Blessed James Alberione’s profound spirituality has many sources, but his primary inspiration comes from the Pauline Letters and from the Gospel of John. Essentially, Alberione combines the Pauline concept of life in Christ with the way Jesus defines himself in John’s Gospel: “It is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20), and “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). In Alberione’s mind, it is not enough to be like Christ, we must be so united to Christ that Jesus actually lives, acts, speaks, and loves in us.
In the Eucharist, we encounter the Divine Master in a unique way. For Father Alberione, the Eucharist was the secret, transforming power of his life, and he encouraged all the members of the Pauline Family to center their lives on the Eucharistic Master.
Out of humility and wisdom, Alberione insisted that the members of the Pauline family consider Saint Paul as their spiritual father, and thus both Alberione’s spirituality and the family he founded are called “Pauline.”
In addition to the Pauline and Eucharistic thrusts, three other characteristics of Alberione’s spirituality are prominent in this collection. First, Blessed James frequently uses words such as “entire,” “complete,” “all,” “everything,” “everyone,” etc., to communicate the concept of “totalita” or “totality” meaning that an individual’s entire person and life are to be integrated and transformed in Jesus Christ. Secondly, for Alberione, the fruit of authentic prayer is always a sense of mission: true communion with the Lord transforms the person into being Christ’s presence in the world. And finally, Alberione’s spirituality is undergirded by his Trinitarian theology, characterized by how the Gather has lovingly worked in salvation history and continues to work in our world and in our lives; how Jesus invites us to share in his own intimate relationship with the Father; and how we are called to listen to the appeals of the Spirit in history today, and to respond in a prophetic way.
Alberione’s writings only hint at the depth of his own spiritual and mystical experiences, which he strove to hide as much as possible. Despite his aversion to revealing anything about his own interior life, Alberione felt an obligation to pass on to his sons and daughters the spirituality he had received from the Lord.
The charismatic spirituality that Alberione developed during the first half of the twentieth century has not only proved timely for his own day, but prophetic for our own. Alberione’s Pauline spirituality could easily become the keystone of mission-oriented spirituality for all Christians who breathe the culture of communications today.
By Sister Marie Paul Curley, FSP
Apostle of the Word of God
Father Alberione had understood the importance of the Word of God from the time of his seminary years, at the “school” of Saint Paul the Apostle, who was “set apart” for the Gospel and sent to announce it to all peoples.
He wrote: “There was a time when I received in the adorations a clearer light concerning the great treasure which the Lord wanted to grant to the Pauline Family: the diffusion of the Gospel.”
Above all, the Gospel is to be lived in mind, heart and deeds.
Sorrowfully observing that the Gospel was so seldom read at that time, and that the Bible, the “Book of God, the Book of mankind,” was unknown, not only to Christians, but also to many religious and clergy, he began the work of diffusing the Bible and the Gospel, aided by the students of the Seminary.
Every year, on the feast of Saint Cecilia, he stopped to meditate on the words of the Liturgy: “The virgin Cecilia always carried the Gospel of Christ on her heart…” Father Alberione too carried the Gospel over his heart throughout his life. This vital program bore copious fruits for all of his sons and daughters, to whom he wrote: “The diffusion of Sacred Scripture must be the first and most important object of all of our apostolic activity.”
We were born from the Word, for the Word and in the Word. Therefore, we must see to it that all of our books, films, transmissions, records, etc., will be always and only an extension, an echo, a follow-up, a radiation of the Divine Book, but especially of the Gospel.”
Saint Paul was the guide on this point.
A Man of Prayer
Blessed James Alberione, priest of God, was known to have said, “Prayer is the first duty and the first contribution which I must make to the Congregation…. Let it be done at the best time and in the best place,” out of respect for the majesty of God.
Father Alberione followed literally the command of Jesus: “Pray always.” For him prayer did not remain something abstract; it was realized every moment of his long life.
Father Alberione truly lived by the words that Our Lord spoke to us.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5).
If he was a man of action (and who could deny it?) he was also – and first of all – a man of prayer. Prayer was the source of all his activity.
The ideal of Saint Paul, too, was a life hidden with Christ in God – the source of every apostolate. He lived by the teaching of Jesus: “Without me, you can do nothing.”
It was typical of his spirituality – in practice, in teaching and as he had learned from Canon Chiesa – to transform everything into an object of meditation and prayer before the Divine Master, to adore, thank and petition.
One clearly sensed that God was in him and that he gave God to others. This spontaneously induced others to praise the Lord, so good and so wonderful even in permitting his word to reach us through the saints who live on this earth. Heard from their mouths, the Gospel penetrates souls, drop by drop, like the most refreshing water, capable of quenching the thirsty.
Humility and Faith
This is the channel through which God’s revelation passes: a person’s humility removes the obstacle of self and makes room for God, for his greatness: “God works as He wills. Ask great things, because the humble and greater requests do Him honor.”
Father Alberione’s humility was based on the convinced awareness of his being nothing before God, an awareness that manifested itself in the most ordinary circumstances. It was an attitude which was the more striking in one who had the office and the authority of superior.
Father Alberione was profoundly humble during the last years of his illness, with a spontaneity that was as natural to him as breathing. The conviction of his weakness and his nothingness was deeply rooted in his being.
“I feel, before God and men, the gravity of the mission entrusted to me by the Lord who, had He found a more unworthy and incapable person, would have preferred him.”
He did not consider himself the founder of the great work: “Everyone must consider only St. Paul the Apostle as father, teacher, model and founder. As, in fact, he is. Through him the Pauline Family was born, by him it was nourished and brought up, from him it took its spirit.”
“... With regard to my poor person, even in this the Lord followed his style, the divine style: ‘God chose... the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something; so that mankind can do no boasting before God.’”
For this reason, while he had a high concept of the dignity of the priesthood, he considered it a gift of which he was unworthy and an honor to which he had no personal claim.
“The Lord makes my nothingness known to me in a very clear light: as man, as Christian, as priest and as member of the Pious Society of St. Paul. I am satisfied with my miserable condition because for all eternity the Redeemer will be glorified and (Mary) the Co-redemptrix will be exalted.”