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JESUS MASTER IN OUR APOSTOLATE
ACCORDING TO FR. ALBERIONE

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

by Teófilo Pérez ssp

  

II. The book "Apostolato Stampa"
Handbook of directions for formation and apostolate

Almost like a condensation of his own lived experience, when by now his first foundations were already set and expanding in different continents, Fr. Alberione published in 1933 the programmatic book Apostolato Stampa. It has 29 chapters, some of them prevalently doctrinal in character; others, (the majority) clearly practical, and all of them unfailingly divided into three parts. Almost the entire book already appeared in the Gazzetta d’Alba in 1932 and in Vita Pastorale starting in 1931.

The most relevant characteristic of this "Manuale direttivo" (as it would be subtitled in the next editions)(64) is the following: the author, beginning with his convictions and more so from his life, in a dense synthesis (in spite of the sought after symmetries and a discourse at times minutely analytical), presents from the apostolic point of view the whole life of the Pauline, then already sufficiently organized and hence with its various components.

Well, everything is focused from the point of view of the specific apostolate, thus overcoming (at least as plan) the numerous partitions or stagnant compartments or dichotomies of sorts. Formation, work, history, devotions, prayer, technical means, practical counsels, the cult of the Sacred Scriptures, religious consecration, the dangers in view (the "risks on the job", he would call them later), the programs to carry out and the horizons to reach... all this is structured in a compact manner around the key point, mission, which in this manner is presented like the hive of the life of every Pauline (man or woman). And Fr. Alberione is not satisfied with it: going beyond his own religious Family and beyond the limit of his immediate influence, he would want that all the Church (even the whole society) would move at the rhythm of the apostolate.(65)

Let us see briefly the outline, that is to say, the skeleton of this exposition even as we add to it other clarifications which Fr. Alberione himself made during the years that followed, and recalling other post-conciliar documents – also those that are ours – in order to see echoed in them some of the basic intuitions of our Founder.

The point of departure of this "Manuale direttivo" is the profound conviction that pushed Fr. Alberione to undertake his work, and that is, the specific (even special) vocation, the call of God perceived since youth and carried out faithfully: "I give you this mission (he had heard the voice of the Divine Master) and I desire that you fulfill it" (AD 157).(66) All his efforts would always move towards that direction: it is clear and incontrovertible that evangelization – with the use of the "Editions", that is the modern means of social communication – is the principal end towards which his vocation, his foundations, his life were thrust forward.(67) (return to summary)

1. Definition and "justification" of the Press Apostolate

Fr. Alberione begins his treatise by defining the Apostolate of the Press: "it is proclamation, of the divine Word, through printing" (p. 3).(68) He thus joins the categories of "proclamation" (or "evangelization"),(69) taken from the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition with that of "printing" (that is the transmission through technical means), which shall constitute the specific element of the Pauline apostolate. This equipositioning between oral preaching and preaching through technical means (at first with the press and then through other means of social communication which gradually came to being)(70) has always been close to the Founder’s heart, as a basic point or presupposition of his own charism.

Hence he immediately raises (in favor of the apostolic use of the press and the other means of social communication) a series of "proofs" or reasons founded on the fact that the Word of God has been transmitted, by voice or written, through the mouths of patriarchs and prophets, through his Son, through the Church, to conclude with:(71) "Vocal preaching in a certain sense corresponds with the Tradition; preaching through "impression" (the press), in a certain sense corresponds with the Sacred Scriptures" (p. 5).(72) Now, preaching (that is, evangelization) "is necessary at all times... in every place ... to every man... (p. 3), because "This has been the divine duty of Jesus, the duty that the Master transmitted, entrusted to priests: ‘Just as the Father has sent me, so I send you... Go, therefore, teach (truth), teach them to observe... (morals), baptizing people (grace)’" (p. 15). The problem of how to reach such a vast range is then raised. This urgency of evangelization, after the example of St. Paul ("Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel": 1 Cor 9:16), was the spring which made the intuition of Alberione leap out, and the apostolic push which always brought his work forward.

Some years later, he would find an incisive formulation to express what he lived and affirmed since the time of early foundation: "Today, the pulpit is not enough: all means are needed. Truly the world has changed in a few years and we, in order to journey with the world, have to update ourselves a bit. The movies, radio, the press, television and all are in motion in order to communicate thought...(73) This means to open the use of modern means, considered gifts of God, to the field of pastoral work, that is of the governance of souls [of persons], in order "to guide them to the healthy pastures of truth, along the right paths of Christian holiness, in the supernatural life of grace" (p. 15).

