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HOW FR. ALBERIONE INTRODUCED
JESUS "THE MASTER" TO THE APOSTOLINE SISTERS

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

by Maddalena Verani ap

 

6. SOME REFLECTIONS AND PERSONAL REMEMBRANCES

When we, Apostoline Sisters, were born, we can say that Fr. Alberione had reached a certain "organic synthesis" of the charismatic spirituality of which he felt a bearer and a debtor, even if it is certain, that he never stopped to deepen and to explain, either doctrinally or practically this reality, as it appears clearly also in the very good and documented survey of Fr. Sgarbossa.

Hence we can say that we have not participated in the "charismatic development" of the spirituality in its "key instances". We have received the spirituality as if it were "natural" air we breathed and received as "normal" daily nourishment, almost like a gestating baby in the maternal womb. When Fr. Alberione spoke to us of Jesus Master, of Jesus Way, Truth and Life, of Mary Queen of Apostles, we were simply happy (and perhaps also a bit "unconscious") about the greatness and the beauty of the spirituality, of the vocation and vocational mission, to which he was forming us, although the difficulties were not wanting. We welcomed his words with devout fervor because they were "the Founder’s words", and for us this was enough. I say this for myself but, as far as I remember, this is the impression that remains in me and also of the sisters of the first foundation years.

Then, moving ahead – and even more so today – we better understood the value of certain affirmations of Fr. Alberione: "Now you must think that in the Pauline Family there is a wealth of spirituality that is a gift of the great God. It is not a spirituality whatever; this is a complete spirituality. Because of this we need now an orderly work in order to grow up... Jesus ‘grew in age, wisdom and in grace’." (14) More: "If confessors or preachers should impress a different spirit, different from what is in the Constitutions, then we shall have something like a division, not of classes, but a division of spirits. This is true both for confessors and preachers. There are mistresses of novices who want to give their own particular imprint and this would be a grave error. We have to change the mistress of novices immediately..." (15)

Under this point of view, Fr. Alberione did not tolerate either pretexts or interference of any kind. For years, one could count with the fingers of one hand the priests who, together with him, could come to the Apostoline Sisters, so that some Pauline confrere, jokingly said, "To come to you, one needs a pass from the Primo Maestro!" It was true. And Fr. Alberione, perhaps hearing some comments himself, explained the reasons to us: he wanted us grew "well" in the vocation and in the specific mission that the Holy Spirit, through him, was giving us, and in the spirituality to which he was giving a clear and constant vocational connotation according, precisely, to our specific charism. For this the Primo Maestro desired that we establish well the foundations and to make our talents fruitful under his guidance: with equal awareness, on one hand, of his and above all of our "littleness" and, on the other hand, of his responsibility and authority as Founder. Indeed, he was very much like his great model, St. Paul, "servant of Christ Jesus, apostle by vocation" (Rom 1:1). Fr. Alberione said: "For example, you think that I may have given you your vocation. Not at all: it is God who called you, who created you for this vocation. Hence, nothing to call ours, everything, and every person who belongs to the Pauline Family, is an act of mercy of God, who has guided so that vocation would arrive at consecration, and then, consecrated to God, that this soul reaches sanctification. There, God is all, we are heavily indebted to God!... In thanksgiving to God who willed, and who worked." (16)

In these words one seems to almost to hear the echo of a famous verse from the Letter to the Romans, which Fr. Alberione quotes in Donec Formetur 14, regarding the School of Nazareth: "Neque volentis, neque currentis, sed miserentis est Dei" (Rm 9:16), which we can translate thus: "It is not a matter of the will or the efforts of man, but of God who is merciful". Fr. Alberione continues, always in the passage quoted: "We need to enter the kingdom of Mercy and to place ourselves under its government and dominion." And one can say that Fr. Alberione, in the span of his life, entrusted himself ever more to God’s mercy (cf. AD 1), closely linked with the "gratuity" of the vocation and charismatic mission he received. Certainly, from here he derived also that sense of "gratuity" which he tried to infuse in us in the exercise of our mission: "It is like a heroic act, this, of the Institute, which you must accomplish in a singular manner. It is a heroic act. I need bread and I give it to others and, while I do an act of charity, I am persuaded that the Lord thinks also of me." (17)

