July and August 1914 were pivotal months for the beginning of what would become the Pauline Family. James Alberione, the thirty-year-old diocesan priest of the Diocese of Alba, made concrete steps toward the plan that he had conceived fourteen years earlier in his prayer during the night between the centuries. As the twentieth century opened he daily studied the society in which he and his followers would work, a society influenced by the spread of masonry, marxist socialism, and modernism, a society that would be increasingly influenced by the power of the newspaper and reading (and later by the proliferation of means of communication that we see today). God had called him to carry this new century in his heart and to use the very instruments that were de-christianizing men and women to fill them with faith and hope, and for the restoration of society.
So a little over 100 years ago, in July, 1914, Alberione rented a building in Cherasca Square, Alba. On the 30th he bought a printing press and some furniture. On August 20th he opened the Little Worker Typographical School. On this same day Pope Pius X died. It was the feast of St. Bernard and a little less than a month after the start of World War I.
On August 20, James Alberione was alone. I can imagine him walking through the empty house which would be their home and their typography. The printing press stood silent. Everything was ready to print the Word of God, and to give the world Jesus Christ, Way, and Truth, and Life. Alberione was beginning something new: a mission that put the social strength of the press at the service of evangelization. Therefore he had to begin not in the traditional environments for mission, but concretely in the field of printing. Two days later, on August 22nd he welcomed the first young boys to the school, and on the 24th he blessed the house and the printing press. With just four persons, the seed was firmly planted in the fertile ground of the Church for the large tree that would one day be known as the Pauline Family, made up of the sons and daughters of Alberione who would believe in his dream and follow the way he pointed out for us. The Institute was called the School of Printing before the public, but already those who had come to join Father Alberione called themselves the Pious Society of St. Paul, a name given by Alberione himself.
In this regard, the testimony of Fr. Alberione on the fortieth year of foundation is interesting: “When the first boys were gathered, in 1914, in a small house and a minute printing press, something curious happened, as if an alarm: ‘Work and bread are taken away from the printers.’ Appeals to the Authority were made. The Church authorities replied, ‘Respect the freedom of everyone.’ The civil authority replied: ‘It is stillborn... We shall watch over it, at the first unlawful move, it shall be closed.’ So, it had to be born even smaller, and not let anyone hear even a sigh... So, everything was covered by the name ‘Small worker’s printing school.’ It was a Christmas crib. We ought always to consider ourselves, only as small workers of God; just as it is in fact with respect to the whole world and the colossal means that make use of false teachers, enemies of Jesus Christ and of the Church” (G. Alberione, Nel quarantennio, Welcome address to the visitors of the Pauline exhibit, Alba [20.08.1954]).
There was no way that this handful of courageous dreamers could see into the future. But it is due to their tenacity and faith that we stand here today as recipients of the Pauline Charism born of the Eucharist and lived by thousands who have gone before us.
Words of James Alberione
The Pauline Family has the mission to make known, to imitate, and to live Jesus Christ inasmuch as he is our Teacher; it will fulfill this privileged mission in a holy way by training people to know, to love and to pray to Mary, our Teacher: dedit orbi Magistrum Jesus, qui est benedictus fructus ventri sui. (cf. UPS IV, 242) “She gave Jesus the Master, the blessed fruit of her womb, to the world.” The Pauline Family is distinguished from the other religious families that have different apostolates … There is the diversity. Are we truly aligned with the spirit of St. Paul? It is precisely this: It is he who points out the Divine Master, and that is, he has taken up the Gospel which he deeply meditated and then adapted it to the world, to the needs of his time and to the needs of the different countries. (cf. Spiritual Exercises preached by Alberione to the FSP in Grottaferrata, 1954, p. 29)
Let us consider the Pauline Family as a gathering of apostolic souls who offer themselves and commit all their strength for mankind. We can say at the end of life: I have not spared anything for them. (cf. Op. cit., p. 141)
I would invite us to reflect how we walk; and to understand well, on the other hand, the Pauline Family and its beautiful path … The Lord lights the lamps ahead, gradually as we walk and as needed; he does not light them all at once, at the start, when they are not yet needed. He does not waste light, but he always gives it at “opportune times.” (cf. SP, aprile-maggio 1959)
Are we truly aligned with the spirit of St. Paul? It is precisely this: It is he who points out the Divine Master, and that is, he has taken up the Gospel which he deeply meditated and then adapted it to the world, to the needs of his time and to the needs of the different countries. (cf. Spiritual Exercises preached by Alberione to the FSP in Grottaferrata, 1954, p. 29)
by Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP