He seemed to understand the heart of the great Pope, the calls sent out by the Church, the true mission of the priest. It appeared clear to him what Toniolo had said regarding the duty of being apostles of the times, using the means abused by adversaries. He felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for God and the men of the new century with whom he would live" (AD 15). The certainty of "his own nothingness" finds the needed strength in the Eucharist: "...he felt that in Jesus Host was to be found light, nourishment, comfort and victory over evil" (AD 16).

In the focal point of this light, Fr. Alberione sees united love for God and love for the people of his time, people to evangelize with the modern means; the personal choice fuses with the desire to share with others his missionary project: "As he thought about the future, it seemed to him that in the new century generous souls would feel what he had felt, and that when organized, they would achieve what Toniolo strongly urged, ‘Unite! If the enemy finds us alone, he will overcome us one by one!’ " (AD 17). This perception takes root in the young Alberione and becomes a guiding light: "From then on, these thoughts were to guide his reading, studies, prayer and entire formation. Though at first the idea was very confused, with the passing of the years it grew clearer and then became concrete" (AD 21). (index)

1.2. To help in the work of salvation

The decision "to do something for God and the men of the new century" finds in the encyclical of Leo XIII, Tametsi futura (1 Nov. 1900) a program of spirituality and of evangelization. Fr. Alberione himself describes the importance of such a message: "At the approach of the new century, Leo XIII, with the encyclical Tametsi futura, gave Christianity, – even more, to humanity – the religious-Christian direction to follow. [It] came to be established as the keystone between the two centuries. [...] The people, moved, listened to the encyclical of welfare for every individual and for society; it was also called that time the encyclical of Christ, Way, Truth and Life. [...] This spirit has entered into the Pauline life..." (San Paolo, Jan. 1958). To the century that was opening to so many errors, vices and idolatry, Leo XIII offered an alternative: salvation is only in Christ Way, Truth and Life.

The encyclical of Leo XIII was more thoroughly studied in the seminary of Alba in the context of a broader catechesis on the "devotion" to Christ: "From the Christmas of 1900 to the end of January 1901, this devotion was preached for the first time by the Rector of the seminary." Recalling that preaching by the Rector, Fr. Alberione describes the spiritual sensation experienced by him: "At the end he experienced as if a revelation. He understood that this practice involved one’s entire life, [...] and he experienced the desire that all might know, practice and live this devotion’ (PrP 1965; PA I:12).

The guidance of Canon Francesco Chiesa, the experiences in teaching catechism at the oratory of San Secondo in Alba (from 1905), the task of spiritual director in the seminary (from 1908), the magisterium of the Pope, the publication of Appunti di teologia pastorale and La Donna associata allo zelo sacerdotale (books started in 1911 and published between 1913 and 1915) orient Fr. Alberione ever more to Christ Master: "Jesus Christ is our only true Master" (DA 125): it seems the first time that Fr. Alberione uses this definition in his writings and in the documents reaching us.

Teaching and pastoral ministry keep Fr. Alberione in contact with the conflicts, disorders and the opposing tendencies in the society and in the Church of his time: "Action and prayer directed him toward a Christian social apostolate aimed at healing governments, schools, laws, families, relations among classes and nations" (AD 63). Fr. Alberione lives his experience of faith and his first priestly ministry in the context of a struggle between "the darkness" and "the light", between the magisterium of the Church and the opposing ideologies, between the "teaching chair of Christ" and the "teaching chair of Satan". Meditation on Christ Master is light for his spiritual life and effective stimulus for evangelization.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Pauline Family, Fr. Alberione expressed his most lively gratitude "to Jesus, Divine Master, in his Sacrament of light and love". In fact, "in the devotion to Jesus Master there is everything: dogma, morals, worship; in this devotion there is the whole of Jesus; in this devotion, the whole of man, grafted in Jesus Christ, is totally taken" (20 August 1954). On his 80th birthday, he affirmed: "Lord, I thank you [...] for letting me practice and preach the devotion to Jesus Master Way and Truth and Life" (4 April 1964).

The figure of Christ "Master" has therefore allowed Fr. Alberione to overcome the crisis of adolescence, to seriously undertake his own mission, to inspire his ministry as spiritual director, teacher and pastor. (index)

 

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