Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Eyewitness Account

Meister der Braunschweig-
Magdeburger Schule
Public domain, The Yorck Project
Tradition holds that St. Luke used eyewitness testimonies for his account of the Good News. The author makes this perfectly clear in his opening paragraph:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”  (Luke 1: 1- 4, NASB)

First, a confession.  Until (very) recently, and although I have read Luke's Gospel many a Christmas Eve, I never noticed this important opening sequence to his Gospel.  Eyewitness accounts change everything!  Especially when one realizes WHO he was interviewing!  Luke's rendition of Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel, her journey to Bethlehem, and Jesus' birth were not his piecing together of what might have happened but what truly DID HAPPEN!  Before now, I never realized that his use of eyewitness accounts meant that what we are reading is truly MARY'S ACCOUNT of the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Nativity!  This was not someone's idea of what may have occurred but comes from the very source of these precious moments–Mary.  

Anyone who has ever listened to a proud mother share stories of her children, can know and believe the accuracy of Luke's retelling.  This understanding completely transformed how I engaged with Luke's Gospel–and brought me to an even deeper encounter with Christ.  Scripture is so filled with grace that with every reading we are never left the same. As Blessed James Alberione writes, "The Gospel is something divine; it corresponds to all minds; it is capable of meeting all demands, [encompassing] the full embrace of the two sisters in Christ-God: reason and faith.[1]" 

Human artists too help us to encounter Christ.  Visual and creative representations of the Word of God appeal to the senses.  They too raise us to the contemplation of the sacred mysteries.  "By means of visible things we come to the knowledge of God who is invisible," wrote Blessed Alberione, who urged his Paulines to embrace the creative arts: "Dedicate yourselves to embroidery, painting, sculpture, and make progress.  Oh, if only you had skillful painters, skillful sculptors.[2]"  "There is never piety or truth alone, but all things connected together.[3]"

In light of this revelation, I invite you to read Luke's account of the Annunciation below, broken down into dialogue from the Word of God and visual representation from artists through the ages– including the self-portrait the Blessed Virgin herself gave to St. Juan Diego.  Later, consider reading the rest of Luke over this Advent or Christmas season.   Allow yourself to be transported back to Nazareth and Bethlehem: peeking into Mary's world–and the most amazing moments in all of history.  Let these be your Advent reflections as we all await the coming of Christ, both in the season of Christmas on December 25th, 2016 … and in His second coming on a date yet to be revealed.

The Annunciation:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Public domain, Google Art Project.
28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
Sandro Botticelli - Annunciazione
Public domain, The Yorck Project
30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.
Hubert van Eyck - Annunciation
Public domain, The Yorck Project
34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Antonello da Messina - Virgin Annunciate
Public domain, The Yorck Project

35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.
Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo - The Annunciation
Public domain, The Yorck Project 

William Brassey Hole, The Annunciation
Public domain,

38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 26-38, NASB)
Photograph of Our Lady of Guadalupe tilma
Public domain, uploaded anonymously to Wikimedia Commons
Thoughts to Ponder:

                     The angel appeared to Mary amidst the ordinary of her everyday life.  Jesus wants to come to us not only in the special appointed times we set aside for him; but in every moment of our lives.
                     Mary does not doubt what God can do; but how it will be.  Her question is for clarification although she has already assented to God's Will. Mary's response allows her to be filled with God's grace and peace.
                     Verse 37 – "For NOTHING is impossible with God"such a powerful statement of faith! What in your life do you need those words spoken over?  Where do you need this reminder to restore you peace, so you too can assent to the Will of God in your life? 

May the grace of the mystery of the Annunciation come into your heart as you prepare for the coming of the Lord. May the grace of all the profound mysteries found in St. Luke's inspired recounting of Mary's holy recollections help you this Advent as you make your way to the celebration of Christ's Nativity.

[1] Alberione, Giacomo. Abundantes Divitiae Gratiae Suae, (English title: Charismatic History of the Pauline Family), 198.
[2] Alberione, Giacamo. Ipsum Audite I, 114-115. 
[3] Alberione, Giacomo. Prediche V, 119. 

