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Orientations by Fr. Alberione to the Daughters of St. Paul

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

by Caterina Antonietta Martini fsp



From the partial examination of the meditations published in various compilations, Haec meditare and similar publications, some key words surface: Jesus: 8624; God: 8474; apostolate (apostles): 3419; Spirit: 2541; Christ: 2189; Master: 1246; Gospel: 1003; study (mind, to teach): 1210; piety: 949; poverty: 767.

From these terminological recurrences, two ideas emerge clearly: God-Christ and mission, which delineate the Pauline spirituality as apostolic spirituality, centered on Jesus and on the proclamation of the Gospel, with three clear connotations: prayer, study, poverty. (return to summary)

1. The title Master

The Christological title of "Master", at first glance, does not appear quite frequently. The Founder uses it in different forms: "Master," "Divine Master," "Master Divine," "Jesus Master," "Master Jesus." He uses it to indicate the person of Jesus Master who, not only guides, enlightens, teaches, but also gives the possibility for one to do what his teaching requires. He uses it as a wish: "May the Divine Master be in every step, light, comfort, sanctification" (LMT 64); as prayer intention: "May the Divine Master through the intercession of the Queen of the Apostles and of St. Paul, enlighten, guide and vivify you" (CVV 32); "I pray the Lord and Master Jesus that he be in everything and always, but especially during such days (Easter): Way, Truth and Life for the glory of God and peace to men: (CVV 50); as a greeting: "In Jesus Master" (CVV 98). At other times he illustrates rather broadly that Jesus is the only teacher, distinct from all the other teacher, because he instructs us, offers us examples of his life and he offers us his grace to live what he teachers.(9) Still at other times, he does not express the title, but in using the name of Jesus and in the manner that he refers to him, teaching and guiding role is obvious of Jesus, as is the role of savior who with his self-immolation gives life to the world.

But the reference to Christ Master is central. The reference makes a single unit with the vision of the most rapid and most efficacious means:(10) the Master is the fastest and most effective means to go to the Father.

The Gospel passages which Alberione recalls as the bases of this devotion are: the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17); the transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8), the discourse before the crowd (Mt 23:1-10), the washing of the feet (Jn 13:1-17), the self-revelation (Jn 14:1-24). These are the texts that eventually would be taken up in the liturgy of the Divine Master.

Furthermore, a precise point of view emerges and the Founder pursues this constantly: that of life. Except for some special moments, he does not worry about having to explain theologically the title Jesus Master to the FSP, but he wants to lead persons to live in him, for him, by him, with him (cf. CVV 65) and to proclaim him to the world with the modern means. (return to summary)

2. The first approach of the FSP to the devotion to Jesus Master

a) In the common heritage

The Daughters of St. Paul live of the heritage of the House (so the Pauline Family was called then). With the rest of the House they learn to refer themselves to Christ under the title of Master, from 1922. As regards the history of the time, Fr. Sgarbossa has presented it with details and it also is the history of the FSP. In that same year (1922), with the first profession of the first sisters, also for them the new name give in profession was preceded with the title "Maestra," in honor of Jesus Master. From that moment, with the formation of the groups of formators, the postulants were named the Disciples of the Divine Master.(11) The Eucharistic Visit, which the FSP make daily since the very beginning, becomes the expression of the "devotion to the Divine Master which in the House is concentrated in the Tabernacle" (cf. PP 365). "The Master is calling you" is the familiar and affectionate expression that the Daughters use to tell each other that the time of the Visit had come.(12) In 1924, with the entire House, they celebrate the first month in honor of Jesus Master, preached by Blessed Timothy Giaccardo. Under the light of the Master, they become ever more aware of their identity which consists in "taking care of the Gospel of the Divine Master" while the Pious Disciples would "take care of the Divine Master and of his Ministers":(13) from 1925, in fact, they would collaborate intensely in the production in very high quantity of the Gospel and for the "Gospel Feasts" or of the "Divine Master". The are helped to nourish this attention to the Master also by the monthly orientations, common to all the Family, exposed in the "mural showcase" San Paolo. Among these, some are especially interesting for us: October, 1926: "Every department shall happily attend, with calm recollection, to its class of apostolate, under the blessing gaze of the Divine Master" (CVV 3); January 1927: "Month of the Divine Master" (CVV 5); August 1927: "The Divine Master" referring to the book of Canon Chiesa that had to be read and meditated upon during that month (cf. CVV 6). Then there are the first circular letters to the Family transplanted in Rome, with the invitation to thanksgiving because "The Divine Master has visibly guided us... We have seen more clearly that our mission is holy and necessary, that Jesus wants to enlighten"; and that we must learn from "our Master who teaches us with much grace out of the straw" (cf. CVV 7).

b) Direct teaching

The first preaching on Jesus Master, attested to by the same notes, is credited to Maestro Giaccardo in his meditations of 1924 and 1925.

The meditations of the Founder addressed to the female branch (to the Daughters and I think also to the PD) with explicit references to the Divine Master, date back – as it was possible for me to ascertain – to 1927-1928, when Fr. Alberione conducted for the "Mistresses" a kind of novitiate, also defined as "Extended Course of Exercises". In that course, there are notes of about seventy meditations; three were respectively on Jesus Way, Jesus Truth, Jesus Life. In them Jesus is defined as "the only, the perfect, the divine" Master.

