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INTRODUCTION TO THE SEMINAR
ON "JESUS, THE MASTER"

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

by Fr. Silvio Pignotti, Superior General ssp

 

First of all, I renew my greetings and welcome to all those present in this fraternal encounter, which we define as seminar but could also be called as symposium or convention for study and reflection. It is an important occasion that Providence offers us to together deal with a reality which involves everyone directly and profoundly.

1. Why a Seminar on Jesus Master?On 22 March 1992, in his report on the state of the Congregation during the VI General Chapter, Fr. Perino advanced two proposals. The first was to do a follow-up to the International Seminar in 1984 on the theme, "At the center is Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life," with the celebration of a new seminar on the Christological title "Master" preferred by our Founder. A second proposal regarded the celebration of a seminar on Formation (cf. Acts and Documents of VI Cap. Gen., pp. 49 and 56). Both proposals were welcomed by the Chapter and, in the final document of the programming, they were entrusted to the new Government in order that it could accomplish them (cf. Acts, I Priority, no. 1; II Priority, no. 8).

For reasons of opportuneness, it was settled to give chronological precedence to the Seminar on Formation, which was celebrated from 12 to 23 October 1994 and from which originated the directive document of the General Government, "Pauline Formation for the Mission" officially issued on 19 March 1995.

Today we accomplish what was the first task entrusted by the Chapter to the General Government. The fact that this Seminar on "Jesus, the Master" is celebrated last does not mean that secondary attention is given to it or that it assumes minor importance. On the contrary, with this, the current Government intends to conclude "in crescendo" a program of conscientization regarding our fundamental values and to invite all brothers and sisters to coherently assume the related commitments. Hence, after having established the apostolic ends of our institutions and the corresponding editorial structures ("Apropos Priority III, 16 December 1992, which formalized some orientations that surfaced during the Meeting of the General Government with the members of the C.T.I.A. held in Alba in October 1992); after having established the lines of formation with the already mentioned "Pauline Formation for the Mission," we want, with this Seminar, to complete the upward journey and to clearly establish over everything, like an effigy on the peak, the figure of the Divine Master, who gives meaning and consistency to our entire life and activities.

2. Motivations and end. — The reasons adopted by Fr. Perino for suggesting to the Chapter this Seminar were thus formulated: "[With the celebration of a Seminar on Christ ‘the Master’] the preceding seminar would be integrated, with the emphasis on this Christological title, which Fr. Alberione chose with explicit reference to our particular apostolate". He added: "I would entrust to this seminar the task of developing the theme not only in the aspects of exegesis, theology and charism but also in its practical application: the search for and definition of a Pauline apostolic spirituality" (cf. Acts, p. 49).

Departing from this proposal, the General Chapter thus formulated the first operative recommendation: "The General Government is to promote a seminar on ‘Jesus, the Master,’ which will develop the implications this has for the spirituality of the Pauline as communicator" (Recommendation no. 1, Acts, p. 65). This indication has to be read under the light of the I Priority, which immediately precedes it and which commits the Congregation "to form thoroughly the Pauline as a man of communication modeled on the example of the Apostle Paul, his formation should be directed towards the specific mission, carried out within history and in dynamic fidelity to the spirituality bequeathed by the Founder: the whole in an assiduous listening to God communicator, Word and Eucharist" (Acts, ibid.).

This formula therefore constitutes the frame of reference and the horizon of the current Seminar. In fact, in it, the immediate end and the essential task of our reflection is defined: to form thoroughly, that is, to create by giving form and spirit to a subject called to be apostle-communicator after St. Paul’s style: entirely thrust forward, like him, to reach Christ and spurred by apostolic charity, by anxiety to evangelize all. Furthermore, the obligatory path of such a process is indicated: in assiduous listening to God, that is, in making one’s self "disciple" of Christ, inasmuch as he alone is the eternal Word, the authoritative and perfect "Master" of salvific communication, not only because he transmits authentic messages of truth, but because he still effectively moves wills and reanimates interior energies by placing them in communication with the source of Life through the Eucharist. In this manner is reached the objective of the whole spiritual and formation activity, preparatory to the apostolate, which was indicated by Fr. Alberione in the first formulation of the Constitutions: "Piety must be particularly and continually fostered by the study of Jesus Christ the Divine Master, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life..." and "...studies be always directed and cultivated in a way that Jesus Christ, Our Divine Master, Who is the Truth, the Way, and the Life, be ever more known and understood by us, and that Christ be more completely formed in our mind, will, and heart. Thus we shall become skillful masters of souls, because we have been, first, humble and diligent disciples of Christ" (art. 154 and 177).