Allison Gingras is the founder of (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison created the "Words with" daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus and Words with Mary. Allison offers retreats and talks on: Forgiveness; Works of Mercy; Trust and JOY!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Catholic Lens…continued

God in the loveliness of creation:
our incarnational perspective paves the way
for us to become cultural mystics for today
everal months back, I wrote about how Catholics view cinema and other media in a unique way because of our sacramental imagination, and how we experience God’s grace through the material and tangible. Grace is very real and present to us, since we were taught as children that God is everywhere. Indeed, God is everywhere: in the air we breathe, in the beauty of creation, in the laughter of a child, in the saving waters of baptism, in the gift of love we can offer to one another. God’s presence is made even more concrete through the immeasurable gift of his incarnate Son to be our Savior. This incarnational perspective is the foundation for our cultural experience and paves the way for us to become pop cultural mystics for today.
We worship not to appease God but to respond to his
loving invitations: lay Pauline Carol Anne Wright, 

who died in May, makes her Cooperator Promise in 2009.

An understanding of nature and grace leads us to consider the One who is above and beyond all human knowledge and intellectual experience. As the Apostles Creed states, “We believe in one God, Father Almighty.” This declaration of faith is the basis for our life as Christians. Not only the belief in God, but in God as Triune—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This very belief in God is often a question raised in the media culture, as is occasionally brought up in the television series The Simpsons, such as the episode of “Homer the Heretic” in its fourth season. In it, Homer avoids going to church on Sunday and stays home enjoying his time alone but later experiences a series of dreams in which God speaks to him, first through wrath but later through a discussion on the meaning of life. Even though God is somewhat misrepresented here, there is an element that shows how belief in God is a core human need and desire. We worship not to appease God but to respond to his loving invitation for a relationship. We are happier the more we enter into that relationship.
TV show Madame Secretary
quotes Thomas Aquinas
on transubstantiation
 God is also mentioned in popular television shows such as Madame Secretary, when Henry McCord (Tim Daly), the husband to the US Secretary  of State, speaks about the Ethics courses that he teaches at Georgetown  University. He quotes Thomas Aquinas regarding existence and essence in  the Eucharistic transubstantiation. Written by Barbara Hall, a convert to  Catholicism, the show delves deeply into ethics, politics and values,  exploring profound human dilemmas and challenging morals. She daringly  presents faith in mainstream television, and does so successfully.

The Trinitarian doctrine supports our understanding of the profound human desire for intimacy and communion. It is within this Trinitarian relationship of lovea communicative relationshipthat a theology of communications develops. As theologians Matthias Scharer and Bernd Hilberath write, “Theology is a communicative event.”[1] God the Father utters the Word who becomes flesh in the physical human body of the Virgin Mary. This mysterious incarnation of the Son of God become man in Jesus Christ is how a communications theology becomes tangible in popular culture. God comes to be one of us, truly human yet also truly divine. In his humanity, Jesus Christ shows us what it means to be authentically human. He does this through his consistent self-giving love—to his mother, to his disciples, to his enemies, to the world. Jesus’ entire life is a communication of God’s overflowing love and intense desire for human beings’ love in return. Through the incarnation we come to know God. Through Jesus Christ we enter into a relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit. It is here where the questions of popular culture take root: what does it mean to be human? Jesus Christ is the perfect answer.

 The incarnation of the Son of God become
man in Jesus Christ is how a communications
theology becomes tangible in popular culture.
An incarnational communications theology such as this does not stop at the recognition of God become man in Christ through the communicative self-giving love of God, but is one that takes root in the faith life of the believer. It becomes a communicative faith.[2] Through God’s self-revelation, human beings are called to faith and in freedom can accept or not. When human persons accept the gift of God’s self-communicative love in faith, this gift is then received into the whole church community, becoming a communicative faith[3]—a lived faith that draws others into the Trinitarian love of God. In and through the sacraments, where this communicative faith is tangibly experienced, the faith community is built up in a holistic way through the involvement of the mind, will, heart and actions of each believer. It is “through communicative actions,” such as those present in the Church’s sacramental life, that “people help one another to become truly human.”[4]

This is the Catholic lens from which we understand and view the world in which we live. It is deeply rooted in a Trinitarian doctrine and in the Incarnation. Without this essential truth of faith, we view television, movies, and all social media one-dimensionally. But our Catholic sacramental and incarnational perspective opens us to delve three-dimensionally into the culture’s yearnings for purpose, meaning, communion and love. It allows us to be that communicative presence in the world. Let us be that everyday mystic, as theologian Karl Rahner would say, that person who lives in intimacy with the Triune God, transforming the culture from within, thereby being cultural mystics.

Images: Bill Stabosz, Rae Stabosz, Pavel Chichikov (with permissions)

 Matthias Scharer and Bernd Jochen Hilberath, The Practice of Communicative Theology: An Introduction to a New Theological Culture, (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 13.
[2] Ibid., 17.
[3] Cf. Ibid., 80.
[4] Ibid., 17.

