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

by Teófilo Pérez ssp



1 "With the International Seminar on ‘Jesus, the Master,’ shall be concluded an important phase for the constitution of the doctrinal corpus of the Pauline charism. This charismatic heritage is born with the original intuition of the Founder, further developed by his preaching, by his writings, by his works. Consequently, it was condensed in some fundamental codices, like the Chapter Documents (1969-1971), the Constitutions and Directory (1984) and the Documents of the General Chapters. Other codices, less solemn but of undeniable importance, are [the conclusions of the Study meeting ‘Al Centro sta Gesù Cristo Via, Verità e Vita’ (1984), the conclusions of] the International Seminar of Pauline editors [1990], the Ratio Formationis [1990], Apropos Priority III [1992], Pauline formation for mission [1994]. ... This second group of documents offers a series of precious guidelines in the various activities of our daily life. ... It concerns always with documents that develop in linear and clear form the Pauline charismatic wealth. For this reason they should become objects of attentive considerations and taken up by all" (Introduction of the Superior General to the Inter-chapter Assembly, May, 1995; cf. SP no. 394, May 1995, 12). (come back to text)

2 "At eighteen years old, Fr. Alberione wrote in his Diary (p. 14): ‘Man is created in order to act.’ At eighty-five years old, he spoke to the doctor who was attending to him for years and, hoping that he would still find once more the secret of restoring him the spent energies, he spoke pleading: ‘But I have to work!’ Between these two dates, it would be a most difficult venture to find, in the life of Fr. Alberione, an hour of idleness or of a simple relaxation in the most obvious sense that this term has assumed... Opposite to his teacher, Canon Francesco Chiesa, who was, like him, most stingy with his time, but could have put on as a noble insignia the phrase Do good, Fr. Alberione was brought by his temperament to do much, and even more, to do all at least in the field where he was carrying out his activity. Hence, he used to take and use with natural seriousness certain emphatic phrases like, ‘For as long as there is a soul to save, we cannot afford to rest’; and the adjective all very often occurred in his speech as well as in his writings, especially during his advanced age" (L. Rolfo, Don Alberione, Appunti per una biografia, EP Alba 1974, 389; the same concepts are affirmed in G. Barbero, Il sacerdote Giacomo Alberione, un uomo - un’idea, SSP Rome 19912, 312f). (come back to text)

3 Salvatore Garofalo, Il volto di Gesù Maestro, Società Apostolato Stampa, 32 pp., Rome 1944. (come back to text)

4 This aspect has been suggested to me by Fr. Domenico Spoletini who briefly dealt with the topic in La Cruz en el apostolado de la communicación social, 24-page booklet, private use, Santiago de Chile 1996. The author quotes a conference held by Fr. Domenico Valente to the juniors of Rome in October 1981: "Suffering, principle and essential element of Pauline spirituality, seen in St. Paul, in Fr. Alberione, in every Pauline." (come back to text)

5 I take these brief notes on narratologia from the lines shown in Mercedes Navarro, Barro y aliento, EP Madrid 1993, 423-430. Cf. Agustin del Agua, La interpretación del "relato" en la doble obra lucana, in Estudios Eclesiásticos, April-June 1996, 169-214. (come back to text)

6 The very "message of salvation" (or history of salvation) has a narrative structure: We Christians are persons who listen, accept and bear witness to the grace of the love made real once and for always in Christ. We cannot define in the abstract such a message, with methods of philosophy or knowledge (which 1 Cor 1:17-30 presents as secondary). We are what we are through history, that is, in relation with a past and with a social group within which we are inserted and whose center is Christ (cf. Pikaza, Antropología bíblica, Sígueme, Salamanca 1993, 346-347). (come back to text)

7 The theme "to preach with one’s life" more or less, aside from words, is classic and it is at the base of "exemplarity." Cf. for example St. Gregory the Great, in his Commento al libro di Giobbe: "When Paul tells his disciple, ‘This you must teach, recommend, reprove with all authority’ (Ti 2:15), he does not seek an authoritarian attitude, but the authority of lived life. One teaches with authority, in fact, when first he does things and then tells. Credibility is taken out of one’s teaching when conscience makes the tongue stumble" (in Liturgia delle Ore, Wednesday of IX week of Ordinary Time). (come back to text)

