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JESUS MASTER:
A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE MISSION

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

 

IV. THE RESPONSE TO THE ALBERIONE PROPHECY:
Jesus Master in the works of the FSP and in spiritual experiences

2. Some experiences of spiritual journey at the footsteps of the Master

What is most important is to notice that the FSP, as all the rest of the members of the Pauline Family, see in the devotion to the Divine Master the trail pointed out by God for their own journey to holiness. The teaching of the Founder is transformed thus into a concrete spiritual journey, and this is more true now that the heroism of his virtues have been proclaimed, and hence Fr. Alberione is proposed by the Church as model of holiness. The first great spiritual experience to deepen is precisely his, and then those of other Paulines, like Blessed Giaccardo, but not here, at least it does not belong to me to do it. In faithfulness to the theme given me, I pause to look at some Daughters, grown in the school of the Founder. By way of example, I take up two spiritual journeys, both of them still to deepen, that of Maestra Tecla Merlo and that of Maestra Nazarena Morando.

a) The Prima Maestra Tecla: "Learn from me"

After Fr. Tito Armani and Fr. Desiderio Costa, Maestra Tecla is the first follower of Fr. Alberione, totally inserted in his foundation project. She is among the first nine young women who, in 1922, profess the vows and, with new names, they assume the title "Maestra" in honor of the Divine Master. To her, under the title of Superior General, is entrusted the community and in 1929, with the diocesan approval, she is given the title of "Prima Maestra". Certainly after his return from Susa (March 1923), Maestra Tecla breathes fully what the Founder teaches at the Mother House. She is won over, like everyone, by the great enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel; she is involved in the intensity of the eucharistic life of the House and in the passion for holiness that infects everyone; she deeply assimilates the Alberione instructions, of which she herself carefully takes notes or makes others do so and them sends them, merely mimeographed and, much later, printed, to the sisters and at times to the entire Pauline Family. In those difficult times of the 20s, Maestra Tecla carries on with her office, as her personal notes reveal, with profound awareness of her own inadequacy, completely in the dark of what God was weaving regarding the possible development of the Institute. In this context surfaces, as if with the value of a symbol, the meditation of the Founder of which notes were taken on 27 November 1927: "We have finished the first part of the orientation... Now we see the path to follow in order to reach sanctity. We have to have a model to imitate and this is Jesus Way, Truth and Life: the Divine Master. He shall teach us, he shall draw the path for us, and even more, he himself is our Life." (56)

For her, the Master is truly the "Way" which guides everything: he is the obedient Son who always does the will of the Father; he is the Way to go to the Father. To follow the Master means to listen to him, to imitate him, to become his children: "Our Master lives in the tabernacle; from there he preaches with the Gospel to the intelligence and to the heart... It is necessary to always live united with Jesus. Whoever is united with Jesus is the dwelling place of the Trinity." (57) In these notes of 1927, there already is, in a nutshell, what would be her spiritual journey. Simplifying a bit, we can identify some elements that make up the Pauline method.

a) Listening (truth). It is revealed in the simple and vital meditation of the Word of God. The Gospel for the Prima Maestra is the food of the Master. During the years of extreme poverty, with all trust, she would tell the sisters, "Every day, the Father shall send food, clothing... We shall be nourished by the immaculate flesh of the Savior, we shall be nourished with his Gospel" (January 1932). The things "written there", in the Gospel, gave her absolute certainty because they were said by the Master (cf. VPC 140).

She meditates on the whole New Testament, but the following have a special place in her journey of faith:

b) Imitation (Way). Her meditation, although in traditional language, is a real attention to the person of Jesus, the Master. From listening, she passes to a gaze continually resting on Jesus Master, urged as she is by the Gospel passage: "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29). Her imitation reaches the whole life of the Master, with a desire to reproduce him in all his mysteries. Her constant resolution: "To imitate Jesus, the Divine Master. To ask always, ‘How would Jesus do it?’ I want to imitate the Divine Master and become a saint" (January 1932). "Jesus Christ as model; watch always Jesus: how he prayed, spoke, walked, dealt with persons, suffered willingly for us, and as forth. The study of the religious soul is how she must copy the model Jesus, the Divine Master" (Es. Sp. 1934); "The examples of the Divine Master" (May 1951); "To imitate Jesus, Master par excellence..." (January 1955).