3. Key for reading. — The process of "thorough formation" understood by the I Priority is "carried out within history and in dynamic fidelity to the spirituality bequeathed by the Founder". These two expressions, sense of history and dynamic fidelity, are equivalent to each other: they in fact refer to the same reality, which is the divine pedagogy in the course of time. History means for us the journey of the People of God and the pedagogical action of Christ on our behalf, in the continuity of events that reveal to us, step by step, the continuity of his magisterial program. And this supposes, on our part, dynamic fidelity to the Gospel and, likewise, dynamic fidelity to the Founder who transmitted them to us in the concrete reality of the charism. These expressions offer us also the key to the reading of the Seminar we now start and of its program of activity, articulated as it is in a historical-systematic function.

a) As it appears from the order of topics and of the discussions, we shall first of all take a look at what has been studied and concluded, within the Pauline Family, in the Seminar of 1984 on the Johannine trinomial Way, Truth and Life, which constituted a first attempt at a synthesis on the most important legacy of the Founder on the centenary of his birth. A broad vision of the production of the last years regarding the theme "Master" within the general sphere of the Church shall follow. Two days shall be spent to review, with the help of five different representatives of the Pauline Family, the path to development taken by Fr. Alberione in formulating and in deepening the doctrine on Jesus Christ, "the Master," with their different stages and implications, either spiritual or formative or apostolic.

b) With the broad historical-charismatic introduction made, the discussion shall broaden, always under the historical perspective, to go to the semantic roots of the magisterial theme in the Bible as well as in the classic culture and in Christian tradition till our times. And this second panorama shall take other two days.

c) The third stage, more analytic in character, shall help us to consider how the figure of the Divine Master is incarnated in our life and how it qualifies to himself all the aspects of our reality: spirituality, formation geared to the mission, the specific apostolate. Three days shall be dedicated to this analysis and they shall orient us, in view of the future, to establish criteria entirely update the Alberione heritage due to the demands of transmission and local inculturation of such a heritage.

4. As you can see, the undertaking is arduous and exciting. In fact, we aim, with this Seminar, not only to bring to light, or eventually recover, one of the key values - if not the absolutely most important – of our being Pauline; we aim also at expressing it once more in new terms and to integrate it in the heart of our apostolic life, as the dynamic center of our being consecrated and of our apostolic actions. If as religious, in fact, we cannot dissociate the priority search for God and the dedication to the apostolate; as "Paulines" we have a specific gift to live and to transmit to the Church beginning from our respective communities. And this gift, so Fr. Alberione insistently repeated, is the Master, Way and Truth and Life. If every one of us shall develop this gift in himself, he shall naturally become communicator of its fruits: the deep spiritual life shall be enriched and formation as well as our apostolate shall have light.

5. The preparation of this Seminar, started in January 1995, saw the initial participation of Fr. Perino himself who, aside from having patronized and inspired it, would have been its moral guide. He had accepted the task of opening the activities with the drafting of the historical-charismatic survey. He, however, left us after having given the first contributions of ideas and direction: he only had the time to draw some principal lines and to solicit the collaboration of a confrere who eventually took his place. We trust, however, that Fr. Perino shall assist us from heaven where he sees more clearly the process of our journey and could assist in making it fruitful, not only for the present but also for the future.

The work done by the speakers, who submitted their papers in advance, has been significant and consistent as you can judge by the weight of the papers placed in your hands. Such papers shall consequently be collected and published. We trust, however, that already during these days they would constitute the basis and the point of departure for an assiduous work of deepening and of assimilation. Everyone of you is invited to effectively contribute for the effective performance of this Seminar: through an assiduous and punctual presence at the talks in the hall and in group work; through individual reading and reflection, with an effort to understand and assimilate contents which are not always obvious or granted, even among those already initiated; finally, through the planning as to how and when to transmit the results to communities and to the circumscriptions wherein you belong.

6. The importance of this engagement does not elude anyone. In fact, I repeat, it has to do with re-exploring the foundations of our consecrated and apostolic life while we focus clearly and decidedly our sight on the center of convergence: Jesus Christ, "the Master," who is at the same time the principle and method, the soul of our spirituality, the model of our formation, the essential objective of our mission: the unifying center not only of the different elements of our individual lives, but also of Communities, of Congregations and of the entire Pauline Family.

Above all in Christ Master the two co-essential and closely related components of spirituality and of mission find unity and convergence. There is no Pauline spirituality without "devotion" to Christ Master, or Pauline mission that ignores the specific magisterial mission of Christ and the integral content of his magisterium, in conformity with the recurrent formulae of Fr. Alberione, who traces the genesis of his vocation and of the eventual foundations to the providential rediscovery of the integral Master (cf. CISP 1219-1220). Therefore there shall be neither division or dichotomy between spirit and work if we should live the "devotion" to the Master which is proposed to us by our Founder, who himself experienced and lived it intensely in his own person before transmitting it to us.

7. When this Seminar was planned, the Jubilee Year of 2000 was not yet spoken about and neither were its preparation. On November 10, 1994, John Paul II published his Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," with which, aside from explaining the meaning of the solemn event, he proposed also the itinerary of its three-year preparation: "The first year, 1997, shall be dedicated to reflection on Christ, the Word of the Father, made man by the work of the Holy Spirit" (TMA no. 40). The indications of the Pope confer a note of greater relevance to our Seminar. It can constitute a very meaningful start of that "reflection" and of that deepening, under the special Alberione perspective, on the person and the work of Christ, to whom the entire ecclesial community is called, and which must find space during the whole of next year.

Conclusion.In this historical moment, rich with significant circumstances for the Congregation and for the Pauline Family, we sense quite palpably the destiny of God’s grace and of the opportunities he is offering us. Let us recognize them gratefully and let us feel the lofty responsibility with which we are vested face to face with Pauline history: before the Brothers and Sisters who count on so much fruits from this Seminar. They accompany us with prayer; we shall exert all effort not to disappoint them. And may the Divine Master, in whose house we now live, breathe strongly his Spirit over all of us.

 

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