8 The involvement of all the faculties of the person (or integrality) has been one of the constant elements in Fr. Alberione, as we shall see later. Well, today almost all the authors that deal with the relationship between "theoretical reason" and "practical reason" agree in affirming and underlining the intimate connections existing between reflection and stimulus, between desiring/wanting and thinking. Desire alone can excite our anemic apparatus to work, to action. Thought (which has been defined as "a deviation from experience") never loses its "concerned" character or its bonds with the satisfaction of profound needs. Thought appears weak under the pressure of desires. Those who consider intelligence as a power independent of the life of the will and of sentiments are not quite right. Our intellect frequently behaves as if an instrument in the hands of the will and produces the result which the will entrusts to it. It is not strange therefore to notice that many times logical arguments demonstrate one’s own impotence face to face with the "interests" of affection. Desire triumphs and imposes itself on thought thus starting the dynamics of the ideal which often flourishes in the field of religion (cf. C. Domínguez Morano, in Razón y Fe, May ’96, 475f). (come back to text)

9 Some of these concepts have already been accentuated in the preceding papers, for example, speaking of Paul and of his "narrative language of memorial," or affirming that Paul "does not take the perspective of an abstract theoretical speculation, but the substance of a divine initiative historically accomplished," etc. (come back to text)

10 Every valid evolution proceeds from what has been "instituted" (the concrete forms of life or systems) towards the creative utopia, through transforming changes which seek a superior or ideal level (cf. Pikaza, op. cit., 175-176). (come back to text)

11 L. Dufour, Dizionario di Teologia biblica, Marietti, Torino 1967, article ‘vocation’. (come back to text)

12 This calling-sending is a rule common in biblical vocations. Thus in the OT, God calls: —Abraham: "Leave your land, your kin and the house of your father, towards the land that I will show you" (Gen 12:1); —Moses: "The Lord called him from amidst the burning bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ He said, ‘Here I am!’ The Lord said, ‘Do not come near... I am the God of your father... I have seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt... And now go: I send you to the Pharaoh to let my people, the sons of Israel, go out of Egypt’" (Ex 3:4-10; God does not ask Moses’ assent, he does not ask him to remain united with him, but he himself anticipates: "I shall be with you, and this is the sign that I have sent you: when you shall have brought out the people from Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain:" Ex 3:12); —Amos: "I am neither a prophet or son of a prophet; I am a shepherd and a carver of sycamores. The Lord took me away from the flock, and the Lord said to me: ‘Go, prophesy before my people Israel’" (Amos 7:14-15); —Isaiah: "In the year of King Osiah’s death, I saw the Lord seated on a high throne... One of the seraphims flew towards me with a hand holding a burning charcoal... Then I heard the voice of the Lord... that said: ‘Go and tell this people: Listen well...’ I said, ‘Till when, O Lord?’ He replied: ‘Until the cities have turned to deserts, and the houses without dwellers...’" (Is 6:1-11); —Jeremiah: "The word of the Lord was addressed to me in these terms: ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you came out of that womb I sanctified you; prophet for the people I established you... Do not say, ‘I am but a boy,’ because wherever I will send you, you shall go and everything I shall command you, you shall tell’" (Jer 1:4-7); —Ezekiel: "The Lord spoke to me: ‘Son of man, eat what you behold, eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel... and speak to them my word’" (Ez 3:1-4). And in the NT, God calls: —John the Baptist: "And you, child, shall be called prophet of the Most High because you shall walk before the Lord to prepare his way, to give to his people the knowledge of salvation for the remission of their sins" (Lk 1:76-77); —Mary: "Do not fear, Mary, because you have found favor with God. Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. You shall call him Jesus" (Lk 1:30-31); —the Apostles: "Then Jesus went up the mountain and called to himself those he wanted; and they came near. Then he chose twelve and established them as apostles so that they may stay with him and so that he may send them to preach (Mk 3:13-14). (come back to text)

13 F. Ciardi, I Fondatori, uomini dello Spirito, Città Nuova, Rome 1982, 225-226. This is also applied to those who follow a founder: "... God’s call, both in the OT and in the NT and so in the personal history of the founder, is in view of accomplishing a mission. To consecrate one’s self to God does not mean, therefore, to seek in the first place a place of greater direct kinship with the divine, but to dedicate one’s self, body and soul, to accomplishing God’s will: it is thus that the religious becomes close to God. In such a response, he shall progressively bring to reality the theological dimension of his life and he shall succeed in knowing God (who is "love" and wants the life of the poor). The vows, theologically considered, obedience tells the disposition to always listen to the new word of God; chastity says that God is the greatest one of all, also over the good structures of creation; poverty tells that there is one historical self-emptying by God who makes himself absolutely close to small things and unsuccessful in this world. Prayer and contemplation, which historically describe a good part of the religious life, is the manner of discerning the will of God, of placing the real world before the eyes of God of seeking to see him with the same eyes of God ("contemplation in action"). Jesus calls people to "stay with him" and "to being sent" (Mk 3:14). The person of Jesus produces fascination and passion: a love that is not reduced to the emotional aspect, but must be translated into sensus Christi, in having "the same sentiments of Christ" (Phil 2:5) and in the disposition of being invited to the mission, thus reproducing the fundamental structure of Christ’s mission. Logically, mission precedes, as end, one’s own perfection. This is included in the purpose of religious life, but through apostolic service. The three vows must be understood as a way of life that, in its wholeness, makes people like Christ and makes the radicality of service possible because they generate freedom and effectiveness to the mission" (cf. J. Sobrino, Vida religiosa, in Conceptos fundamentales del cristianismo, Trotta, Madrid 1993, 1466ff). (come back to text)

14 For the concrete case of Moses, cf. L. Alonso Schökel, Esperanza, meditaciones bíblicas, Sal Terræ, Santander 1991, 149. Idem, La misión de Moisés, Sal Terræ, Santander 1989, 33-46. "... Fundamentally presupposed in Christian spirituality is honesty and fidelity to the truth of the real (Jon Sobrino). To suffocate the truth in injustice (cf. Rom 1:18) is what hinders revelation and communication of God and this becomes a source of condemnation... Christian spirituality must be centered Christologically on the mission. With this principle the missionary character of Christian spirituality is underlined: spirituality is something that is received and is cultivated in order to be transmitted; it is something that is actualized in the apostolic praxis of the proclamation and the realization of God’s kingdom. It is not possible to separate the spiritual moment from the missionary moment; one may not detach the moment of contemplation from the moment of action, as if the first were the place of encounter with God and the second the place of encounter with men. This does not take away the fact that it is possible to methodologically separate the moment of recollection/discernment from the moment of communication. With this it is not so that one favors the moment of withdrawal from the moment of engagement. Contemplation itself must be active, that is oriented to conversion and transformation; and action must be contemplative, or enlightened, done with discernment, reflection. The two great sources of this incarnate spirituality, each with its respective helps, are the Word of God in the Scriptures and in the Tradition and the Word of God in lived reality of history and in the life of men full of the Spirit" (cf. I. Ellacuría, Espiritualidad, in Conceptos..., op. cit., 417-418). (come back to text)

15 "From past experiences, considering the journey already undertaken, many useful conclusions could be drawn... The history of life lived is teacher for life that is still hoped from God" (UPS I, 14). (come back to text)

16 See, for example, in UPS I, 86-87 the dream-project regarding the doubling of vocations. (come back to text)

17 G. Alberione, Abundantes divitiæ [gratiæ suæ]. Charismatic history of the Pauline Family. Critical edition, EP 1985 [Abbreviation: AD], no. 13. (come back to text)

18 This almost imperceptible, but nonetheless real, passage from interior life to action is one of the most relevant Alberione characteristics: "After having closed in the room, he used to go out refreshed, with clear insights... and he had his hands on initiatives" (AD 47). And Paul VI pictured him thus: "Here he is: humble, silent, untiring, ever watchful, always recollected in his thoughts that run from prayer to action" (Audience of June 28, 1969). (come back to text)

19 The idea is further emphasized in no. 21: "From then on these thoughts dominated his study, his prayer, his whole formation." We find a similar expression in Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, inasmuch as in his Diario (1996 edition, edited by CSP, Rome, 44; cf. also pp. 46, 48, 53, 54, 76, 79, 81, 103-107, 200) he wrote in 28 February 1917: "The Catholic press is a ruling idea of my life, an idea that becomes always more complex and concrete: it lords over my mind, my will, my heart; it is a sun before which other ideas disappear, leading me to what I do. I pray for the Press, to train myself into an apostle of the Press, I pray with unusual fervor, I struggle passionately. May this idea in all its parts be developed in me: the Press is the current mission of Jesus Christ which must, with faith, penetrate the society of Christian civilization; it is the mission of propagation and penetration of the Gospel." A bit ahead (p. 88, dated 1 Nov. 1917): "I made before God through the Immaculate Mary and St. Paul my vows of purity, obedience, poverty and stability in the House in order to work for the Good Press." In these attitudes of Fr. Alberione and of his disciple Fr. Giaccardo, one can already notice that profound symbiosis between contemplation (consecration) and action that these two bore as "active contemplatives," for their whole lives. Fr. Alberione would say later, "There is no true prayer if one’s hands are apart. Hence prayer and work. Action which proceeds from prayer" (SP Sept.-Oct. 1953; cf. CISP 1040). (come back to text)

