Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Can We, Too, Have a "Night Between the Centuries"?

Detail, monstrance, Alba Cathedral, where Alberione prayed as a seminarian.
Whenever I draw close to a night between two calendar years, I reflect upon what it might have been like on “that” Night Between the Centuries. It was then the young seminarian James Alberione spent four hours on his knees before Jesus in the Eucharist praying for the new century as Pope Leo XIII had asked for.

I’m sure what Pope Leo XIII hoped for by issuing his encyclical, Tametsi futura prospicientibus (November 1, 1900), was a new awakening to the potential opportunities and dangers facing mankind on the threshold of the 20th century. He strongly encouraged a return to Jesus Christ The Redeemer, the Way, the Truth and the Life. One year prior, Pope Leo XIII had invited the faithful to pray before Jesus in the Eucharist during the night of December 31, 1900 into January 1, 1901, beginning with a Solemn Mass at midnight. It should be no surprise, then, that the Pauline Family was to be “born” of the Eucharist when, before the Eucharist that early morning in the Cathedral of Alba, Blessed James responded to this request for prayer. From his own testimony decades later, we know that during those inspired hours he contemplated the call of Pope Leo XIII and the mystical invitation of Jesus himself, “Come to me all of you…” (Mt 11:28).*

Blessed James carried in his heart the need to “respond” to the great evil playing out at the end of the 19th century. A studious young man, who eagerly read about history, Blessed James soon became a “maker” of history in many ways by accepting the LORD’s call to “do something great,” by eventually evangelizing the whole world through modern media. What was a proclamation to the early Apostles by the risen LORD had now inspired Blessed James some two millennia later!

Though little is written about the deep interior experience Blessed James had during that night, fair to say we can intuit what might have happened and what might bring new life to us in our Eucharistic Visits. To intuit what he experienced is to appreciate that the young James fell more deeply in love with Jesus Christ, offering himself to the Lord in such away that his whole life would become a gift. This offering to Jesus Master was (eventually) abundantly fruitful through the future foundations: Five religious congregations, four lay institutes and the Association of Cooperators now make up what the world now popularly calls the Pauline Family. Already a young man of deep interior life and Eucharistic piety, Blessed James encountered the Lord in an invitation to “not be afraid,” but rather to let himself be “enlightened” by Jesus in the Eucharist. Which he did!

Sister Disciples of the Divine Master at prayer, for themselves, for the world, and especially for the whole Pauline Family.

So, how might we humbly experience such an “encounter” so to deeply desire to give ourselves wholly to Jesus Master and do something great for the LORD in our time? Might it take as long for us to see such fruits in our own lives? Well, yes, it would be quite demanding for most of us to kneel before the Eucharist for four hours in absolute silence! It is rather the work of Lord that draws us into a personal encounter that touches our hearts as it did the young James that Night Between the Centuries. Although our experiences might not found a Family such as ours, it will begin rather the same: gazing upon him who is the source of all that is good.  Maybe we can bring “something” for reading and reflection, and simply place it before Jesus Master asking him to open up for us what he wants us to know and do.

As a help to us, the Pauline Eucharistic Visit consists of three movements when we meditate on Sacred Scripture: Part I, honoring Jesus Master, Truth—listening to the Word; Part II, Jesus Master, Way—confrontation with the Word; Part III, Jesus Master, Life—acting upon the Word. These three movements help us drink more fully from the font of the Word and assure us that our Visit will have lasting fruit over time. We needn't go looking for an amazing experience or an experience of sensation. Rather, a transformation will simply take place in us over time, in fact, throughout our lives. Blessed James kept his daily Eucharistic Visit throughout his life until his death on November 26, 1971. Often when trials arose or he felt God was calling him or wanting to reveal something more to him, he would spend days or even a week absolutely alone in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord! We may not have the luxury of so much time, but such a desire can still well up in us. A retreat can also provide opportunities for extended adoration.

Each day, the Lord yearns to speak a Word of Truth into us, to show us how to utilize it on our Way that day, and to fill us with his Life of happiness.** Truth be told, every day the Night Between the Centuries still “carries” us who are Pauline. It remains the foundation of every Pauline’s own building-up of this great co-mission, doing something great for our times! When we also humbly let the LORD begin something great with our lives during our adoration, it becomes exponentially more fruitful (just like the Secret of Success). As we look forward to great things in this “new” century of Pauline history that is being written with each of us, we can only begin to imagine the far greater things he will accomplish during the third millennium in Christendom and beyond!
* Luigi Rolfo, SSP, James Alberione, Apostle for Our Times, Alba House, 1987. p. 38.
** See for daily reflections on the Lectionary readings.

Photos: Phivan Ngoc Nguyen—monstrance; Br. Xavier, SSP—Sister Disciples in adoration
Fr. Edward M. Riley, a priest with the archdiocese of Boston, is a novice with the Institute of Jesus the Priest. He serves as Dean of Men at St. John's Seminary, Boston.


Patricia Maresca said...

Thank you for a thoughtful and prayerful article, Fr. Ed.

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Great invitation as we begin 2015 and the 100th anniversary of the Daughters foundation.

Monica said...

Wonderful inspirational words.
Father Ed is a true blessing to the Pauline Family!

Greg and Kimberly Burke

Maryann Toth said...

Thank you for this excellent and informative article, especially as we start to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Daughters of St. Paul. God bless you, Fr. Ed.