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

by Silvio Sassi ssp


3. The totality against every particularism

To the many reasons already listed to find the roots of the Christological vision of the Primo Maestro, we could add his "reactions" to the social and ecclesial conditions. He wanted to react to an ongoing situation or to a foreseeable scenario if there were no changes. He reacted against the evils produced by society (atheism, agnosticism, indifference, planned struggle against religion, etc.) and he also reacted to a paralyzed status or unconsidered dynamism in the Church (marginalization of the Word of God, religious ignorance, liturgical poverty, moralism, absence of social and political involvement, clericalism, Americanism, modernism, etc.). Naturally, this desire of his for "change" is a part of a broad context of volunteerism, progress, relaunching of Christianity (Tametsi futura), political involvement by Catholics, use of the good press, defense of the Papacy, apology for the Christian faith and morals, etc., which sprang forth during the end of the 1800s and the start of the 1900s. The totality of Alberione seems to oppose, as a radical remedy, to all forms of partiality, division, exaggeration, accentuation, sectorization, etc., which were leading to dangerous particularism.

The "reactions" of Fr. Alberione are the concrete demands which formed a "Founder" and not a "Theoretician" of the new in order to go out of a situation of ecclesial paralysis face to face with revolutions in society and of progress. Speaking to a gathering of religious in 1950, the Primo Maestro proposes to others his apostolic vision: "It would be useful to consider the words of Card. Elia Dalla Costa: ‘...either we courageously look at reality, beyond the small world that surrounds us, and so we see the urgency of the need for a radical change of mentality or of method; or in the span of a few years we would have created a desert around the Master of life; and rightly, life will eliminate us as dead, useless, bothersome branches" (San Paolo, November 1950). The missionary anxiety of giving "the whole of Christ to the whole of modern man" is the apostolic program of his existence and of the whole of his foundation work. To bring to reality this plan, a new mentality (to offer the totality of faith) and an adequate pastoral method (the apostolic activities of the Pauline Family, especially the apostolate of the means of communication). It is the "zeal" for God and for souls that brings Fr. Alberione to live intensely and guides his foundation activities. Sanctification is not a solitary work, but it could be summarized in the Dominican slogan: "Contemplata, aliis tradere."

The novelty of the ecclesial thought of Fr. Alberione in the whole of his formation is the conviction of the "totality" of the faith. The relaunching of the faith is obtained in the presentation of the totality of Christ for the totality of the person. The novelty of his foundation work in the ecclesial context of the time is the commitment to place the "proclamation" with the means of communication side by side with the "oral proclamation" made in the parish. The totality of the faith with the totality of the means and, for the new century, above all with the totality of the means of communication. The "traditional" contents of the faith assumes the color of "novelty" because they are proclaimed in their totality and integrality. There is no special theology in the Primo Maestro; his originality is to bring back to the center the totality of Christ. There is no novelty in putting the means of communication at the service of religion; the real novelty is to deepen the certainty of the "proclamation" with the means by elevating them to the same dignity as the oral proclamation. (return to summary)

4. The total Christ and Vatican Council II

For a re-expression of the title "Jesus Master Way-Truth-Life" it is necessary, above all, to transport to today the vision of the "total Christ" of Fr. Alberione. The life of the Primo Maestro (1884-1971), however, in large part was lived during the time before the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). His philosophical and theological training, the event relative to the "Catholic faith" pushed Fr. Alberione towards a fidelity to the "traditional" doctrine, without the need of new theoretical formulation but, instead, as we have already said, through the cultivation of a global vision. The demand for renewal is not in the contents of the faith but in their integral presentation and in the pastoral method which must be adequate to the new times and to the new communication technologies. The achievements of Fr. Alberione in the biblical, patristic, catechetical, liturgical and pastoral fields to teach the "totality of Christ" find full confirmation and widening in the teaching of Vatican Council II. The "integral" Christ of the Primo Maestro is grafted into the theological re-elaboration of Vatican Council II. John XXIII, in the opening speech of the Council on October 11 1962, explains the principal objective of this solemn assembly which "wants to transmit in its wholeness, without weakening or altering it, the Catholic doctrine which, in spite of difficulties and oppositions, has become like a common heritage of men... What is necessary today is the adherence of all, in a renewed love, in the peace and in serenity, to all the Christian doctrine in its wholeness, transmitted with that precision of terms of concepts which constitute the boast of the Council of Trent and of Vatican Council I. ...It is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, be deepened and presented in the manner that corresponds to the needs of our times... we need to take recourse to a presentation that better corresponds to a teaching pastoral in character."

In the speech of December 7, 1965, at the close of the Council, Paul VI summarizes the activities by saying: "It is not only the image of the Church that this Council hands to posterity, it is also the patrimony of her doctrine and of her precepts, the ‘deposit’ received from Christ, meditated, lived and explained through the centuries. This deposit today is, in numerous points, expressed in a new manner, confirmed and reordered in its integrality." The other essential task of the Council has been the search for dialogue with the contemporary man: "Never perhaps than in this occasion," so Paul VI synthesizes in the same speech, "has the Church felt the need to know, approach, understand, penetrate, serve and evangelize the society that surrounds it, to catch it and, so to say, to pursue it in its rapid and continuous transformation." Integrality of contents and pastorality of the presentation are the program of the council activities.

