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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"



"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" (1 Cor 9:16)

4.1. The apostolic challenges of the new millennium

At the end of the century at the dawn of the third millennium, Paulines recall the night of 31 December 1900 and 1 January 1901 as a decisive experience for the life and the foundations of Fr. Alberione.

Like other founders, Fr. Alberione, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, guided by men of God and approved by the Church, has enriched Christian life with a special charism. This charism fuses a dual aspect: a new spirituality and a new apostolic thrust. The spirituality of Jesus Master Way-Truth-Life was lived and elaborated by Fr. Alberione for the apostolate of communication. Paulines, committed to a creative fidelity, have the duty of understanding to its depth, to live and to adapt to the various historical eras such spirituality received from the Founder.

To a fidelity which knows and lives what Fr. Alberione has pointed out, must be added a work of continuous adaptation to the needs of the Church, of society and of today’s communication. The Pauline dynamism which "thrusts" forward (cf. Phil 3:14), under the light of the Holy Spirit, makes use of suitable instruments which may be pointed out in the hermeneutic of the thought and of the works of the Founder and in the inculturation which takes into consideration the signs of the times that could be identified in the history wherein the Paulines are called to live. (index)

4.2. Assist today’s people

Summarized in its essential formulation, the missionary spirituality of Christ Master Way-Truth-Life can be thus described:

a) The Pauline must assimilate in himself and give in the apostolate the integrality of Christ: Master of doctrine, of morals and of worship to God.

b) The Pauline undergoes a process of Christification in the integrality of his personality: mind, will and heart.

c) The Pauline who thinks, wills and loves as Christ, communicates through his apostolate the totality of Christ for the integrality of the person of the recipients: to give the whole Christian mystery and to speak of everything human in a Christian manner.

d) The Pauline aims every aspect of his personal and community life to the realization of the only deserving work: to integrally become holy in order to save all the recipients (love of God and love of neighbor in the love of communication). The spirituality of Christ Master Way-Truth-Life does not end in piety but becomes the style of life of the Pauline.

The documented study, which locates the spirituality of Christ Master Way-Truth-Life in the context of the personal life of Fr. Alberione, of the Church and of society of the end of the 1800s and the start of the 1900s, can give us the exact measure of the originality and effectiveness of the Alberione synthesis for that period of time. It concerns, in fact, an elaboration which has known how to gather and make fruitful the ferment of novelties which were reacting to a static situation which was now being shaken by innovative extremist movements.

Observing the missionary spirituality lived by Fr. Alberione in connection with the apostolate of communication, one could measure the vitality of him, moved by the love of God and at the same time by love of souls of "today", who assimilates and organizes it. Fr. Alberione by means of the Christological title of Master Way-Truth-Life tried to let the faith of all the times to meet the men of his time while using the modern means of communication.

This concerns a revolution of mentality and pastoral methods. The view of the new century instilled in Fr. Alberione that faith which takes seriously the "silent revolution" of history.

The creative fidelity of Paulines, at the start of a new century and of a new millennium, ought to be like the apostolic spirit of Fr. Alberione: "We must always lead souls to heaven: but we must lead not those who lived ten centuries or so ago, but those who live today. We have to take manners and men for what they are today in order to do good today" (ATP 147).

Fidelity is not fundamentalism: to repeat everything in the same manner for every era. The Pauline charism is dynamic because it is grafted into the dynamism of communication which affects society and the Church. (index)

4.3. Creative pastorality, in the spirit of Vatican Council II

Whatever re-elaboration of the inheritance received from Fr. Alberione must be inspired by his same spirit: to be saints in order to evangelize effectively. The need to heal the break between "religion and society," between "faith and culture" is not only the context of the intuition of Fr. Alberione, but it has also been the inspiring motive of Vatican Council II and of the work of the post-conciliar Church.