c) To live the Master (life). From imitation, the Prima Maestra proceeds to a deeper level which is that of sharing of life, that of identification, of conformity. We know how this stage has the highest point in the identification with the Master’s Easter, by uniting one’s self with him in the offering of life, especially for the Daughters of St. Paul entrusted to her, but also for the whole Church, for the Council, for the Founder with the Pauline Family.(58)

Already we have mentioned how she is guided to rest in the Master who works in the soul. The spiritual notes of 1963 reveal a total adherence to the Master, with significant nuances: "To live union with God, like St. Paul: ‘My life is Christ’. To do everything through him, with him, in him" (3 June 1963). "Stay united with Jesus. Thoughts that are his, will that is his. To love God (the Father) above everything through Him and with Him. Sacrifice for souls" (22/1/1963). "To imitate St. Paul in his union with the Divine Master: ‘Who is going to separate me from the love of Christ?’"(24/1/1963). "Today, more intensity of life with Jesus Master. Everything with him: unity" (27/1/1963). "Stay united with the Divine Master. To learn internal and external silence from the holy Family" (30/1/1963).

Furthermore, the Prima Maestra becomes more sensitive to the relationship of the Divine Master with the Father. For her too, it means entering into that relationship, above all through the mystery of his obedience: "Jesus always did the will of the Father; I want to always do the will of the Father; to see in all things his will" (February 1963). "I want to live your obedience, O Jesus. It is Jesus who lives in me with the Father and the Holy Spirit... To stay united with the Divine Master" (February 1963).

This intimacy with the Master forms Prima Maestra as a woman open to the needs of humanity, a woman totally for the mission. When she was in India for the first time, face to face with those crowds that do not know the Master, she felt "her heart break" (cf. VPC 104), something that immediately makes one remember the compassion of Jesus for the crowd. Contemplating the Master who moves about "doing good," she synthesizes her sense of mission in three expressions "to do good" (cf. VPC 140), "to help souls" (cf. VPC 166), "to contribute for their salvation" (cf. VPC 124). It is her manner of bringing to reality the Master’s life in hers.

b) Maestra Nazarena: "Christ lives in me"

Another person who believed in an extraordinary manner, and has welcomed "the richness of the Divine Master," as taught by the Founder, is Maestra Nazarena Morando. Having entered in Susa in 1919, she died in Alba on June 5, 1984. First editor of Famiglia Cristiana, mistress of novices for more than thirty years, translator of the works of St. Teresa of Avila, general councilor for many mandates, vicar general, and in the last years we find her again in Alba, engaged in technical apostolate, as at the start of her Pauline life.

Reading some spiritual notes that regard her last twenty years of life, one could gather that Maestra Nazarena made the indication of the Founder as the decisive orientation for her personal spiritual journey. For her, Jesus is "my divine Master" and she desires that everything converged on him: "May my conversion be a total convergence with Christ; that all my being, mind, will, heart, senses, body, everything converge in Christ, my Master, Rabbuni!"

Her interior journey is constantly illumined by the Gospel of the transfiguration where she takes for herself the invitation of the Spirit to be a "beloved daughter" of the Father, like the Son. She writes in February 1983: "Clothe me with yourself in a manner that the Heavenly Father, looking at me, might say: ‘Here is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.’ Hence I want to cultivate in my heart the sentiments of filial love of Jesus towards the Father. Life of identification with the Divine Master. Jesus, my guide, my all." "But I am poor and incapable of accomplishing this transformation: you must do everything yourself. You who gives me this ardent desire, you must bring it to reality." Her great confidence makes her dare to demand.

Above all, however, her spiritual experience is formed by the text of Gal 2:20, understood as a personal call. She writes in 1973: "Why had the Lord called me? For his glory, for my sanctification by making Christ live in me... Lord, I thank you that since many yours you have made my soul feel this invitation: to live in Christ, life of identification with Christ" (1973). "For me to live is Christ; it is no longer I who lives: it is Christ who lives in me." And this is the essential nucleus of Pauline spirituality. This is my great aspiration. It is at this that I long to arrive... I am aware of my smallness and poverty, but I always feel more alive the desire to correspond to your invitation to live in Christ" (1981). "I want to follow you, not only by coming after You, but to live like You, even more: I want that You live in me. Would that you live in my mind, in my heart, in my will. I want to arrive at ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me!"