Sr. Nancy is a Daughter of St Paul and the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, CA. She is a Media Literacy Education Specialist with degrees in Communications Arts and a Masters in Theology and Arts. For the past 20 years, Sr. Nancy has given numerous media mindfulness workshops, presentations and film retreats around the country to youth, young adults, catechists, seminarians, teachers and media professionals helping them to create the dialogue between faith and media. She is a member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, SIGNIS—World Catholic Association for Communication, and is also a contributing member of THEOCOM, a group formed by the Vatican and USCCB to annually discuss Theology and Communications in Dialogue. She is a contributing writer for the Brehm Center’s Reel Spirituality site:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Twin-Engine Mission of Peter and Paul

On November 18 the Church recalls the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter in the Vatican and St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. Last week we celebrated the feast of St. John Lateran, Rome’s cathedral. What is it with these buildings? What can two old Roman churches mean for anyone across the Atlantic?

Romulus and Remus may not be household names anywhere but in Italy, but to Romans, these twin boys are the numero uno reason– at least historically speaking – that the Eternal City exists at all. According to a cherished legend, they were abandoned at birth and suckled by a she-wolf until they were discovered and raised by a shepherd. The recent excavation of the Palatine Wall from the mid-eighth century B.C., said to have encircled a furrow that Romulus plowed, lends tentative support to the story that the twins founded Rome in 753. In a sorry twist, Romulus rose to power, not insignificantly, by killing his brother. Still, both are remembered as the founders of one of the world’s most influential empires.

The basilicas of Peter and Paul house the tombs of two very different founders of Rome – Christian Rome – “brothers” in the faith, formed by Christ the Shepherd and destined to sow the seeds of his kingdom all over the world. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but their real quarrel was with a culture hostile to the Gospel they lived and preached. It cost them their lives, as Jesus said it would. In a blessed twist, however, their sacrifice was so fruitful that we can’t imagine Christianity, or even the world, without them.

They’re also the patron saints of Rome. Since the mid-third century, the Church has honored them together on the same day, June 29. But I’ve seen a phenomenon here that I don’t see in the U.S. or Canada: People in the know might talk about their basilicas separately, but when they talk about them, their names come out in the same breath. Like Romulus and Remus. The Church’s mission has always been powered by the twin engine propulsion of Peter and Paul. In places like North America, however, the two have been disassociated in popular sentiment – an unwanted side effect of the Protestant Reformation – with Protestants pledging allegiance to Paul, to the exclusion of Peter, and Catholics rallying around Peter, with a grudging nod to Paul.

Rome has always considered herself the axis around which the Catholic world rotates. Understandably, that might be annoying to many outside of Rome, but it’s not far off the mark. Without the See of Peter and its bishop, the pope, who is the successor of Peter, the Catholic Church wouldn’t exist.

Yet the pope himself sees his ministry in the Peter-Paul duo. If we were to walk into the Anticamera, or entrance room, of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, we would see directly in front of us a large fresco of the two Apostles, flanked by two massive maps of the eastern and western hemispheres. The message is clear. Both Peter and Paul are icons of the papal ministry (and that of the Secretariat of State): Peter in his governance of the Church, Paul in his mission to the world.

In June 1931, the bulletin, The Union of Pauline Cooperators, published an article that, even in its old-fashioned lyricism, can encourage us to entrust ourselves to Peter and Paul today:
From the earliest times, “the Church and the world have looked up to the two holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Upon entering Rome, the sacred River Tiber, as the Romans used to call it, salutes the tomb and the basilica of St. Peter on its right. Upon leaving Rome, it salutes the tomb and basilica of St. Paul on its left. The road leading the nations to Rome looks up to St. Peter, and the sea looks up to St. Paul. Land and sea, Christianity and humanity, all peoples have turned to Rome, and Rome, the image of the heavenly city, has been watched over by Sts. Peter and Paul….”

Prayer: I bless you, O Jesus Good Shepherd, because you crowned the lives of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul with the glory of martyrdom. And you, our guardians, obtain for me the grace to carry out the apostolate of prayer, good example, suffering and pastoral action and to attain the reward prepared for good apostles (Prayers of the Pauline Family, “Chaplet of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,” n. 5).