Vatican Council II has elaborated an integral synthesis of the Christian proposal by giving importance to and establishing the connection among the Word of God, catechesis, morals, liturgy, pastoral, etc. The intention has been to thus offer the totality of the faith to the modern man modeled in his mind-will-heart by a particular social context. With the due proportions, one can say that Vatican Council II has committed the whole Church to the work of "integrality" which Fr. Alberione had intuited with the spirituality of Christ Master Way-Truth-Life, adapted to the various forms of apostolate of the Pauline Family.

The reflections of Fr. Alberione during and after the Council activities prove this attunement of mentality and apostolic method. The exultation of Fr. Alberione about the decree Inter mirifica, which approves the Pauline apostolate of communication, extends also over the entire work of Vatican II: a "pastoral" Council. "In the Ecumenical Council Vatican II, the word which echoed more under the vaults of the Basilica of St. Peter, was this: ‘pastoral, pastoral,’ and that is: to reach souls, to save souls and to invent new means" (Vad 1202). (index)

4.4. Towards an ever richer synthesis

The project of sanctification and of evangelization of today’s Pauline is to be worked out by taking up the totality of Vatican II. Dogma, morals, worship and Christian vision of everything human, have to be rethought according to what the Council has indicated for the whole post-conciliar Church. Thirty years after the close of Vatican II, the work of creative fidelity of the Paulines must also take into consideration the other normative documents published after the Council, documents that regard especially the faith, catechesis, liturgy, morals, pastoral, communication.

The results of exegesis and of current theology, above all those referring to Christ Master and to the definition Way-Truth-Life are to be considered and taken up in order to equip the Pauline spirituality with adequate contents and method. The "totality" of Christ, of the persona and of the means of today must be re-thought with the wealth of the Council’s teachings and of the post-conciliar Magisterium.

The broad features drawn by the General Chapters, in faithfulness to the Founder and to today’s Church, bear in mind the integrality of Fr. Alberione within the global framework of the new conciliar and post-conciliar syntheses. (index)

4.5. The Gospel brought into various cultures

The Christological title adopted and proposed by Fr. Alberione, although not to the letter, was presented by Leo XIII as response to the needs of the person and of groups at the start of the 20th century. Can the leitmotif for reading Christ Master Way-Truth-Life be adjusted to the needs of the society of the third millennium? A reply, considering the complexity of society today, is not certainly easy. If it is true that broadly we can say that also today the person and society are in search of the way-truth-life, we need to be prudent and not to easily conclude that we have a religious question here. The example of Fr. Alberione and the teaching of Vatican II tell us that evangelization does not consist only in proposing an experience of secure faith in its content, but also in making that response understandable in its forms of expression. In order that our contemporaries may freely believe, evangelization has the duty of bringing itself into various cultures, while choosing the path of inculturation.

Recent history of evangelization, in different degrees in various continents, has assumed in an early stage the form of Catholicity understood as "uniformity". In a second period the proposal of faith has passed through "translation" in local languages of a doctrinal uniformity coming from the outside. Today, we witness numerous attempts of "inculturation" which seeks to let the faith be expressed by local cultures: unity in plurality.

The indications of the apostolic exhortation by Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975) and of the encyclical of John Paul II, Redemptoris missio (7 December 1990) urge the Church to promote an inculturation of the faith which takes into consideration the local cultures.

Participating in the process of inculturation in the various countries and promoting it where it is not yet developed, the Paulines undertake a creative fidelity along the lines of the Founder aiming to bring "the whole Christ" as expressed in Vatican II, with "the whole man" of various cultures wherein the Society of St. Paul is found.

To inculturate the Pauline spirituality in the communication process requires that it be made alive and aware of the culture of communication, which is in continuous development, always thrust forward. It could be said that inculturation – as ongoing formation – is a component of the "continuing conversion" and hence of the renewed giving of ourselves to the Lord in an attitude of profound faith. Initial and ongoing formation, mission and spirituality necessarily find themselves forming a vital synthesis in this asceticism. (index)

4.6. Constant openness in the field of communication

The most visible element that expresses dynamism to creative fidelity of the Paulines is communication, a perennial element received from Fr. Alberione. During his existence, the Founder gave the example of a constant openness to new means of communication. In fact, he progressively adopted for evangelization the press, the movies, radio, television, discs, entrusting the Paulines to make use in every era "of the fastest and most efficacious means."