In these words one can perceive, with a strong anticipation in time, what the decree Inter mirifica would affirm: "The Catholic Church, having been founded by Christ the Lord in order to bring salvation to all men, and having been urged by the need to spread the message of the Gospel, considers it her duty to make use also of the instruments of social communication in order to proclaim this salvation" (IM 3; cf. also no. 13).(74) (return to summary)

2. The contents of preaching through the media

What is to be communicated? What is the object of the Apostolate of the Press? Fr. Alberione has no doubts: we need to present Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life.(75) The Gospel is the person of Jesus Christ (cf. EN 7; RM 13). Nonetheless to schematically and methodically proceed, Fr. Alberione parades some famous triads, starting from that often repeated one regarding the contents of the apostolate: Dogma, Morals, Worship, in clear almost symmetrical correspondence with Truth, Way, Life:(76) First of all let us keep the general principle, our duty to give Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life, that is how He is: all. He is the Truth: hence give clear doctrine; He is the Way: hence give to the world virtues, that is, teach... the imitation of Jesus Christ; He is the life: and life is drawn from Him, from the Sacraments." (77)

This communication of doctrine, of morals, of worship, that is of the whole Christian life, is done directly or indirectly (pp. 16-17).

A) Above all, directly, that is, with the explicit exposition of the catechetical contents, applying them to personal, family, social, international life: "In the first place, give the doctrine that saves." (78) On this, the insistence of Fr. Alberione knows no pause. And here is inserted the accent on the primacy of the Word of God, to which he dedicates two whole chapters of the book: chapters XXIV, which prevalently looks at worship or personal and ecclesial devotion to the Bible, in order to benefit with the mind the will and the heart; and chapter XXVIII, which presents the Sacred Scriptures as the model for the Apostolate of the Press and as its first object: "The spread of the holy Gospel in particular and the Bible in general must remain as the essential work of the Apostolate of the Press" (p. 148).(79) Regarding this matter, the Chapter Documents (no. 171) list: evangelization,(80) catechesis,(81) ordinary proclamation destined to the dynamic deepening of the faith,(82) etc.

B) In the second case, applying the Catholic doctrine to political, economic, social, scientific and moral problems that the new times present, following a historical-doctrinal method. In other words: "To penetrate the whole of human thought and knowledge with the Gospel" (AD 87).(83) Regarding this aspect, too, Fr. Alberione always insisted on a boundless openness. He said in one of the sermons of the years 1952-1955: "Hence, above all, the things that regard doctrine, morals, worship, and then the other things which dispose people to receive the truth of faith, or at least elevate the level of life of man: scientific matters of the time. God, creator of the world, has become the Author of every science. Knowledge is nothing but the study of God. Every new science is a chapter which explains the work of God." (84) And in 1960, he reaffirmed: "The Institute teaches everything: first that which directly is useful for heaven, that is, faith, morals, worship; then all ‘quidquid bonum, quidquid verum, etc.’ (UPS II, 172).(85) Every communication must be made with a pastoral spirit, addressed to man gifted with intelligence, will and heart. To prepare these faculties forms the most important stage of preparation, which is already apostolate (chap. V). The Chapter Documents (nos. 167 and 172-176) speak regarding this matter of pre-evangelization, of Christian animation of culture and of the other earthly realities, of pastoral of thought, of Christian animation of leisure, etc. (return to summary)

3. The communicator’s dispositions

The pastoral spirit, that is, the attitude of service proper to every Christian apostolate, involves in evangelization, according to Fr. Alberione, some requirements (he reduces them to three) which should involve it totally: "To feel with Jesus – To feel with the Church – To feel with St. Paul for souls" (chap. VII, pp. 29-33). Around this threefold axis, is listed a long series of activities that concretely manifest the apostolic zeal of the Pauline, whose heart overflows with love for God and for neighbor and tries to communicate it.(86)

There is a profound bond (unbreakable) between work and the apostolic worker: an osmosis of life. The spiritual manners of him who evangelizes is very important. Above all he must evangelize from within the believing community, to which he addresses himself and of which he himself is a participant, who has received the ministry of helping others to welcome and understand doctrine. To communicate from within means to allow one’s self to be involved by the message proposed; it means to love the recipients, without stopping with specific exclusive groups or with sympathizers; it means to attune one’s self to their needs and concrete circumstances, applying the "reading of the signs of the times"; it means setting one’s self in a position of service because the evangelizer is not the lord of doctrine (or of the Word of God), but its servant and the servant of the recipients, himself an attentive listener to the same Word.(87) He is an attentive listener to the Word. In short, in evangelization, an assimilation of what is communicated is presupposed because he is a witness, a living and committed messenger who feels united with God of whom he speaks and with the recipients to whom he speaks. (88)