Photos: Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP; Wikimedia Commons (Peter and Paul)

Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP, originally from San Francisco, has been a Pauline evangelizer since 1973 and has worked in various phases of the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul. She attended the nine-month Charism Course in Rome in 2012-2013 and is, for now, living and working in the Eternal City.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Me… and Other Failures

I am trying to wrap up my day of seeing patients in the office, calling patients with test results (some good, and some life-alteringly bad). While trying to clear my desk so I can run home to spend time with my wife and our children who still live at home, Stephanie (one of our part-time secretaries who is studying to be a radiology technician), walks past my office crying. My partner, Dr. C, who is also trying to wrap up his day to get home to his wife and five kids, stops Stephanie to ask what’s wrong.
Stephanie flunked a major exam! She is beside herself with the swirling emotions of disappointment (at her grade), confusion (at how she could have scored so poorly), and regret (that she did not take time off work to study more).

Stephanie is shocked as Dr. C. and I admit how many tests we bombed and our numerous academic failures and professional disappointments in our years leading up to and including medical school, internship, residency, fellowship, and starting our practices. She seems shocked to hear the truth she expected - no one is perfect, not even those in the health care field. Doctors, nurses, therapists, assistants, and technicians are all human. We do our best every day, but not one of us is perfect.
Admittedly, we have to be incredibly careful to avoid mistakes and take the time to listen to every aspect of our patients’ concerns. But even when we do our best – we are not perfect. Those of us who choose careers in the field of medicine accept the tremendous responsibility that comes with patients trusting us with their lives and their health, but we can never forget that we are fallible human beings doing our best for the patients for whom we care. To be honest, we may bear responsibility for the health and physical lives of those for whom we are privileged to care, but think about priests and nuns – they are responsible for our eternal health, well-being and destiny, so how much more pressure they must bear.

As Dr. C. and I are explaining this to Stephanie, my son texts me that he just bombed a Biochemistry exam. He is tremendously upset with his performance, primarily because he also wants to enter the health care field. He worries that a poor Biochem grade will prevent him from becoming an excellent, proficient, well-trained physician. In retrospect, Dr. C. and I can assure him that not one of our medical school classmates was perfect. In fact, those who experienced failure but worked hard to become health care providers turned out to be the best clinicians. The greatest sign to me that he will be a great physician came in his response to me, “I will work as hard as I have to in order to become a physician; I have no doubt whatsoever as to the vocation God has planned for me, so I will do whatever it takes!”

Regardless of what road we are taking on our life’s journey, we are human. We must be ready and willing to accept the failures that make us human. My patients may not want to hear that Biochem was hard for me, too, back in the 1980s, but it was. They may not want to know that their doctor is human, fallible, or is even an imperfect sinner, but I am.

Dr. C. and I explained to Stephanie and to my son that failure and humility are not only a part of the medical field, they are necessary to make us good health care providers. The same thing holds true for those entering the religious life. As Blessed Father James Alberione so wisely taught those aspirants who believed they should be holy and religious at the outset: no one starts from perfection. We all must be patient in the journey to becoming the best we can be in this life and for eternity. Blessed Father Alberione explained that we all must traverse our journey and vocation "prudently, humbly beginning, but with small and daily steps ahead, everything progresses with healthy balance and one obtains merit before God and before men" (Opera Omnia III, 37). Overcoming failures is the surest way to becoming a better person. As my father always taught us, “the only true mistakes in life are the ones that you don’t learn from.”

All health care providers are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary for the health and human dignity of every child, woman, and man. They also must accept that they are imperfect human beings. The next generation of religious and laity must understand and accept their imperfection. St. Paul reminds us “there is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).

In a way, it is a relief to know we are not expected to be perfect. If more women and men studying to enter the health care field knew and accepted this fact that seems obvious to most, the rate of suicidal thoughts for fourth-year medical students would be less than the current rate of 9.4%. I can tell you that Stephanie and my son are going to be excellent health care providers in the future. As Blessed Father Alberione pointed out, they are starting with humble beginnings and advancing slowly. They will certainly experience failures and even make some mistakes as they study to become excellent clinicians, but like it or not, we all did. Our goal is not to start from perfection, but to arrive at that place where Christ calls us to be. I have no doubt that is exactly where Stephanie and my son will end up!


Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, two in college, and one in high school). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Legion Of Souls Working In Tandem 

Group photo taken at Pauline Convention 2016
 Last month I joined the Daughters of St Paul (DSP), members of the Pauline laity, and one Pauline priest in resuming the annual national convention of the Association of Pauline Cooperators. Five years had passed since our last convention. Why had it been so long in between? Who knows? Life happens. I just know it felt good to be together again. I saw old faces and met new ones. Several writers who contribute to this blog were there, giving me the pleasure of meeting for the first time in the flesh. It was good to be together for prayer, Eucharist, and fellowship. And a special treat? My two sisters (siblings, not DSP) joined us as guests.

photo from SSP Centenary showing several Pauline family branches
One theme of the convention was that the entire Pauline Family -- priests, consecrated religious, laity  -- is "a legion of souls working in tandem" (Fr Jeffrey Mickler, SSP.)  A link to Fr Jeffrey Mickler's talk can be found here.  Blessed Alberione, in his lifetime, was prescient in championing the work of the laity in evangelizing the world. He presented Jesus Way, Truth and Life as the perfect model for ALL men and women, not just for priests and religious. He founded four religious orders, five secular institutes, and an association of lay cooperators in order to provide a place in his Pauline Family for EVERY person who felt the call to discipleship. He likened us to the seventy-two disciples the Lord sent out during His lifetime, and to the men and women in the 1st-century Christian communities who collaborated with St Paul.

What a vision, both inspiring and daunting! When I came home, I felt inspired to dig into the Founder's teachings more closely. As Blessed Alberione explains it, the Incarnation makes it possible for every one of us to imitate the perfect One who is not just divine but fully and perfectly human:

"Jesus Christ, apostle of the Father, was first of all the perfect man: 'perfectus homo.' This concept of 'perfect man' not only implies that He had a rational soul and an organic body, but signifies perfect order in His faculties. On the one hand they were in harmony with God; on the other, in harmony with reason.... He was the perfect child of the family, the perfect boy, the perfect young man, the perfect worker, the perfect citizen, the perfect subject, the perfect king. He was perfect at home, perfect in society, in dealing with others, in prayer, in solitude. His prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance were perfect. He was perfect in learning as a disciple and perfect in teaching as a master, perfect in seeking the glory of God and the salvation of man as an apostle. " (Carissimi in San Paolo (CISP), 755)

Gulp. Suddenly I become worried. Perfect man, perfect child, perfect boy? Perfect in learning, perfect
in teaching? How can I ever hope to follow Christ? How can I take him as my model?! I don't know about you, but the idea of perfection can be intimidating. Yes, I DO become enthusiastic when I read the stirring words of Blessed Alberione -- the call to arms, the zeal for the apostolate of social communication, the thrilling challenge of becoming St Pauls for the modern world. Dear Lord, how I aspire to that! How I long to spend myself in an authentic imitation of my divine and lovable Savior. How I long to turn friends, family, and even strangers on to the blessings and mercy of our amazing Triune God! Oh if only people would give Jesus a chance, would take Him at His word and trust Him!

But I know that I will fall down on the job. I know that even though my heart is full of love as I write these words, tomorrow will be different . I will lose my enthusiasm. I will wander away. I will binge on television, popcorn and beer. I will forget what the weekend has prompted in me. Not just once or twice, but over and over again.


Quick, can I find a remedy to this dark knowledge? I scan my notes from the convention. There they are! Some lines I jotted down from the talks:

"Worry always comes from the devil."

And also, "Armageddon took place on Calvary, and evil lost!"

And again, "The mercy and forgiveness of the Lord is without bounds."

Well, okay then. Whew. Bad as I am, I can strive for perfection with the best of them. I can join the priests and the consecrated religious of the Pauline Family in that legion of souls working in tandem.  Woman that I am, I can heed the words of Blessed Alberione: "God the Creator's designs for women, confirmed by God the Redeemer, have been elaborated and realized through a winding history of anguish, obstacles, and small and great heroism." I can strive to be the Founder's picture of the whole woman: "... a person who is cultured but not at the expense of spiritual values; at home in the family and in society; one who can make an effective contribution in civil and religious undertakings; a being who can so give herself to God as to belong to Him totally, and also belong to man so as to complete him." (CISP 1272, 1273.)

What, me worry? No, no and a resounding no. Get thee behind me, Satan. I'm with Alberione!


Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 46 years, have six sons, three daughters, nine grandsons and seven granddaughters; they eagerly await the birth of grand #17. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pauline Devotion to Jesus, Divine Master! It is about Receiving from Him Everything, and Giving to Him Everything

You might say the Pauline Family life has one mission, one goal: To find everything in Jesus and to give everything to Jesus! Blessed James Alberione knew this and tried to live this. And so, he wanted those who would walk in his path to know this and strive to live it. It is about being formed in Christ until we can say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Jesus has always demanded one’s all in following Him. No exception! When Jesus along the Sea of Galilee called Peter, Andrew, James and John, they had to lay down their nets and their former ways of life if they were truly to be his disciples. When Paul encountered the light of Christ on the road to Damascus there was nothing fractional in that call. If Paul was to be willing to bear much fruit for the Kingdom and bear Jesus’ name before Gentiles, Kings, and children of Israel, then he had to give everything. Yes, Jesus demands everything from his followers. The good news is that when Jesus demands everything, He has already given us everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Pope Benedict XVI said, “Open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline family, exhorted his disciples to devotion to Jesus, the Divine Master. His Christology has as its center and heart, the “total Christ”. He wanted the Pauline family, like St. Paul, to know the Divine Master in His entirety. Alberione understood the Divine Master as the one who gives Himself completely for us. He is the creator, the teacher, the doctor, the sure refuge, the light, the true friend, the consoler, and the shepherd. His complete commitment might be summed up in his own words, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” For Alberione, a person’s response to the total donation from God can only be a devotion or more appropriately a consecration, integral of our whole self, our thoughts, our affections and our actions that make His mind, heart and will our own. Our strength is being in Him from whom all strengths come. I quote St. Paul again who says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Alberione had experienced the incarnation of Jesus in his own life and he had heard the voice of Christ beckon him, “Come to Me all of you (Abundantes Divitiae, n. 13)!" Alberione understood that Jesus had given him everything, and that love demanded a total self-giving in return. For him, it meant to live in Him, through Him, with Him and from Him (AD, n. 22 and 160). You can say for Alberione, “God became his everything!”

On New Year’s Eve 1900, the Night Between the Centuries, James Alberione at just sixteen years old gathered with the seminarians of Alba at the Cathedral for all-night Eucharistic adoration. He stayed in silent prayer for four hours meditating upon the invitation Pope Leo XIII had made just a couple of months earlier in his encyclical Tametsi Futura, “to pray for the century just beginning.” Earlier in the year, young James had been dismissed from the diocesan seminary of Bra perhaps for his eagerness to read books that were not on the list of his Superiors. Nevertheless, due to the kind intervention of his parish priest, James was readmitted to the seminary of Alba and was, therefore, eager to re-focus his studies, piety, thoughts, and behavior. In a sense, James had become a prime vessel for God’s “invasion of grace”; that moment when God breaks into the bleakness of our state with a light that shines in the darkness. And break through God did! On that “memorable night of prayer”, the young seminarian had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life forever.  He described this encounter as “particular enlightenment that came from the host and a greater understanding of the invitation of Jesus, “Come to Me, all of you!” Mindful of his own weaknesses and former failures, he experienced in these words the profound and unconditional love of God for him and the beauty of His mercy and grace. He also understood in this invitation, the urgency of the Church’s mission. And although he was quite aware of his own littleness and inability to carry out this mission, he knew God would be his strength. Again, Jesus’ call had nothing partial about it. He was prepared to give young James everything for the mission and he was asking for everything in return.

From that encounter with Christ, Alberione, like a pencil in God’s hand, began to form the Pauline mission, because we first trust in the always victorious total self-giving of God. And when we respond, it is with the totality of our lives - each relationship, each task, each opportunity, each problem, each success and each failure - the offering of our everyday lives to God. Everything is born, as from the spring of life, from the Eucharist, the total donation of living, from the Divine Master. Pauline Family members accomplish their call or mission when “they have brought to realization their life of faith for the welfare of the whole Church, not only with doing, living, but also, like the Divine Master, with giving their life, which is the apex of love” (Caterina Martini, FSP, International Seminar Arricia).

Over 70 years later as he neared the end of his earthly journey, Father Alberione’s secret behind his multiform activities was his interior life with which he achieved the total adherence to the Will of God and accomplished in himself the words of the Apostle Paul: "My life is Christ." Pauline family members today can expect to receive everything from Christ and must in return give everything back to Him. Consecration to Jesus Divine Master means that we can respond to the urgency and the staggering mission of today’s Church, mindful of our own weaknesses, littleness, and inner poverty.


Fr. Michael Harrington is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a member of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest. An economics and political science major, he worked in finance for five years, before entering the seminary in 1994. He was ordained in 2000 and has since served the Church as parochial vicar, state chaplain to the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus, and for the past several years, assistant director of the Office of Vocations and director of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity. Fr. Michael made his final profession of vows in the Institute of Jesus the Priest on November 8, 2015.