The history of the Society of St. Paul after the death of Fr. Alberione (1971) records a continuity in the means adopted during the preceding years, with an accentuation for involvement in the editorial production of books and periodicals. The apostolic use of the audiovisual means is lesser in comparison with press publication.

In a crescendo on the global level, communication has undergone profound changes starting from the 80’s. These changes have marked not only the means of communication themselves but also on the social use of the same means. Special thanks to computerization, telecommunication, multimedia and virtual reality, today communication has been transformed into a real "culture" and "civilization." The communication phenomenon is thus very rich in terms of expressions and of components so that it marks all the aspects of individual and social life: the numberless practical uses and the sciences of communication show clearly that today’s communication, and even more so in the future, is not only a composite of technologies of which the means is made.

The radical changes in communication do not leave Paulines indifferent, either in their apostolic activities or in the spirituality which supernaturally motivates their mission. Creative fidelity is not exhausted in considering the computer a "new machine" for communication that has to be adopted for the improvement of the apostolate. The computer is just the visible tip of the iceberg of the communication technology as culture.

With the whole People of God and following after the attitude of Fr. Alberione expressed in the vow of fidelity to the Pope, Paulines are invited to attentively consider the post-conciliar documents of the Magisterium on communication. In particular the following are to be meditated upon: Communio et progressio (23 May 1971), Guide to the Training of Future Priests Concerning the Instruments of Social Communication (19 March 1986), Aetatis novae (22 February 1992). Other two documents deserve a special attention. The encyclical Redemptoris missio (7 December 1990) is fundamental for the Pauline charism. John Paul II writes: "Involvement in the mass-media, however, is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel. There is a deeper reality involved here: since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications. This is a complex issue, since the ‘new culture’ originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating, with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology" (no. 37c).

Also the post-conciliar exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (14 December 1995) affirms the same directive: "In effect, in our times the mass media constitute not only a world, but a culture and a civilization. It is also to this world that the Church is sent to bring the Good News of salvation. The heralds of the Gospel must therefore be a part of it in order that it be permeated by such new civilization and culture so that it may properly know how to make use of them" (no. 71).

The descriptions of the magisterium agree with the diagnosis of communication sciences and practice: communication is "a culture" and "a civilization". Evangelization cannot be satisfied with but using communication in "instrumental" form, that is as simple "means" for spreading the Christian message, but it must take recourse to the process of inculturation of faith in communication. (index)

4.7. Christ Master and Communicator

The task of letting "faith be inculturated in communication" belongs to the whole Church and one could already list down reflections and successful undertakings. The orientations by the Magisterium should involve in a special manner also us Paulines if we want to continue being in the Church, after the example of Fr. Alberione, one among the pioneers who evangelize in communication. This does not, of course, mean abandoning our current activities by an impulsive redirection towards hypothetical "new apostolate". It is not even enough that we add a new set of products which utilize the new technologies. Communication as "culture" has a bearing on all the "four wheels" of the Pauline car. Even so, although continuing to give importance to what is already being done, evangelical wisdom is needed to "place new wine in new wine skins" (Mt 9:17), while seriously considering the phenomenon of the state of current communication and their consequences on persons, on society, the Church and the Pauline charism.

Among the current changes in the culture established by communication, there is the figure of the teacher and the style educational relationship. The possibilities bound with computerization, with telecommunications and to multimedia effect a fundamental displacement in the process of communication: the motor of communication is no longer he who sends the message, but the user himself. Thanks to the fusion of computerization, telecommunication and mass media, communication has been personalized and every user can choose the contents and the manner of taking them.