In 1929 the house-to-house propaganda was launched. The Daughters experienced that the devotion to Jesus Master was one and the same as the apostolate. Following the Spiritual Exercises of July of that year, The Founder sent a circular letter to the branch houses, opened few months earlier, and he issued a real mandate: "Good Daughters of St. Paul. During the course of Spiritual Exercises of July, we made a resolution inspired by the Divine Master and was accepted by your heart burning with love of God and of souls, with holy enthusiasm: in a period of few years we shall let the Divine Master, either as Life in Jesus, or as Gospel, or as book, enter every house or family in Italy... Would that everyone knew Jesus, that everyone be enlightened by Jesus, everywhere the Divine Master, inasmuch as the Heavenly Father proclaims from heaven, ‘This is my beloved son, hear him.’ I bless you! If St. Paul were alive, he would do this: wherever and always and above all Jesus" (CVV 14).

In August of the same year, he conducted a retreat with the Daughters who were coming back from the first experiences of house-to-house propaganda. He read their experience in the light of the Gospel of Luke: the seventy-two disciples sent two by two by the Master. On their return, Jesus calls them apart and gives them "advices"; then the Founder continued: "Also you have gone two by two in many parishes, diffusing the doctrine of the Master, with enough fruits, and so the same advices will benefit you. Do not be proud, and this is the first teaching of the Master. We have the vocation, the strength to accomplish the apostolate, but everything comes to us from Jesus. Second advice: come apart; now you are making the monthly retreat and then, if you will be sent two by two, you shall go again with the spirit of charity. Then there is a third advice from the Master, given inasmuch as the Apostles ere complaining of not having been able to drive away certain demons" and then he insisted on the need for prayer.

I think these few references from the initial texts are enough for one to see immediately the characteristic Pauline perspective: Jesus is the Master who draws to himself, forms with his given life, with his word, and sends in mission. And while the apostolate done by the FSP was being questioned on the higher levels of the hierarchy, the Founder proposes it continually in his preaching on the Divine Master: "The apostolate of the press is the continuation of the apostolate of the Divine Master who came down from heaven in order to teach the way to heaven and to us he preached his divine truths and taught us with word and example the way of holiness and he gave the means of grace, especially the holy sacraments." (14)

In the exercises of 1932 (15) more general indications emerge, but all in view of formation and apostolate: listen to the Divine Master (pp. 7; 53); know the Divine Master (p. 18); grow in the Divine Master (p. 164); bring the Divine Master to all men, taking his truths in order to give them to souls (p. 167) with the universality of St. Paul (p. 178).

Between 1933 and 1936, some events affect the whole Congregation, even if they directly involved the community of Alba, and they left an affective tone to the relationship with the Divine Master, for whom the devotion "enters through the path of the heart".(16)

These events were:

1) The transfer of the FSP to Borgo Piave. The direction of the Founder regarding the identity of the House has complete bond with the Master Way, Truth and life, on the spiritual and apostolic level: "The new quarters must be a center of light, a center of virtue, a center of grace. A) Center of light and of truth, and that is, from here should originate numerous periodicals and books to bring the divine light to all. From here the Lord shall also enlighten. B) Center of virtue. Here the workaday virtues of the religious and common life must be exercised. Virtues that should sustain and expand the good that Jesus wants. Here, sin has to be banished. C) Center of prayer. Yes, of prayer because also here the Hour of Adoration has to be perpetuated: Jesus should never ever be alone. Prayer, because in each moment we need the divine grace which keeps us far from evil and fills us with mercy in order to make fruitful all the good that must be done for the glory of God and peace to men;" (17)

2) The church of the Divine Master. As soon as the Daughters were settled in Borgo Piave, the construction of the "Divine Master" church, already begun in 1927, was resumed. The magisterium of Jesus is also expressed in the architectural lines and in the stained glasses which narrate moments of the Master’s life and illustrate his central teaching: the Beatitudes;(18)

3) The statue of the Divine Master, arrived at Borgo Piave in January 1935: it expresses some fundamental meanings of the devotion: the reference to the Word, the totality of the mystery, to the missionary nature;(19)

4) The first Sunday of the month. On October 25, 1936, the church of the Divine Master is blessed. Fr. Alberione, already in Rome since June, is not present. But on that day he holds a mediation to the Roman community and personalizes for the Daughters an orientation that, precisely on that day (28 October) is published in San Paolo and which makes effective what was established in the Constitutions of 1932 (art. 124): the solemn celebration of the first Sunday of the month in honor of the Divine Master. Thus he tells the Daughters in Rome: "Today is a day of great celebration for the Daughters of St. Paul: 1) because the Kingship of Jesus is celebrated; 2) because in Alba the Church of the Divine Master is blessed. And so, as a remembrance of this double feast you ought to introduce into the Congregation a new usage: the solemn celebration of the first Sunday of the month in honor of the Divine Master... On the day, Jesus Master Truth is honored, with a greater attention to the explanation of the Gospel; Way, dedicating with extreme care the established time for the examination of conscience; Life, attending the Mass well, receiving communion, and the adoration." (20) (return to summary)

Continued: Jesus Master in the oral and written teaching of Fr. Alberione - 2 -

return to summary


           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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