20 We can trace in the vocation of the young Alberione the three typical moments of the Word of God on him who is appealed to by It and experiences the related consequences: 1) Word of call: I am because Someone wakes me up, opens my ears and enables me to respond; the Word creates me, as a human project, inviting me to live; 2) Word of self-realization: the person assumes as his own the Word and can respond to It, thus creating himself so to say; the Word becomes awareness and thought, that is, project; we could say that man is his word, that which responds to God, thus opening in his own life a place for the Word which becomes foundation of the same life; 3) Word of openness for the future: the call comes from outside, from God (although He is the "intimior intimo meo"), and thus he makes us go beyond our own selves; we are by the degree with which we plan and grow towards what lies ahead of us: the future, or the utopia, the life project (cf. X. Pikaza, Antropologia biblica, Sígueme, Salamanca, 1993, 101-102). (come back to text)

21 The decision to become a priest was taken by the boy Alberione when he was barely six years old, before his classmates when he was asked by his teacher Cardona. It was, as he himself would state, "the first clear light: at first he felt some attraction, but faintly, at the depth of his soul; it was without any practical consequences." Instead, on that day: "It had some consequences in him: his studies, piety, thoughts, behavior, even his recreations were oriented towards that direction" (AD 9). The same positive reaction would be repeated when he would decide to dedicate himself to the specific mission, considering that "a special light came from the Host" (AD 15), and finally when he would take the decision to choose the most adequate structure for the mission: "Soon, a greater light came... towards 1910 he made a final step: writers, technicians, diffusers, but religious men and women" (AD 23). These passages are characteristic of an understanding from lesser to greater: "He had some moments of greater grace that determined his vocation and special mission. First: the priestly vocation; second: the special orientation of life; third: passage from the idea of organization of Catholics to the idea of an organization of religious..." (AD 7). (come back to text)

22 Also some years later, when Fr. Alberione was already a priest and spiritual director of the seminary, "he felt [this assignment] as if like ill-fitting clothes that blocked his movements. He proved he loved and very well succeeded in pastoral care, but he never quite succeeded in convincing himself that that was the path assigned by God for him. He confided to a friend, then a cleric, Msgr. Giovanni Gallo: ... ‘The job of vice parish priest does not satisfy me!’ Fr. Alberione said. Fr. Gallo asked him, ‘Would you like to be a parish priest?’ ‘Even lesser!’ ‘So what do you want to do?’ ‘I don’t know. I would like to have with me numerous young people, a bit like Fr. Bosco, in order to launch them in the apostolate.’ He, therefore, was dreaming the bands of young people that Fr. Bosco had gathered around himself, but not to train or educate them so preparing them for the life that each of them would live or choose, but to bind them together and associate them with a grandiose work which had as central nucleus that of editing and spreading of books and periodicals and with the goal of Christianizing society in all its aspects..." (L. Rolfo, op. cit., 73-74). (come back to text)

23 Cf. G. Barbero, op. cit., 3 and 177-191. (come back to text)

24 "One day of that year [1908, as Fr. Alberione himself, now a young priest, professor and spiritual director of the Seminary of Alba, narrates] while having class of church history to the clerics, I asked my students to consider the state of religiosity in the world. Jesus, the Savior, has come to bring us grace, salvation... But how is the world doing after 1900 years since Jesus Christ’s coming? About two billion people now live and, among these, 1 billion and 200 millions still do not know Jesus Christ... And those who call themselves Catholics, are they truly so?... Impressed, the clerics then stood up to ask me: ‘What must we do to obtain the salvation of souls?’" (Ipsum audite, v. 2, 28-29; quoted in L. Rolfo, op. cit., 72). (come back to text)

25 Following the advice of Can. F. Chiesa, Fr. Alberione obtained his doctorate in theology at the Collegio Teologico di San Tommaso d’Aquino in Genova. He passed the various examinations with relative ease. He also had the opportunity to experience direct pastoral service as vice pastor in Narzole, and to begin the delicate task of being spiritual director of the boys and the clerics of the seminary (cf. L. Rolfo, op. cit., 68-69). (come back to text)


           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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