By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
On Friday afternoon, fifty years to the day that Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline Family died, a museum was inaugurated that chronicles his life. Joining the Pauline Family to cut the ribbon, was Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Museum dedicated to the ‘apostle of the modern times’
In opening remarks, Father Valdir José De Castro, Superior General of the Society of St Paul, said that on the 50th anniversary of the death of the Founder of the Pauline Family, a space is now available that is dedicated to his “historical memory”. Calling Blessed James Alberione an “apostle of the modern times”, Father De Castro declared that the new museum will allow his “patrimony to be discovered and savored” by all those who appreciate Alberione’s vision. The museum is not intended only to “display old objects”, Father Valdir said. Instead, “This museum wants to provide a message”. It seeks to make Blessed James Alberione’s specific charism available and able to touch people.
Located on the premises of the very locations Blessed James Alberione lived in Rome, the Museum contains a room dedicated to the memory of Alberione’s relationship with Pope Saint Paul VI, another dedicated to his travels around the world, another dedicated to prayer, another to the importance he gave to ongoing study in his life, and another to the apostolate he carried out throughout his life. Among the items on display is his journalist accreditation badge, handwritten notes he took as he participated in various sessions of the Second Vatican Council, a typewriter he used, a typewritten manuscript…
Joy and gratitude
Immediately following the inauguration of the museum, Holy Mass was celebrated commemorating Blessed James Alberione’s liturgical feast, in the Basilica of the Queen of Apostles in Rome. During his homily during the Celebration of the Liturgy for his feast, Cardinal Semeraro reflected on his personal relationship with the Pauline Family, as well as on the life and vocation of Blessed Alberione.
The Cardinal expressed his “interior joy” at being present as well as his “gratitude to the Family Pauline” as former bishop of Albano, where the Cardinal had many opportunities to know the work of the Pauline Family up close where all of the religious institutes of Father Alberione have houses. Even more importantly, the Cardinal revealed that in the 1950s he remembers accompanying a Pauline priest as he brought the weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana from door to door. Years later, he understood Alberione’s own words: “If the missionary does not go personally in search of souls to bring them to Christ, they will generally not seek Him. So too, if the apostle does not bring a good book, a good magazine directly to people, many will not receive them because they are not looking for them”.
Jesus is Way, Truth, Life
The Cardinal then turned his attention to the self-definition Jesus pronounced during the Last Supper, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, a hallmark of Pauline spirituality. “According to Father Alberione”, he explained, “by affirming himself as way, truth and life, Jesus ‘synthesized everything that He is for us’ and this phrase contains everything about religion, everything about love, everything that the human person owes God ‘with the mind, with the will, with the heart’ ”.
Scrutinize the signs of the times
It was Pope Saint Paul VI, the Cardinal reminded those present, who referred to the Pauline Family as a “flowering tree with eight branches”. On 28 June 1969, Paul VI also defined Father Alberione as a person who was “always intent on scrutinizing the signs of the times”, the Cardinal continued. He pointed out that Pope Paul VI changed the word used by the Vatican Council – to read the signs of the times. Instead, he used the word “to scrutinize” in describing James Alberione.
“To scrutinize means careful examination undertaken with an accurate vision; to scrutinize means being able to see what is not apparent at first glance. It also means to look and to see into the distance”.
Then the Cardinal challenged Blessed James Alberione’s contemporary disciples with these two fundamental aspects of their founder: Jesus as Way, Truth and Life, and his ability to “scrutinize the signs of the times”:
Christ lives in me
The Cardinal left those present with a reminder that Father Alberione was moved by Christ with the “anxiety of reaching humanity”. “His choice of ‘communications’ was the tangible expression” of that anxiety. This type of movement within Alberione found its source in St. Paul and his declaration that “Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Cardinal Semeraro then concluded his homily on that note:
“ ‘ Christ lives in me’ is Paul’s great teaching that Blessed James Alberione took and wanted to transmit because the self-definition of Jesus as way, truth and life was for him the recognition of Christ’s influence on the human person, on every person, and on the entire person. Describing the soul of Pauline spirituality, he wrote: ‘Jesus Truth works on the mind and grants it faith; Jesus Christ is the Way and works on the will which is conformed to God’s will; Jesus Christ is Life and works on the emotions filling it will supernatural life. When a Christian completely embraces this grafting, he or she will be able to say: Christ truly lives in me”.