Therefore, to be connected with the Source. Fr. Alberione said: "The Pious Society of St. Paul derives and draws its doctrine, its piety, its apostolate from the Divine Master, Pontiff and apostle. Scientific studies undertaken with intelligence and love will be useful to clarify ever better what the Constitutions say sketchily. The light that comes from the Divine Master concerns the whole of natural and supernatural science; the world created according to the design of the Word, revelation, the teaching of the Church, Teacher, are manifestations of God-Truth. From the center begin the rays that enlighten every apostle. Jesus said of himself: Ego sum lux mundi, thus he told the apostles, Vos estis lux mundi; that is in union and in dependence on Him who was lux vera.(89)

Such a radical involvement of the evangelizer with the message and, in the end, with Him who has called him, is at the basis of the foundation intuition of Fr. Alberione:

"At first he thought of a Catholic organization of Catholic writers, printers, bookstore operators, booksellers: and to give direction, work, spirit of apostolate... But soon, in a greater light, towards 1910 he made a final step: writers, printers, diffusers, but religious men and women. On one hand in order to bring souls to the highest perfection, that of those who practice also the evangelical counsels, and with the benefit of apostolic life. On the other hand, to give greater unity, better stability, more continuity, greater supernatural spirit to the apostolate. To form an organization, but a religious one; where strengths are united, where dedication is total, where doctrine shall be purer" (AD 23-24).

It is "our" doctrine, not because it has been invented by us but because it was received and assimilated after the example of St. Paul: "He lived the two precepts of love of God and love of neighbor in so perfect a manner that he manifested Christ himself: ‘Vivit vero in me Christus’ (Gal 2:20). ...Had St. Paul lived, he would have continued to burn with this double flame, with the same flame, zeal for God and for his Christ, and for people of every country. And to make himself heard, he would have gone to the most elevated pulpits and he would have multiplied his word with the means of the today: press, movies, radio, television." (90)

The apostle seeks identification with Him who sends him ("Mihi vivere Christus est") and achieves self-fulfillment by establishing as the goal of his own person the mission received, so that in this manner his mission is not a mere superficial or peripheral activity, if we can say so, but constitutes the fulcrum, the focal point of his own life.

This focusing is found most clearly in Fr. Alberione; he placed everything at the service of his mission:(91) the accumulation of personal knowledge: readings, studies, pre-foundation writings: Appunti di Teologia pastorale, La donna associata allo zelo sacerdotale; his experiences in the ministry: preaching, conferences, social undertakings, inclinations, his "antennas" always open to the Magisterium and the surrounding realities; also his intimate life of prayer in relationship with God, in the effort to become better... He aligned and concentrated everything on the vocation-mission he received and he entrusted these to his first followers as heritage or capital fund.(92) Anchored in this, they were called to continually grow ("Progredire un tantino ogni giorno!")(93) in the various basic points geared always to the specific mission. Piety, study, the community are for the apostolate, without which the importance of these components: is diminished (worse still) is denied; everything is simply glued to each other vitally.(94)

On this matter, we find some affirmations, which leave no doubt. Thus, speaking of Piety (we shall more calmly go back to this point), Fr. Alberione remembers that all the baggage of practices which he learned in the diocesan seminary of Alba (for example the "devotions" of the first week of the month) "he introduced them after the Pauline Family was begun: only that he harmonized them with the particular need, thus giving room to the devotion of St. Paul the Apostle and to the Divine Master.(95) ... The devotion to the Regina Apostolorum was inculcated first in the seminary: under her patronage there were the pastoral conferences (1910-1915), the class of sociology, the first steps of the new priest in the ministry. ... In the seminary, with the consent of the Bishop, he introduced: daily communion, monthly retreat, adoration on the first Friday of the month, second mass on Sundays. Having seen their positive results, he enriched the Pauline Family with them" (AD 180, 181, 184).(96)