The observation of the contributions given by Fr. Alberione to the Vatican Council II (cf. Andrea Damino, Don Alberione al Concilio Vaticano II, Rome 1994) and the reading of his writings as comment after the 1965 document the satisfaction of the Primo Maestro: "The Council has made precise, clarified, deepened the teaching of the Church; the pastoral activities in all their forms and environment, by moving all the energies available to the Church; to save and sanctify people by bringing them grace, working in the modern world" is the synthesis of the Primo Maestro (San Paolo, December 1965). In reference to the Pauline apostolate, Fr. Alberione writes: "In very many documents of the Church our apostolate was spoken about, either occasionally, or expressly. The Vatican Council II has dealt with it extensively, speaking, discussing and approving the means of social communication. Our apostolate has been therefore approved, praised and established as duty for all the Church, according to the different conditions" (San Paolo, March 1964).

The giving importance to the "total Christ" by the Primo Maestro finds approval and expansion in the general re-formulation of the faith done by Vatican Council II: return to the sources, to the Word of God, to catechesis, to liturgy, to the Christian commitment in the world, to ecumenism, to dialogue with history, etc. The spirituality of Jesus Master, Way-Truth-Life indicated by Fr. Alberione as the "only one" because it coincides with the "Christian" is reaffirmed and deepened by Vatican II. Furthermore, the same Council declares that the commitment of evangelization with the means of communication is "authentic preaching" (cf. Inter mirifica, 4 Dec. 1963, nos. 3, 13).

In order to relaunch the title "Jesus Master, Way-Truth-Life" it is necessary to re-express the contents of the faith (the total Christ, in the language of the Primo Maestro) with the formulation of Vatican II. Inasmuch as the composite of the documents of the Council offers the coexistence of various theological indications, we shall need to develop the certainty of the Church as "communion" (from within) and as "dialogue" (in relation with the world). Without this renewed theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, pastoral, missiology, we cannot give "contents" to the Alberione Christological title. Faith lived and communicated by the Church for the society of year 2000 is that indicated by Vatican II, by the apostolic exhortation of Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi (8 December 1975) and by the encyclical of John Paul II, Redemptoris missio (7 December 1990). (return to summary)

5. The charism of communion

The experience of Primo Maestro of "feeling obliged to do something for the Lord and for the men of the new century" (AD 15) brings him to maturity either in the direction of integrality of contents or in the adoption of adequate means: new mentality and new pastoral method. Communication is a constitutive element of the work of the Primo Maestro: "Press, cinema, radio, television today constitute the most urgent, the most speedy and the most efficacious works of the Catholic apostolate. It could be that times reserve for us other better means. But at present it seems that the heart of the apostle could not desire better for giving to God the souls and souls to God" (UPS I, 313).

In order to establish the relationship between the title "Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life" and communication in the Primo Maestro, one must, first of all, recall the foundation process: from a group of committed lay persons in the good press to "society of apostles" (cf. AD 23-24). The Society of St. Paul and, in reference to it also the Daughters of St. Paul, are a "teaching" institute authorized to "preach" with the means of social communication. This apostolate "is the continuation of the apostolate of the Divine Master" (cf. Apostolato stampa, Alba 1933, 3-5). The Pauline vocation and mission are in reference to the vocation and mission of Christ Master; the process of Christification is in view of an apostolic holiness: to be in order to communicate. By reflecting on the model of communication which gives foundation to the Pauline mission, one can attempt at a description by concentric circles. From the communication processes within the Trinity, to the revelatory communication of Jesus Master, to the communication between Christ Master and the Pauline, to the communication of the Pauline with today’s man with today’s means. All these, under the animating push of the Holy Spirit.

The theology in view of "communication" elaborated by the Primo Maestro is at the level of outline:

"The heavenly Father is Publisher de aeterno of the Son, ‘quem Pater supremus edidit’ (Liturgy): may he give us the first apostolate, the interior life, by forming Jesus Christ in us: ‘formetur Christus in vobis.’ The Divine Son, Publisher of the Gospel: ‘gratia et veritas per Christum facta sunt’; ‘doceat nos verba sancti evangelii’. May he reveal himself to us, Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life, living in the Church. He is the substance, the beginning, life, the reward of our publications.

The Holy Spirit is the Author and Publisher of the Sacred Scripture: "Auctor principalis Sacrae Scripturae est Spiritus Sanctus’ (St. Thomas); such books ‘Deus habent auctorem.’ May he grant us to model ourselves after it: imitate God, Writer and Publisher.

Mary is the Publisher of the Word made human: ‘Mariae intemerata virginitas edidit Salvatorem’ (Liturgy).