Always with our growth as the reason, a growth dear to him, as likewise the centrality of the Word of God to which he wanted to educate us, and certainly aware of the "indigestion" of books that cost him so much when young, Fr. Alberione did not want so many books circulated among us, especially in church: the only book allowed, because in it "the Master" spoke, was the Bible, with a particular exhortation that we nourishe ourselves with the Gospel and the Letters of St. Paul. Some "extra" books, but these had to be already tried and tested, were reserved for reading during the meals. On this matter, Fr. Alberione told us: "An act of total love, of the mind and the will, of the heart, with Jesus rather than ten thousand sighs. Oh, vague thoughts, so uncertain... but real love for Jesus! These are the weddings the Father celebrates for his Son who unites himself with the soul and the soul unites herself with Jesus. These are eternal weddings!" (18)

Regarding the personal educational relationship with Fr. Alberione, I recall two incidents that are indicative as to how he continually directed us towards "the Master." Once, after confession – because the Primo Maestro was also our confessor and spiritual director for as long as he could – he told me, "It is good that you choose a great principle towards which you could orient your whole life... You will choose it at the end of this week and at the end of May" (we were in May ’64). I spending the whole month of May think and rethinking over this blessed principle, which was to be biblical in nature, and then, in a succeeding confession, at the end I told him my choice, "Let it be done according to your will on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10). The Primo Maestro answered me, "Very well, however think about it, also during the exercises." During the exercises I told him again my "sweated" statement, and he replied: "I think for you this is better: ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me’" (Gal 2:20). Aside from his choice, which was surely better than mine, I thought, "If you had it in your mind, blessed man, you could have told me even before!..."

In another occasion, finding myself in great difficulty, I told him, "Primo Maestro, I no longer know where to bang my head!" And he replied, "Bang it on the Tabernacle." "Very good – I told myself – that way, besides my troubles, I also would have a broken head..." But the deeper lesson I did learn! (return to summary)

7. THE LAST YEARS OF FR. ALBERIONE

The last years of Fr. Alberione are particularly rich with meaning for us. I hope that at this point I would be forgiven if what I shall say is not directly related with Jesus, "the Master," because I want my speech to be a witnessing. Even more, regarding this, I would like to say what Fr. Alberione wanted to transmit to us regarding the Master is global – a teaching that I believe so in "everything" and for "the whole" of the Pauline Family – that is, understandable not only in words, but also in gestures, in "fact-events", profoundly meaning for our life. In this, Fr. Alberione was coherent with the principle dear to him: one must do first before teaching, just exactly in imitation to the Divine Master who "coepit facere et docere" (Acts 1:1).

We, Apostoline Sisters, being the last Congregation founded by him, it is understandable that the Primo Maestro, feeling that life began to slip away, had tried to do everything he could for us.

For as long as he could, he always came. Then, when his strength no longer allowed it, we went to him.

Along this line, I remember that once, in October 1967, Primo Maestro sent someone to tell me to come to Rome. Inasmuch as he had wanted that we had the statue of the Queen of the Apostles carved in wood for our church and the work was already being done by a famous sculptor in Ortisei (Val Gardena), he told me: "See to it that the Child is well clothed, because I always wanted it that way. It was Fr. Timoteo who had the Baby’s shoulders bare!" Then before saying good-bye, he said: "You see, I have a great burden in my heart – and he really placed his hand over his heart – that of dying before you are well established." He was alluding to our ecclesiastical approval, about which he also said something on another occasion: "If I do not see our approval before I pass on to eternity, ‘I shall’ do it with the Lord, in Paradise." And it happened that way. Our diocesan approval, after the revision of the Constitutions he gave us in 1958, bears the date of 26 November 1993, the anniversary date of his birth in heaven and the day during which we made the news public to the Pauline Family.

Etched in our heart is his last visit in our house in Castel Gandolfo on December 15, 1970. He wanted all of us go to the church and he made us go up the presbytery. Then he, pointing to the tabernacle, told us: "Would the Lord always remain there, and that he remains well here. Would he stay well with you, and you with him. I pray so much for you, every morning and always more." Then he gave holy cards of the Queen of Apostles to Mother Teresa Rossi, our Superior General, to distribute to all the Apostoline Sisters. The cards had something written on them: "Advance in the spirit of union with Jesus but to advance you have to be very quiet, recollected, because Jesus speaks when he finds us in silence. I bless. Sac. G. Alberione."

It was like the last greeting and the last instruction that he wanted to personally give us, in perfect coherence with his first intuition received from the Eucharistic Master on that famous night at the end of the century (cf. AD 13-22).

Since that date onwards, we, especially Mother Teresa whom he wanted to see every day, went to see him.

