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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

  

I. Fr. Alberione lived to fulfill
a specific mission

4. Jesus Master, hinge of Fr. Alberione’s work

Having arrived at this point of the narration or memory of our origins, we can now see closely and in depth what has been the foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:11) that Fr. Alberione established for his work. This foundation is none other than Jesus Master, from whom the apostolate (in the diversity of the various foundations) has their origin, object or goal and method.

a) Its origin, because from Christ and in view of Christ the first inspiration of Fr. Alberione came. In the presence of Jesus Eucharist, he intimately felt the invitation, "Venite ad me omnes" (AD 15), and he responsibly took it as a call to "do something for the Lord and for the men of the new century..." This action on behalf of men becomes concrete in his putting into service of the Gospel all the means, especially those strongest of social communication starting from the press, to continue through time the teaching mission of Christ himself.

The insistence of Fr. Alberione on this matter has been almost like hammering. Let us remember some short texts that emphasize this intensely lived conviction of his: "Your mission is beautiful! Beautiful because it is the mission of Christ himself. You are associated with Him: ‘This is eternal life: that they may know the Father and Him whom the Father sent to teach mankind’ (cf. Jn 17:3). Jesus came down from heaven for this. You are associated with his work of redemption and salvation of men. Hold on to this mission(40) "The Pious Society of St. Paul," he wrote in 1952, "derives and draws its doctrine, its piety, its apostolate from the Divine Master, pontiff and apostle,(41) and immediately he relates the discourse to one of the gospel passages wherein the identification of the apostle with Him who sent is affirmed: "From the center shall come the rays of light which illumine every apostle. Like Jesus who said: ‘Ego sum lux mundi’ so he told the apostles, ‘Vos estis lux mundi’; this in union and depending on Him, who ‘erat lux vera’." (42) He would often go back to this gospel passage as if to underline the only source of light which must be cast with our apostolate.

After a visit in the East, in the houses of Japan, the Philippines and India, Fr. Alberione feels the missionary Spirit of Pentecost flying, and observes with an inner joy, "Jesus is eucharistically present in our houses; he is the Divine Master who wants to comfort, sustain, enlighten: we receive and give through the apostolate, through the fastest and most efficacious means. The Divine Master in fact says, ‘Ego sum lux mundi’; and adds: ‘Vos estis lux mundi.’ He is the light: we receive it and reflect it over souls. The Lord deigned to make us participants and, more, to make himself be visibly substituted in his ministry as Master of humanity. ... Trust in the Lord and in the apostolate! Our houses start amidst significant difficulties of all kinds; but it is of comfort the assurance, ‘Fear not, I am with you’.(43) In the booklet, "Amerai il Signore con tutta la tua mente," written between 1954 and 1955, Fr. Alberione enumerates some "Principles" wherein this line is taken up: Jesus is the only Master, the Pauline is his perpetuator; and he goes back to the text of light shared with Christ: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you. I am the light of the world. You are the light of the world." (44)

b) In the Divine Master, the Pauline apostolate has its object, because it is concerned with "living Christ and giving him to all" with every means (cf. AD 93-94, 100, 186...), while considering Him as the foundation of everything, Him who assures his own presence, "Vobiscum sum..." (AD 16), and grants effectiveness to activities. The passage from Christ Master origin to Christ object of the apostolate becomes almost imperceptible, so logical and obligatory it is.

"Our institute is a teaching institute," so he told the Community of Rome in 1948. "It aims to give Jesus Christ to the world, that is, his doctrine, his morals, his worship. ... Christ divine cannot be restored; Christ complete is resurrection, life and salvation for the whole world." (45) During a retreat of the same year, Fr. Alberione reaffirmed that the indispensable element of the Pauline apostolate is Christ-message, while the means becomes relative and it could change through the times: "This is the special end of the Institute: to let Jesus Christ be known, his doctrine, his worship. The press could be reduced to allow cinema and radio come in, but the duty to let Jesus Christ be known always remains. The Church journeys, we journey with her; the means shall be given us in time, the human ingenuity, the divine Providence." (46)

"Our Institute has one mission: that of letting Jesus be known to the world, Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, living in the Eucharist, in the Gospel, in the Church, living also in the Congregation inasmuch as it has the task of teaching." (47) "The Lord has given the Congregation the gift so precious, to understand the Divine Master, at least within certain limitations, in some small manner, and have the duty, the office of giving him thus to souls. Let us not waste this grace, which is one of the most precious that the Pauline Family has." (48) "Everything is here: to live Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life; and to perform the charity of Christ to those populations who are deprived of him and together hungry of him; let us, in fact, give the total Christ, Way, Truth, and Life. In this manner our people could say: ‘We do not have either gold or silver: we give you instead what we have: Jesus Christ, his morals, his means of grace and supernatural life’." (49)

"The fruit of our apostolate," he also told the Community of Rome in 1959 "is proportionate to this: to present Jesus Christ." (50) To present and give him in his totality.

