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in the spirituality according to Fr. Alberione
Acts of the International
on "Jesus, the Master"
(Ariccia, October 14-24, 1996)
by Guido Gandolfo ssp
to assume the form of the Master
The consequent obligation for every Pauline
Before getting into the analysis of the itinerary of conformation, it seems useful that we pause on some questions which could arise precisely as regards the project of the Father: to orient ourselves toward "Heaven" and go further in the following of Christ till conformation. How should we understand it? How seriously must we take it? Is it a matter that is just useful, but not necessary? Is it a free choice? Is it a luxury reserved for a few? Is it perhaps a beautiful dream?
The reply of Fr. Alberione does not admit perplexity or doubts:
Need. The orientation of life towards Heaven is necessary for him who has strayed from the path, for him who does not follow it yet, and also for those who walk speedily, and for him who must choose the state of life. Deviations are easy considering the presence of the noise of the world, of passions, of the devil. Formation wherein we live Christ is therefore a must: donec formetur Christus in vobis, and for greater reason when one must form others, "forma factus gregis ex animo" (I Pt V,3) [DF 12].
Meanwhile, it is a necessary orientation:
The reasons of the need of such an orientation that is, clear stand and consequent choice of life are two: it is the indispensable way to decisively tend to "live in Jesus Christ," by assuming vitally the "form" of the Master, until Christ himself is formed in us; it is the indispensable condition "when one must be the form for others:, according to the quoted word of St. Peter (1 Pt 5:3).
But an even more lofty motivation of the seriousness of commitment which has to be applied here comes from the terrifying height of the objective which lies ahead. Fr. Alberione strongly emphasized it already in the introductory numbers:
The sanctifying action of the soul lies in our transformation in God "ut homo fieret Deus" through the food Jesus Christ: nourishing ourselves with Jesus way, truth, life. This is the food that the Father has given to man: Eating and assimilation are needed. God has filled the table: "compelle entrare".
On one hand, therefore, grace: Eucharist, Gospel (Mass, Communion, Visit); on the other hand: cooperation, meditation, examination of conscience, confession, spiritual direction: "Non ego autem, sed gratia Dei mecum." "Cooperatores enim Dei sumus."
Inspire the examination of conscience, Communion and visit after the three ends, "Induat te Dominus novum hominem": I am : the way, the truth, the life.
Meditation with the exercises of intelligence, will, of heart.
The exercise of mortification whereby to form the will to be indifferent to created things: health or sickness, praise or humiliation, wealth or poverty, etc.: "Christus non sibi placuit". Mortification of intelligence, of memory, of the will, of the imagination, of the heart, of the external senses. This carefully; whereby these holy excesses and the frequent repetition may turn soon to habit and the death of the old man. "Exuat te Dominues veterem hominem."
In the same manner with mortification one will hold on to the path of J. C., with the Gospel and meditation one lives the truth J. C., with Communion, Visit, Mass one shall have the life of J. C. "Donec formetur Christus in vobis" [DF 7-9].
We are called to nothing less than "our transformation in God": and this requires the "eating" and assiduous "assimilation" of the "food Jesus Christ," with all the means for nourishing and for making spiritual life grow in us. We shall speak about this again later.
For this activity, one needs a severe apprenticeship. A real school. Which cannot but be that which the Master has opened first in Bethlehem and then continued in the "thirty years of private life" in Nazareth.
The school of Nazareth. "Donec formetur Christus in vobis" (Ad Gal. IV,19). Formation must be modeled after the Divine Master: thirty years of private life. It requires therefore:
1. Flight: retreat from the world which is the school opposite to that of the Divine Master: probationary period, novitiate, temporary profession; that solitude and the company of Saints be sought after.
2. Inner mortification of memory, imagination, pride, heart, etc.,: external: touch, hearing, eyes, taste, smell, fulfillment of a schedule, plans.
3. Prayer: "Sine me nihil potestis facere," so presence before the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Our Lady, to St. Paul, visit, examination of conscience. The word of St. Paul is especially clear: "Neque volentis, neque currentis, sed miserentis est Dei" (ad Rom. IX,16). We need to enter the kingdom of Mercy and to place ourselves under such government or dominion.
Let prayer touch also our emotions with which we are excited till confusion.
If the soul is comfortable in desolation and in aridity, it shall be able to read and pray more, until it finds itself well nourished and tastes something. Meanwhile, let it be humble and serenely wait for Divine Mercy.
4. Studium perfectionis: that is to want to succeed in the divine science, in the perfection of the will, in holiness of life [DF 15].
The school of Nazareth is formation: it, in fact, deals with being formed, taking the "form" of Jesus, of ones being integrated to him. On the teaching chair, He, only He, the Divine Master. He teaches disciplines that are severe but indispensable for the growth in the conformation with Him: flight from the "world," solitude, mortification, examination of conscience, prayer... The word of St. Paul brings comfort: "Do not [mainly] depend on the will or on the efforts of man, but on God who uses mercy" (Rm 9:17). Also here the beginning and the end of everything is the Father of goodness who invites us to "enter into the kingdom of Mercy".
Unfortunately, however, in spite of Gods infinite benevolence, man can resist the invitation or else take the journey and the get lost along the way: "deviations are easy." Thus comes the need to fully involve the will. Fr. Alberione utilizes an effective Latin expression: "studium perfectionis," that is the effort, the commitment, the serious application towards perfection. In one word the word "to want to succeed," which the believer-Pauline shall apply on all the expressions of his thinking and doing ("in the divine science, in the perfection of the will, in holiness of life").
It is known how much rigor the Founder insisted upon the obligation for the Pauline to work on conformation with the Master:
"Let us promise what is an obligation, what constitutes the spirit, the soul of the Institute: that is to live the devotion to Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life: a devotion that is not only prayer, but embraces all that one does in daily life. It is not a beautiful expression, but an advise: it is the substance of the Congregation; it is a matter of being Paulines or not. Digressions are not allowed!" [Meditation to the community of Rome, 1957].
It is an assignment on which one will never end to reflect and examine himself.
Conformation with the Master in fact is what qualifies our person: it is the first motive for which the Lord has called us and for which he still appeals to us and calls us each day. It is the essential reason of our living and working in the Congregation. It is what constitutes my/our true identity, because God the Father has thought about us that way and to this end he has enriched us with special gifts. It is only by letting such appeal of God develop under the action of the spirit that we shall coherently live our vocation: "I live now not I but Christ lives in me" after the example of our Father, St. Paul, with a clear charismatic identity.
A specific environment: The Pauline mission
Jesus Master yesterday, today and for ever A historical-charismatic survey
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