In this communication context, it has become ever more difficult to sustain the idea of "teacher" as he who holds the keys of knowledge to share in a one-way process. The existence of huge data banks of information creates a situation of abundance and pluralism which makes it difficult for one to pretend as the only one having knowledge.

The holiness and apostolate of Paulines require a rethinking of the spirituality of Christ Master under the perspective of "witnessing": "The contemporary man listens more willinglly to witnesses than to teachers and if he listens to teachers it is because they also are witnesses" (EN 41). The biblical category of "witness" can be an interpretation under the communication perspective of the title "master."

Alongside and very close to "witness", we find the figure of the "prophet" – an undeniably biblical figure – that is, he who introduces himself as interpreter or authoritative spokeperson of the transcendent and absolute God, and introduces himself in an attitude of service as spiritual and charismatic guide of the community, in order to stir consciences, thus exercising the role of the "opinion leader", inspirer or religious expert.

There also have been efforts to draw a theology of Christ "communicator" which deserve interest in view of an eventual re-expression of "master." Nonetheless it is good to be careful about highly speculative propositions which could result only in substitution with other Christological terms but always in terms of examplarity which neglects the human phenomenon of communication.

Inasmuch as in Fr. Alberione’s vision "the Pauline is a second master" modeled after Christ Master, every effort for a new Christological re-expression has to be at the same time a desire to draw an updated profile of the Pauline, "saint and sanctifier" today. (index)

4.8. Broadened and interactive communication

Taking into a further examination some characteristics of communication established by the new technologies, we can refer them to the Christological trinomial Way-Truth-Life.

While "truth" in the earlier form of communication was often identified at the close of a "text" or of a "discourse", in the digital communication, it is entrusted to the opening of the hypertext, that is in a composite of texts interrelated among themselves and coming also from more (audiovisual) media. Truth in the hypertext is bound more to the pattern of sequence of texts than to the importance of single text isolated from all the others. Hypertext is a potentially infinite text.

The style of hypertext communication opens new horizons for the search for truth, also in the faith. The inexhaustible treasure of revelation in the person of Christ finds consonance with the need of not "putting in chains" the Word of God in fixed formulas (cf. 2 Tim 2:9); the unfathomable mystery of God is found also by a continuous search for deeper knowledge.

The "way" of the communication process in the era of mass media is one way; the passivity of the recipient is only partially modified by some possibility to reply to the broadcaster. In the communication "way" of the new technologies the trend is towards interactivity. The recipient is also author of his communication, in a dialogue that is effected in real time. Interactive communication, in its turn, interconnects with the path of search and participation of the believer who has access to knowledge, models of behavior and projects of life among which to choose. Faith is addressed to the freedom of the person.

The authentic communicator becomes a leader in the journey of history, an inspirer to those who work also on the political-cultural level in a manner that leads to the building of the Kingdom of God well beyond every close and myopic historicism.

The possible "life" of mass media communication involves the need for information, culture, entertainment of the person and of groups even in an experience almost only audiovisual. The "life" made possible by the new communication technologies is directed to the totality of the senses of the person: it is multimedia. Soon the experience of virtual reality shall be a global immersion of the person in an ideal or hypothetical world, existing only in the memory of a computer program.

Multimedia communication – with all the ambiguities of alienation in the non-real and in depersonalization – can benefit the totality of the religious experience above all by involving the integrality of the senses and maintaining open the desire of the person or of groups to the non-material, to the imaginary, to a beyond the felt reality, to the greater possibility of perception and expression of the spiritual.

Christ Way-Truth-Life for the totality of the person – mind-heart-will – is not blocked by the new communication, but certainly it requires a quality of faith – also of creativity and even imagination and poetry – which does not only belong to the era of mass media. In the global and multimedia communication which requires from Paulines an adequate missionary spirituality, there is another experience and expression of the truth, of the way and of life. (index)


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