The Chapter Documents 1969-1971, trying to capture the nutshell of the teaching and the life experience of Fr. Alberione thus summarizes (in nos. 141-142) this point: "The whole Christ, that is, the ‘Master’ – in whose revealing word he activates, gives and brings to fulfillment what he says and promise – constitutes therefore the global content of our preaching through the means of communication... Such a vision... has always enlightened the thought and the works of the Founder. It has determined his continuous effort of integrality in pointing out the contents of the apostolate (cf. Apostolato Stampa, p. 3). His very doctrine regarding the ‘unification of sciences’ moves in the Pauline perspective of the ‘mystery of devotion’ (1 Tim 3:16) and of the ‘recapitulation’ (Eph 1:10)... Object of our specific preaching – no. 145 underlines – is therefore Christ in his role as Savior of man or, what he is, Christ in the history of salvation. Everything that falls within this object falls within it as much as Jesus Christ himself or is related to him. No human activity therefore, no reality... no initiative... nothing of all this can be considered extraneous to the contents of our apostolate."

c) Finally, the method or paradigm of our apostolate is Christ Master because He is "the model" both for the life of every apostle (cf. AD 97-98) and the manner of pastorally communicating with persons (cf. AD 82). It is an attitude that is identified with love.(51) He wrote in 1936: "Preoccupation and vigilance shall be used in order that the apostolate may maintain its high pastoral standards which is in the Letters of St. Paul. Love for Jesus Christ and for souls shall distinguish and separate what is apostolate from what is industry and commerce." (52)

"Our apostolate," he said in Ariccia in 1960, "is in Jesus Christ. Jesus Master "visited all the cities and villages teaching in synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom" (cf. Mt 9:35). His word was simple, clear, even when he was teaching lofty doctrines. He tailored his teaching to the needs of every audience. ... He wanted his apostles to work in the same manner" (UPS IV, 140).(53) He used to say in 1964, "The Institute has always drawn inspiration from pastoral work and this even before the Pauline Family was started; then we had it understood that beside the orally preached word, the word preached with technical means was also necessary. Hence, pastoral spirit vivifies the technical means for pastoral work. ... The interior pastoral spirit ... consists in love for souls. On the one hand it presupposes the commitment that every religious man or woman makes in attending to sanctification, and on the other hand, it supposes the exercise of the apostolate ... Pastoral then is manifested outwardly in the activities." (54)

The anxiety to reach the whole man belongs also to this pastoral spirit. Thus the Chapter Documents 1969-1971, in no. 144 express this: "One of the major points insisted upon by the Founder is precisely this need to reach all of man’s faculties; that is, to nurture the mind, the will and the heart... He used to say, ‘We have to bring the whole man to God. We cannot make man Christian only in his mind, or Christian only in his sentiments, or Christian only in prayer and in work. It is necessary that he live in Jesus Christ with his whole being and in all his being.’ Paul VI (in his Message to the Council, 7 Dec. 1965) would say that ‘it concerns the salvation of the human person, it concerns the building of human society. It is man then, but the whole man, in the unity of body and soul, of heart and conscience, of intelligence and will (cf. GS 3); it is man in his totality who has to be led to Christ so that He may save him... The ultimate end, and in a certain sense the only one, of social communication is that of forming, building, and saving man’." (return to summary)

5. The heritage of apostolate for the sons and daughters of Fr. Alberione

Mission is always longer than a man’s life although he may live long. It is not enough to start a mission; it is a must that apostolic work be given "unity, stability," and, above all, "continuity:" and this is a preoccupation that we find very much alive in the beginnings of the Alberione plans, (cf. AD 24) and it will accompany him continuously as a manifestation of his own responsibility assumed before God, before the Church, before his own sons and daughters. The Lord, in confirmation of the mission entrusted him, has given these to him: they were the proof of divine assistance: "You can commit mistakes," so he was enlightened one day while praying, "but I do not commit mistakes. Vocations come only from me, not from you; this is the external sign that I am with the Pauline Family"(AD 113). Fr. Alberione took seriously the duty of taking care of the flourished vocations around him,(55) so much so that in moments of ill health he presented his great doubt to his spiritual direction: "I am afraid of behaving with serious imprudence, gathering persons for a mission, because of the danger lest they may be abandoned half-way. But the reply was: The Lord shall think and provide better than you; go ahead with faith" (AD 112).

Hence, when he reached a certain age, like Moses (cf. Num 27:12), almost "invited" to climb the mountain in order to contemplate the entire arc of his life, the goals achieved, but also the road still to be traveled under a historical perspective of continuity, and seeing that his own energies no longer corresponded, Fr. Alberione passes on and pushes his own people to take the reins. As it is with pioneers, his term came to say: "I have accomplished all the tasks assigned to me in the mission entrusted me" (the "cursum consummavi" of Paul: 2 Tim 4:7). It was his turn to set on the road his successor, to move on. He, who always counted on organization, on working together, on the community and unity of strength,(56) wanted to leave this lesson to his people for the future.

