A review of the history of the Pauline Family, and thus the history of Pauline holiness, brings to light in a powerful way our points of reference with regard to our charism: the Divine Master, the Queen of Apostles, and the Apostle Paul, who was considered to be our father, founder, model, and teacher (cf. AD 2, 64, 159).
We must look especially to Paul to understand our foundation. St. Paul casts light on our relationship with the Lord and gives a particular significance to our genesis in the Church. By a special gift of God, we depend on him as sons and daughters depend on their father. He is the apostle, the traveler who was open to all peoples (cf. AD 177, 64), the organizer of the Church (cf. n. 64), the great communicator (cf. 64, 94).
On the fortieth anniversary of our foundation, Father Alberione recalled our journey, saying even more specifically:
St. Paul the Apostle is our Father, Teacher, Protector. He did everything. This is "St. Paul’s work." The meaning is not the one we understand when someone says, "That person is from Turin," meaning the individual was born in Turin. Instead, in our case, when we say, "That young man is Peter’s," we mean he is the son of Peter.Then St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "In Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel." The life of the Pauline Family comes from the Eucharist, but that life is communicated to us by St. Paul. Our deepest gratitude goes to Jesus, our Divine Master, in his sacrament of light and love; to the Queen of Apostles, our Mother and the Mother of every apostolate; and to St. Paul the Apostle, who is the true Founder of the Institute. In fact, he is its Father, Teacher, Model, and Protector. He brought this family into being through an intervention so tangibly and spiritually that we cannot fully grasp it even now, much less explain it.
Everything is his. [Everything comes] from him, the most complete interpreter of the Divine Master, who took the Gospel to the nations and brought the nations to Christ. [Everything comes] from him, the most complete interpreter of the Divine Master, whose presence in the theology, moral life, and organization of the Church, as well as in adapting the apostolate and its instruments to the times, is vibrant and substantial and will remain so until the end of time. He gives impetus to everything, casts light on everything, nourishes everything. He was the guide, bursar, defender and support of the Pauline Family wherever it was established. It was only fitting that our first church in Alba, be dedicated to him, together with the depiction of his "glory," which illustrates his apostolate and his paternity toward all Paulines. Things didn’t happen as they do when a person or institute chooses a protector. We didn’t choose St. Paul—instead, he chose us. The Pauline Family must be St. Paul living today, according to the mind of the Divine Master and operating under the gaze of Mary, Queen of Apostles. The first Paulines went out like the Apostles—without provisions or money, but enriched with an apostolic heart, modeled on that of their Father (cf. RA, August 1954, pp. 1-3; SP July-August 1954, pp. 1-3; CVV 212).
From the beginning of his foundation, Father Alberione adopted St. Paul’s great objective in his life and apostolate: "conformation" to the Master. Our Founder hammered on this aspect of our spirituality time and again: to "conform ourselves to Christ," that is, to take on the "form" of Christ; to permit Christ to be gradually formed, "incarnated" in us and in those to whom we direct our apostolate: "until Christ be formed in you."
It is very significant that his first circular letter to the SSP (1934) contained precisely this directive: to make the effort to conform oneself to the Divine Master. It is also worth noting that Fr. Alberione felt the need to republish that first circular letter in the in-house bulletin of San Paolo of February 1965.
"Donec formetur Christus in vobis—Until Christ be formed in you." This was the first circular letter I wrote. And today I repeat those words with the same sentiments: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family" (Rm 8:29). The work of a religious is to strive for perfection: "If you want to be perfect..." The process of sanctification is a process of Christification: "Until Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4:19). Therefore, we are holy to the degree that we live the life of Jesus Christ, or better, to the degree that Jesus Christ lives in us. "The Christian is another Christ"—this is what St. Paul says of himself: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). This takes place gradually, "until we reach full maturity in Jesus Christ," just as a person gradually grows from child to adult…. So go forward in fidelity "until Christ be formed in you" (CISP, p. 11).
In the thought of Father Alberione, this "conformation" takes place gradually as we "nourish ourselves each day on Jesus Christ Way, Truth, and Life…by eating and assimilating him…" (cf. DF 11). Canon Chiesa also stressed that Christ Jesus must take flesh, breathe and grow in us.