Fr. Alberione thus started to follow silently his most loved Master on the path to Calvary until the perfect consummation with the Crucified Master, in a total and trustful abandonment in the hands of the Father and in a very strong eschatological tension. His last words, as it is know, were: "Ave Maria, Paradiso!" Also in this in perfect coherence with how he lived: there was no homily or instruction or personal conversation that he did not end with a thought of eternity. This man, who spent his life with his feet well planted on the ground in serving, for the love of God, all men so that to all be done "the summary act of charity: that of truth" (CISP 1091), that is the Gospel, and who always lived with his gaze directed to heaven, just like St. Paul (cf. Phil. 3:7-14,20-21).

I just mentioned in passing the visits we had from time to time with Primo Maestro. Among them, the remembrance that has remained alive in me is this: usually he was seated on that easy chair one could still see in his bedroom, and which at that time was in a corner of his office, near the window. Almost always he whispered few words of benediction, barely understandable, but one thing he always did: he would raise, as much as he could, his arm with the rosary in hand: it was his manner of telling us how he spent his days waiting for his meeting with God. I remember also his face, as if made more gentle, and his eyes that became bigger, as if already seeing far beyond...

This last moment of his life, I believe, must have been the most fruitful for Fr. Alberione and for the whole Pauline Family. Regarding all that he not only did and worked hard at, but also suffered for his foundations, I remember a thought that he, so shy and withdrawn, told us once: "To be docile is the perfection of obedience... For as long as one does not reach there, and each one of you is not so disposed... you shall not be capable of being used as and where the Lord wants. To arrive there from 1916 we reached 1926... for the first Daughters. And for the Pious Disciples it took much longer; yes, it is that way for the other institutes. We need to let ourselves be led that way." (19)

How many times Fr. Alberione must have made his, the sigh of St. Paul in Gal 4:19: "My children [and daughters], for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you!" From here Fr. Alberione also took the title of a book very important to our spirituality, also along the line of Jesus "the Master," Way, Truth and Life,(20) but before the book I think he must have lived the sigh in his flesh.

As for the "thorn piercing his heart" (cf. AD 26), I believe that the Lord had left it in him through his whole life. Regarding this, or better of its meaning, apostolic as well, he indirectly spoke also to us: "For whom are the sufferings of the Apostoline Sisters? It is for obtaining the grace that those called may have the strength to correspond. How much infidelity to one’s vocation, lack of correspondence, fear of sacrifice; to make reparation for this is up to you, it is your share.(21) This is true also for the "Offertory prayer" for vocations, which Fr. Alberione formulated for us.(22)

Three days before his death, now unable to speak, Fr. Alberione left our telephone number, written by him on his telephone, with this words: "The benedictions 930356." This was his greeting to the Apostoline Sisters before meeting the Lord Jesus. (return to summary)

IN CONCLUSION

"You are lucky," a missionary priest, our friend, was telling us when he heard us pray the ‘Offertory prayer’ for vocations, "because your Father makes you pray for your ‘ignorance and misery and the need to always stay, humbly, before the Tabernacle...’" And just recent, listening to the "Secret of Success," he told us again, "Here Fr. Alberione has increased the dose!"

There, we have to be aware always and full of gratitude for the gift of the spirituality we received from Fr. Alberione. For it he studied, labored, worked, through a long and daily theoretical and practical commitment in order to explain as best as possible what he had perceived charismatically. His was a charismatic experience of life! And thus we received, also as regards Jesus, "the Master."

And he had the humility to tell his sons and daughters that they should continue to study and to deepen what he tried to communicate.(23)

One last and quick reference to the young people. I would say that they perceive spontaneously – at least as far as we notice – the Pauline spirituality, and in prayer they immediately put together the Word and the Eucharist. It is how for Fr. Alberione it is documented already in 1924.(24) It is how, later, Vatican Council would say in the Dei Verbum 21: the "two tables", that of the Word and that of the Bread.

Before Jesus, "the Master" Way, Truth and Life, Fr. Alberione’s words, loaded with meaning, come to mind: "Since I do not have either gold or silver, I give you what I have: Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life" (CISP 63). For all of us it is a "holy" legacy that involves our responsibility in the totality of our "being" as persons, communities, and as Congregations.

For this, paraphrasing, we can make ours the advice of St. Paul: "Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thess 5:19). And "I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God" (2 Tim 1:6). (return to summary)

return to summary

 

           Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever

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