The intimate call to let "Christ live in me" is realized in depth in a period of the congregation’s most difficult historical moment, that of the cultural change (1965-1984). Maestra Nazarena fails to evade the blows and does not unwillingly allow herself to be set apart; she takes up this time as a moment of grace and with the spirit of Mary: few explanations and total abandonment; she responds to the Master who "heads her to the desert".

At a certain point, as the Prima Maestra already did, she lives the most Paschal aspect of the life of the Master: she "takes charge" of the laborious journey of the Congregation and of the Church. She unites herself with the Master in the offering of self and she offers her own life to the Father in the status of victim: "Lord, I love my Congregation more than I love my life. I desire that all of us live in full coherence to the commitments of our consecration. I am tormented by the pain of seeing things that distort the face of the souls whom You have called and loved with a love of predilection, and I fear that there is an offense against your Divine Heart, and that this Family you willed, raised, guided does not correspond to your designs of love.

"Hence, Lord, guided and solicited by your Spirit, I offer you my whole self as a small victim. I offer: for your greater glory, for the whole Church, for the Pope, for the Priests, for the Religious Men and Women, for the whole Pauline Family, in a very special manner for the Daughters of St. Paul. I offer myself for all the defections, deficiencies, protests, murmuring... Lord, I am ready to accept from your fatherly hands everything that you may will to make me achieve this my offering."

These are small reliefs but they tell that these FSP, like all the others, have entrusted their life to the spiritual project of Fr. Alberione. In it they have brought to realization their life of faith for the welfare of the whole Church, not only with doing, living, but also, like the Divine Master, with giving their life, which is the apex of love.

Many other cases could be mentioned, but these are but brief notes mentioned only to raise the desire to further deepen our knowledge. (return to summary)

CONCLUSION

I tried to pursue not a theory but an experience that presents many turns. The devotion to Jesus Master for the FSP and for the PF is not a devotional fact or an intellectual one. It involves one’s whole life, orients the apostolate, becomes a spiritual project for the full development of the life of faith. The more one takes it into consideration, the more one notices that it is the center wherein life, vocation and mission are made into one. It is truly the center of the Pauline project. I see in it:

a) an urgent appeal for us: Jesus Master is the source of the apostolate, of the community, of consecration. Consider everything starting from him and to make him the project of life of the Congregation and of individual members.

b) a mission to live and proclaim in the Church: the Pauline charism has here its depth and its fecundity: to manifest and radiate the Divine Master living in us, to proclaim him throughout the world with all the means. It is not a matter of making things, but putting ourselves in the first place in the school of Jesus Master with a serious spiritual work and work of evangelization, which for the Founder had its center in the editorial: "Do not take away what is most important, that is, work in one’s interior life and the editorial work. If so, we shall not be Paulines. We must be Paulines... Paulines first, religious first, and then we will do this or that..." (2/12/1954). The proclamation, however, remains empty if our life is not hidden in his, just like St. Paul’s.

c) a point of application for formation, which is translated into the elaboration of a Pauline pedagogy that motivates, stimulates, guides and sustains the journey of growth in Jesus Master on all levels.

From the historical point of view, a bringing together of dates can see the relevance of the devotion to Jesus Divine Master. The direction of the XX century was: to follow Christ, inasmuch as he is Way, Truth and Life (cf. TF). The direction at the same century that is closing and that opens a new millennium is still: Christ, yesterday, today, always (cf. TMA 2-8). The Church "believes in finding in her Lord and Master the key, the center and the final end of man if not of the whole human history" (GS 10, in TMA 59).

In the third millennium, the Church wants and asks also from us to be better experts on what constitutes the nucleus of the charism: Christ Master, Way, Truth and Life. In the world of communication, a world of fragmented news, world of appearances, we are called to live the experience that was Paul’s: "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). Just as at the beginning, the heart of the press apostolate was the Master, so today, communication and communicators cannot but receive all the light from him, the Master. (return to summary)

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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