"When Jesus is able to breathe freely in us, when his heart beats regularly in us and we are frequently nourished with the Bread of Life, then what are we left with? We are left with the fact that Jesus not only lives in us but continues to grow and develop in us day by day, until he is completely formed in us: donec formetur Christus in vobis…. This privilege is not reserved for just a few chosen souls…. We must all become saints" (F. Chiesa, Ego sum Vita, p. 331).
Modeling ourselves on St. Paul, we are called to allow the Spirit to duplicate in us the same admirable work of grace that he accomplished in the Apostle so as to bring about a gradual process of identification with Christ to the point that he alone "lives, thinks, works, loves, wills, prays, suffers, dies, and rises again in us." To the point that he lives, thinks, loves, wills…in all those to whom we direct our apostolate. This is the Pauline spirit!
"If they ask us what the Pauline spirit is, we should reply that it means living in Jesus Christ as he was presented to us by St. Paul. We will reach Christian perfection only when we can say, "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Pr DM 90).
St. Paul was a great communicator and a profound writer, and precisely for this reason he offered inspiration to our fledgling Family, helping its members come to understand that the apostolate of the press was the greatest wealth, the best gift of Divine Providence to the "House." In the UCBS of July 15, 1921, we read that the press was to be considered "an apostolate, a sacred priesthood," and that one must bring to it "the intellectual and moral preparation that one would bring to an apostolate or to the priesthood." As a consequence, the machinery used is "sacred," as is the pulpit from which the Word is proclaimed. St. Paul, especially in his Letter to the Romans, was acknowledged as the inspiration for all Pauline preaching, and everyone sought to concretize the recommendation: "Faith comes from listening—listening to the Gospel. How beautiful are the footsteps of those who announce peace, who announce happiness! How beautiful are the printing machines run by those who spread good."
Father Alberione often called St. Paul "a great vessel of election," that is, a chosen person in whom the Spirit gathered together and poured out on everyone his best gifts, especially "invincible faith, unshakeable hope, burning love, and the highest wisdom." From heaven, St. Paul is an extremely powerful intercessor for three graces in particular: zeal, conversions and the apostolate (cf.. DF 260).
--(From Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ, prepared by the Generalate of the Daughters of St. Paul)
Words of Blessed James Alberione:
Why is St. Paul so great? How did he do so many wonderful things? How is it that year after year his doctrine, apostolate and mission in the Church become better and better known, admired and celebrated? He is one of those saints who day by day is revitalized, stands out, and conquers hearts. Why? The answer lies in his interior life. The secret is here. Inflated balloons empty themselves and vanish in a day. But where there is richness, where there is true doctrine, true merit, genuine interior life, seeds are germinated. The plant remains hidden for a while because everything is closed within the seed beneath the soil. Once the seed develops, however, it begins to show itself as a small plant, then as a sapling, finally as a great and magnificent tree. Now then, the Apostle Paul was a man of great interior life (Pr SP 259).
The whole secret of St. Paul’s greatness is his interior life. It can be said that he conquered from within: from his great spirit of poverty, study, profound knowledge, love of Jesus Christ, spirit of self-giving. We ask St. Paul in vain for the grace to become heroes before others. Our first need is to ask him to obtain the graces that will make us dear to God, and only then the graces to become apostles in the midst of the world.
Children must resemble their father. Every friend of St. Paul must look to him and learn his spirit. The more we read and are penetrated by the life and letters of St. Paul, the more we will love them and set out on the true path of sanctity and the true spirit of the apostolate (Pr SP 260-261).
"You are a unique Congregation," someone observed to me last week, "silent yet always in motion." St. Paul was like this. Our organization, our schedule, our activity, our undertakings must be just as St. Paul would have them now if he were alive today. Yesterday, returning from Bari, we saw the places where St. Paul stopped on his way to Rome as a prisoner…the forum along the road beyond Cistena called the "Ribbon," and a little way ahead, the "Tre Taverne" – two stops where he met Christians who had come from Rome in search of him. But if St. Paul were making the journey today, he would not have traveled this way. He would have boarded a plane and arrived as quickly as possible to have more time for preaching and other work (Pr A 34).
Imitate the virtues of St. Paul better. He was a true man of God, a man who in an exceptional way was overwhelmed by grace, a man who in a particular way was entrusted with the things of God, a man obligated in a special way to God, a man who could declare: "His grace has not been in vain in me." Singer of God’s praises, herald of God’s grace, promoter of God’s worship, champion of God’s law, set apart by God, prisoner of Christ, living in Christ – this is St. Paul (CISP 602).