Publication and Publisher: the Church: ‘Ut innnotescat per Ecclesiam multiformis sapientia Dei’.

...Let us give homage to St. Paul: the most prolific writer of the New Testament: he knew better and better did he reveal Christ to us" (Vad no. *919).

The Persons of the Trinity are seen under the perspective of the Publisher, Mary is the Publisher, the Church is publication and Publisher, St. Paul is model of the writer.

The Pauline, through baptism and the religious consecration, is grafted in this "publishing flow" in view of assimilating for him/herself and to "publish" with all the "publications" his own experience of Christ, Master Way-Truth-Life for men of today. The communication (editorial) trend is: The Trinity, Christ, Church, Pauline, men/women of today. The communication model is linear: from the Trinity, through Christ, the Church and the Paulines, to the persons of today. Naturally, a "reply" is wanted from this one way communication, but at the start a positive or negative reply is already foreseen as a possibility.

The "communication theology" of the Primo Maestro embraces all those who take part in the process of evangelization. The Paulines, by divine vocation and by assignment from the Church are "apostles" who live so intensely their faith relationship as to become "an other Christ" with a continuous process of "putting on Christ." This "identity" with Christ is necessary for them to "communicate the whole Christ" to men of today. It is Christification itself which is placed under the disposal of others through the apostolate of communication.

The quality of evangelization is not an "occupation" which can be compatible also with a scant spiritual identity. Without "Christification" there is no authentic "proclamation". One’s own identification with Christ is the indispensable premise for being able "to preach." The entire apostolic work is an "act of proclamation": "By the apostolate of the editions, one understands not merely that complex of initiatives which reject what offends morality and the Christian faith, or that which propose some particular ideal of goodness, but one understands it as a real mission which could be properly defined as: proclamation of the divine Word by means of publications. Preaching of the Divine Word, or else, the proclamation, evangelization of the Good News, of truth that saves... Preaching which is nonetheless done through publications. Like the oral preaching, that which is written or printed, spreads the Word of God" (L’Apostolato delle edizioni, 1950, 12).

The means of communication used for the apostolate are redefined from a supernatural perspective: "When these means of progress are useful for evangelization, they receive a consecration, they are raised to the maximum dignity. The office of the writer, the place of production, the bookstore become church and pulpit. He who works there rises to the dignity of apostle. He who, ‘innocens manibus et mundo corde,’ works there, communicates to the means a supernatural power which contributes for enlightenment and intimate action by the divine breathe that accompanies it" (UPS I, 316).

The recipients of the Pauline apostolic activity are not considered "clients" of a chain of industrial production, but as "souls to save." The contents of the media products made by Paulines ought to be way-truth-life "for the souls": "Do we understand the Pauline mission? It must extend over all and to all. It also is the mission of Jesus Christ: ‘Go to the whole world, preach the Gospel to all creatures" (Prediche del Primo Maestro, 1953, 161). The proclamation activity is not addressed only to individuals: "Your apostolate aims not only to the progress of individual souls, but aims at the formation of a new mentality in society: this means to give an imprint, a new direction. Often one falls into the mistake of wanting to see the fruit of a particular soul, but the greater fruit is the mentality which is spread amidst society: Christian mentality, fear of God and everything that assures spiritual life to souls and Christian life in society" (Meditazioni e istruzioni, 31 July 1958).

The essential characteristic of the Pauline apostolate is pastorality understood as wholeness adapted to every need: "The pastoral spirit is to communicate to souls Jesus Christ, as how He spoke of himself in a summary definition: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, the Life’: to raise and sanctify the whole man: mind, sentiment, will with Dogma, Morals, Worship" (UPS I, 367). The Bible "is, in synthesis, Way, Truth, Life of souls. Such must be the writings of the apostle." (L’Apostolato dell’edizione, 1944, 160). The Pauline apostolic methodology is simple: "The means of communication are many, but the method is one: to give Jesus Christ, Way, Truth, Life in order to sanctify the whole man and the entire society" (Predica del 1955, in Vad no. 1180).

Pastorality, according to the Primo Maestro, starts from the need of souls: "The editorial office studies the current needs of the Church and of society" (UPS III, 131). Also the individual must work in the same manner: "We must do this: to consider the needs of humanity; then go to Jesus, think of the sacred science, make a beautiful Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and, then, draw from Jesus that knowledge the world needs and break it for the small ones. ...Two things therefore: 1. To take into consideration the needs of men, and then those persons whom we must address: whether they are children, scientists, pagans. 2. To draw the truth from him who is Truth itself, the Wisdom itself, and break it for people who need this bread" (Prediche del Primo Maestro, 5, 1957, 134f). The Pauline process of communication takes into great consideration the identity and the particular situation of the recipient; this attention indicates as a consequence the characteristics of the Pauline apostolate: integrality, universality, totality, pastorality, popularity, addressed also to intellectuals, capable of taking into consideration the situation of the recipient, etc. (return to summary)

Continued: Social and ecclesial communication context

return to summary


           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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