Under the early guidance of our Founder, and as it has been handed down, when we Paulines spoke of “apostolate” or “mission”, we knew we were not talking about a theory or an abstraction. It referred to something very concrete. And the cue for this was to be found in a phrase of Acts 1:1: “Jesus began to work and teach.”
As he did of so much of sacred Scripture, Father Alberione took this to heart. He lived and applied it. I mention this because the Founder always saw the Bible as a lever. A mission is ever longer and larger than a person’s life, whatever years it will have. It wasn’t enough that Father Alberione would launch a mission. He knew, and was ever preoccupied that it would know an essential “unity, stability and, above all, continuity.” He effected this through an inspired and determined application of his Pauline reading of the Word of God.
And if we look at our history as institutes and as a Pauline Family, one of the most obvious of our “spiritual genes” as a family is an affinity for this very Word, this life-sustaining Word. The Founder instilled this as a fundamental in each of our Congregations and Institutes—the Cooperators included!
Biblical instruction, conferences based on the sacred text, meditations inspired by the Gospels and St. Paul’s Letters, were the grounding for the deeper grasp and understanding of our call. This was the basis of the religious formation that Alberione personally had at heart when shaping the distinct soul of our religious family over the course of so many years. And with great conscientiousness.
Encouragement was always there for scriptural studies, scriptural reading. And there was never a doubt that the motivating impulse of our apostolic activity—the whole of it—was ever to be the Word of God, Jesus the Teacher of the Gospels.
|Alberione & aspirant, Eucharist & Gospel, Corpus Christi, 1930.|
At that pioneering period, we were to grasp as Paulines that the Word had the power to open our eyes, to give us an understanding, a way of seeing things differently. Even then, the active agent in our vocational lives was to be the Word of God. It would have the power to change, to affect situations, and to resolve difficulties. In our developing mission we were to learn to act, preach and grow in persona Christi... the Scriptures, the truth applied.
Did even the earliest of our brothers and sisters understand how pioneering Father Alberione was in this for the Church of the then-new century?
According to him we were to be a family that propagated the Gospel in its unity and truth to everyone....and eventually to shout it from the rooftops. But first of all, and above all, we were to be Paulines who knew and lived and felt the Master’s words. Familiarity with his teachings was indispensable. Others were to read them in our persons. And importantly for those primitive times, a spirituality that incarnated the Word of God would make us credible as modern evangelizers. This would make believers of us and of our very humble, if innovative, mission.
To make this in-house identity translate into works of the apostolate, in 1921, only seven years into our founding, he launched the first ever Sunday liturgical bulletin, La Domenica. It carried the Gospel of the Sunday, the readings, and a short explanation. This in 1921. The format was copied extensively by Pauline foundations abroad and soon became just as highly valued as a parish aid for inculcating the Scriptures in so many different languages and cultures of the Pauline world.
Shortly thereafter, as well as in 1960, specific biblical publishing and distribution projects involved every member of the Pauline Family and depended to a great extent on the Cooperators for their success. “The Gospel in every family!” was the rallying cry that moved them to penetrate with the Word of God “all the strata of humanity…transforming [it] from within and making it new” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 18).
Echoes of this cry were heard at the Angelus message in St. Peter’s Square last month on Oct. 5, at the
opening of the Synod on the Family. With “A Bible for every family…to be read often,” Pope Francis
announced that, to mark the centenary of the Pauline Family, the Society of St. Paul was offering a copy of the Bible as a gift to every family there. Fifteen thousand copies of the Word—a fitting tribute to the legacy of Father James Alberione.
M. Emmanuel Alves, FSP - Bible; www.alberione.info/operaomnia - Alberione; John Skeels - Aloysius Milella
Brother Aloysius Milella entered the Society of St. Paul as a candidate for the Brotherhood on the feast of St. Paul, June 30, 1946, and pronounced first vows in September 1948. Following his perpetual profession in 1953, he was assigned to the staff of the SSP family monthly, Catholic Home Messenger, published in Canfield, OH, where he would be engaged in its editorial and production sectors for 14 years. He worked briefly as the province’s vocation director, before serving as a member of the congregation’s governing body in Rome for the next 17 years. After returning to the States in 1986, he was involved in book center ministry and then in administration, guiding its day-to-day apostolic fortunes in various communities. After a period in Dearborn, MI, he returned to Staten Island in 2012.