To them, to those "who believed the special mission clearly entrusted to me by the Lord,(57) to his followers (practically to all Paulines, men and women, of the future, after having thanked and praised those of the first hour: cf. AD 205-206), Fr. Alberione wanted to leave as inheritance part of his spirit or charism, even as he desired that the Lord (as it happened in the case of Moses: cf. Num 27:12-22; Deut 31:1-8) distribute it among his collaborators and that, together, these continue to pursue the work undertaken, ‘thrust forward.’ In effect, on the occasion of the I General Chapter (April, 1957) he expressed himself thus: "The great duty at this hour is to give to the most beloved Congregation a Superior General equipped with the qualities required by the Constitutions; to deal with the topics and to take, under the action of the Spirit, those decisions that shall be of greater good to the Institute..." "The Congregation," Fr. Alberione observed, "has done its duty. Its fruit is much better than one could have ever hoped; it shall be useful to Paulines; it shall be the foundation on which to build... It was a matter of making the point after forty-three years of life. The Chapter has examined well its [the Congregation’s] spirit and has approved it through the Brothers representing Brothers, sanctified by a good course of spiritual exercises. The spirit with which the Congregation is born and grew has received its final seal. Other eventual Councils shall have the task of making the good tree grow, a tree planted along the eucharistic waters: they shall gather other and abundant fruits. For such reasons: blessed be Jesus Master, the Regina Apostolorum, St. Paul the Apostle." (58)

These acts of transfer were done by Fr. Alberione in many instances because generations do not just follow each other but they are intertwined with each other, they superimpose one another, they live together in a span of time; but there is a contemporaneity in the "succession": the older pioneer does not possess the monopoly of the initiative during a specific number of years, but shares it with others. From the beginning, Fr. Alberione entrusted big responsibilities to his people, although keeping for himself personally the last directives. For example, at the moment of the diocesan approval of the Pious Society of St. Paul in 1927, when the bishop of Alba appointed him Superior General and gave him the title "Primo Maestro," Fr. Alberione formed the Council of the Congregation and assigned each of the four councilors (although very young) to take care of an area of the congregation (the famous "four wheels"): the morals sector, the press sector, the studies sector, the economic sector.(59)

The possible transfer of powers would officially happen very much later (as already mentioned above), in April, 1957, when the I General Chapter was indeed celebrated (after having been announced in 1946). In such a "solemn moment," Fr. Alberione exclaimed: "Blessed be Jesus Master; blessed be the Regina Apostolorum; blessed be St. Paul! That they made us grow during the last forty years and that they prepared us for this day and in this desired and fraternal encounter." And he added, "I fulfill during these days what has been published in the circular letter of convocation of the present First General Chapter. In the name of God the Institute is being placed in your hands, which are good hands. The Institute the way it is: with its being, wealth, difficulties, defects, goals, means, members. ... I thank all the brothers who have believed in the special mission clearly entrusted to me by the Lord; they have worked in many ways, with the full gift of themselves; they had humility to bear with me for many years. I am especially grateful to the Brothers of the first hour; and to those who opened the houses abroad even as they dedicated themselves to it with the sacrifice of beginnings(60)

The chapter delegates renewed, with a highly unanimous vote, their total trust on the Founder thus electing him Superior General for twelve years (in spite of his age: 73 years old).(61) He therefore continued to carry the ever increasing weight of his ever more numerous families and related activities, so demanding and broad by now as they cover five continents. It was only in 1964, giving in to the burden of age and sickness, that he would be forced to transfer the bigger responsibilities of government into the hands of his Vicar General and Delegate ad omnia.

He lived the last six-seven years (from 1964 to 1971) in progressive worsening of his health, but still letting the Family patrimony grow in his retirement and in his suffering,(62) if not in uninterrupted prayer considered by him as "working with one’s knees". He, who taught his people "All that you can do, do it; and if you cannot do it, do it with prayer," maintained till the end this profound dynamism: "But I pray!", he used to repeat to those who visited him during his last moments, as if to say, "I cannot do anything else but I can pray and I pray wholeheartedly." In his "Religious Testament" (written on August 6, 1967 and confirmed on March 19, 1968), he insists on the main points of Pauline life: "Dear members of the Pauline Family, as we temporarily part, trusting that we all be reunited eternally, I thank one and all for their patience with me; I ask pardon for what I did not do, or did badly. I am nonetheless certain that all the directions given were substantially in conformity with God and with the Church. As life and devotion, Jesus Christ Divine Master, Way and Truth and Life is of infinite value; would that he bring light to all the work of religious perfection and of apostolate... Always follow St. Paul the Apostle, master and father; always follow, love and preach Mary our Mother, Teacher and Queen of Apostles." (63)

Some of the last intelligible words that came out of his mouth were "I pray for all," together with gestures of blessing. Thus he closed, in the mark of praying relationship with God, the work which had started (as intuition and resolve) in the prolonged eucharistic visit during the very first dawn of the XX century before the Divine Master. (return to summary)

Continued: The book "Apostolato Stampa," handbook of directions for formation and apostolate - 1 -

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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