Blessed James Alberione
Priest Founder (1884 - 1971)
Blessed James Alberione was born in a devout and hard working Catholic family on 4 April 1884 at San Lorenzo di Fossano, Italy. On completion of his high school studies, i.e., at 16, frail James, the 4th son of Michael Alberione and Teresa Allocco, joined the seminary of Alba. At midnight on 31 December 1900, the night that divided the two centuries, as he prayed, long and fervently, before the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral of Alba, a special light came from the Blessed Sacrament and "he felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century". That this "something" was to translate itself into the apostolate of the "good press" as he termed it, could itself be considered a miracle of sorts, given the suspicion and distrust with which the Church looked upon the media in matters associated with the Gospel.
Ordained priest on 29 June 1907, the Lord willed and guided him to announce the Gospel through the media of social communication in the spirit of St. Paul the Apostle. On 20 August 1914, Fr. James Alberione, with two seminarians, laid the foundation of the Society of St. Paul by opening a press training school in Alba. In 1915, he founded the Daughters of St. Paul with the same mission. A man of vision, he started the Union of Lay Pauline Co-operators in 1917, giving lay involvement in the apostolate of the media its due importance. Reading the signs of the times, he went on to found 7 other Institutes _ Pious Disciples of the Divine Master (1924), Good Shepherd Sisters (1938), Institute of Queen of the Apostles 91957), Institute of St. Gabriel the Archangel 91958), Institute of Jesus the Priest (1959), Our Lady of the Annunciation (1960) and Institute of Holy Family (1960). All these collectively make up what is called the Pauline Family and were, as he once wrote to his sons and daughters in the apostolate, "born of the Eucharist, of the Tabernacle". One single ideal unites and animates them all, the ideal of personal holiness and the mission of proclaiming Christ the Master, the Way, the Truth and Life. A man of faith and action, Fr. Alberione committed himself totally to God's will after the example of St. Paul the Apostle, who said, "For me, to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21a). He would even forfeit rest and recreation, saying, "Nothing is done without fatigue. If you have to each or prepare a sermon or write a book, you have to think and put your energies into it. That is sacrifice".
In 1962, Fr Alberione had the privilege of being invited to attend Vatican Council II - a clear sign of the Church's recognition of the significance of evangelization through the media, a far cry from the mistrust and vehement opposition demonstrated earlier! In fact, the decree Inter Mirifica (1963) succinctly affirmed the use of the media as vital to the spread of the Word. At the end of the Council, in December 1965, he proposed a new objective to his religious family _ "The Bible for every member of the family...; every member of the family has to have a Bible where he/she gets his daily nourishment".
The then Holy Father, Pope Paul VI referred to Fr. Alberione as a "Marvel of our times". But Fr Alberione was more than just a "media marvel". He was, rather, a "spiritual marvel" given the fact that he was a man of virtue, much given to prayer. Indeed, ever conscious that a Christ-filled interior life was the soul of the apostolate, he would spend some 7 hours daily in prayer and contemplation. "Accursed be that study and that apostolate for which prayer is neglected", he was wont to say. It was his deep prayer-based spiritual communion with God that enabled him to do what would otherwise have been nigh impossible to accomplish. In 1969, he was duly conferred with the high honour of "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" in recognition of the fruit his "faithful and tireless work" had "produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church" through the use of the media.
Fr. James Alberione died in Rome on 26 November 1971 at the age of 87. Just before his death he had the privilege of a personal visit and blessing from Pope Paul. VI. On 25 June 1996 Fr. James Alberione was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II and beatified by His Holiness on 27 April 2003 _ a sign for the whole Church that one can achieve holiness also in an avant-grade apostolate.
Reflection :"Truly I belong to Jesus Christ with all my powers, everywhere, in all places. Like Peter, I have wept, hoped, prayed and loved; my trust however is greater than all my humiliations" (Blessed James Alberione).