Also between Studies and Apostolate, there is a very tight intertwining like that between means and end. Treasuring his own experience, Fr. Alberione considered all his intellectual training as a preparation for a mission and subordinates this to what the Lord would grant, in the field of studies, the Pauline Family. He said, "I committed myself to make myself ready, under the aspect of knowledge, to teach Christian doctrine: now for all that is lacking, which is quite a lot, I think I can count on the divine promise: Dabit verbum evangelizantibus (Ps 67:12). A special light came on June 30, 1906. This wealth [of the progress in studies in view of apostolate] would be given by God to the Pauline family according to the measure it corresponds with its mission" (AD 199-200).(97) This gearing of studies to mission appears more clearly: "For the Pauline man or woman, studies have as their immediate end the apostolate, which already is a ‘regale sacerdotium.’ (98) ... Our institute is a teaching institute. It takes as its own the truths and the teachings of the Church in order to present them to souls with words and with technical means" (UPS II, 171).(99)

Similar things could be said concerning the Community: Fr. Alberione, urged by apostolic zeal, immediately perceived the need to act not alone but "with generous souls ... associated in organization" (AD 17).(100) Under a greater light and trying to concretize, as we already said, he would make the "final step": "from organization to religious-common life (AD 23-24)." (101) Eventually, all through the foundation journey, it would take him very great efforts to adjust canonical structures (by themselves, quite fixed) to the novelty and the demands of what he wanted to give the Church and society.(102) He would not always succeed in finding the right point of integration, but he would not renounce in any way his original intuition-inspiration. He expressly said it in more than one occasion (before Vatican II pushed much beyond: cf. PC 8c): "For many regular clerics, and also for us, common life is born out of the apostolate and in view of the apostolate. This characteristic of a society geared towards an end, includes as well the good of the members; but at the same time the observance of conventual life has an organization which also takes this into consideration: we, religious-apostles, are at the service of souls; we ought to give what we have acquired, after the example of the Divine Master" (UPS I, 285).(103)

We could well conclude by saying that the apostolate, that is, the exercise of the specific mission, becomes as if the summa of the Pauline’s life: "The whole man in Christ, for a total love of God: intelligence, will, heart, physical strength. All, nature and grace and vocation, for the apostolate" (AD 100).(104) The founder observed from the beginning: "Pauline life has in reality few acts of mortification, but it requires an entire continuum of sacrifices: the apostolates are in reality a serious effort. It requires getting used to sacrifice and generous dedication" (AD 38) It is an idea emphasized clearly when, speaking of work, he said, "True life is to accomplish a mission." (105)

Hence the Constitutions and Directory (art. 66) affirm: "Our community is characterized by the apostolic life which ‘is a part of the nature of religious life itself’ (PC 8b). All, from concrete practice of fraternal life to consecration, to human, spiritual, intellectual and professional formation and to the structures of government and of administration, is geared to our apostolic vocation." (106)

Such an imposition is not simply "functional"; that is, it is not limited in affirming that the various elements "are useful to" or favor mission (although this aspect is also real); but it reaches depths which are quite basic: the concept "mission", understood biblically and theologically, does not involve action only but brings with itself the being of the person sent and in a certain manner also that of the "sender":(107) it forms a single unit, thus overcoming the much spoken about antinomy between being and doing (without nonetheless resolving the tensions or concrete problems due to human limitations). Furthermore, the Church herself has evangelization as the historical reason of her being (cf. EN 14), that is, the proclamation and witnessing of the Gospel which she must accomplish in the world by means of what she says, does and is.(108)

The decree Ad gentes, in this regard, offers an ever profound indication as it says (no. 2): "During her pilgrimage on earth, the Church, is missionary by nature, inasmuch as it is from the mission of the Son and from the mission of the Holy Spirit that she, according to the plan of God the Father, derives her own origin." (109) When the Church, listening to the Word and to the needs of the world, asks herself regarding her being (it was Paul VI who asked the high caliber question: ‘Church, what do you say of yourself?’),(110) she cannot set aside her own action: she has to take into consideration how she carries out the mission entrusted her by God.(111)

Likewise, Fr. Alberione sets into a state of discernment or examination of conscience his institution in context of the apostolate: "The Pious Society of St. Paul shall often query: ‘ad quid venisti?’. May the Congregation keep always in its heart the intellectuals; the Gospel is something divine, basically it meets all minds; it is capable of answering all queries, all men of all times. If intellectuals are won over, one fishes with the net, and not only with the hook" (AD 197).

This point is useful to us now for introducing another basic theme in our reflection: the extension of our apostolate in relation with the mission of Christ Master (cf. Ps 2:8; Jn 6:37; 13:3; 16:15; Col 3:11; Heb 2:8; 13:8). (return to summary)

Continued: The book "Apostolato Stampa," handbook of directions for formation and apostolate - 2 -

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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