IGS Priests according to the Heart of Christ
All that the IGS priests do, is based on God’s call and election, on the gift of ministry received by grace and which has as its end the growth of personal holiness in the community and a dynamic and fruitful apostolic zeal. It is the same experience of the Apostles and Paul: “called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message” (Mk 3:13-14). “God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles,...” (Gal 1.15-17).
The vast majority of IGS priests are committed to welcoming and witnessing the gift of holiness, experiencing true peace and fruitfulness in ministry. And they are keenly aware that holiness of life is not achieved by relying on their own strength but in docility to the Holy Spirit. This supernatural vision of life and ministry saves them from trusting in themselves and from assuming that Christian communities go forward because of their works. They try to live deeply the motto chosen by Fr Alberione for the whole Pauline Family and inculcated by the various animators who have succeeded one another as leaders:
- Glory to God: give glory to the Father by following and loving as one Lord Christ the Way, Truth, and Life. He only listens and serves as Master knowing that without Him we can do nothing. Every baptized person, every ordained minister, far from grace, becomes “ridiculous and incapable” (Fr Alberione). The path of conformation to Jesus the Priest gives glory to the Father more than anything else.
- Peace to mankind: man’s true happiness rests in being shaped by the Spirit in the image of Christ as the Way, Truth, and Life. We will be in Christ’s peace when we understand and taste deep that it is worth living only for the glory of God. This glory then shines in the new man, enlightening and consoling all those who approach the Christian: “I will use you to enlighten” suggested the Lord to Fr Alberione.
The “more” offered by Fr Alberione
The “more” offered by Fr Alberione to IGS priests, that is, consecration, the profession of the evangelical counsels in Pauline spirituality, is above all a charism and a sublime gift. Because it is not so much the priest who consecrates himself to God but, on the contrary, it is God who consecrates him to Himself, revealing in him the image of Christ the Way, Truth, and Life. By following the Master with the mind, will and heart fully involved, IGS priests think they are fulfilling the great commandment of Scripture that asks to love God with all their mind, strength and heart. This totalizing Christocentric vision also inspires the way of evangelizing: they do not only address one aspect of people’s lives, but they want to facilitate the direct encounter of intelligence, will, and affection with the person of Jesus Master, gradually and proportionately that makes them free and makes them live as children of God.
The Apostle Paul
Fr Alberione invites us to maintain with Saint Paul a continuous communion of mind and heart through the in-depth and continuous study of his letters, in order to better internalize an open, affable pastoral style capable of making people free in charity. In frequenting Paul assiduously, IGS priests learn how much joy there can be in trusting the Master totally. To let Christ live in us is a code of holiness for every member of the FP. IGS priests are aware that the Church today needs to rediscover the great themes of Paul’s preaching, namely, the proclamation of the justification by faith of the sinner, the freedom that Christ has won for us, the charity that everything endures, the certain hope in the resurrection of the flesh. Above all, the appreciation of all the most rapid and effective means to evangelize, to bring Christ to all men by involving everyone: the particular sensitivity of women and the competence of the laity. For this reason, they are committed to promoting, in the various local realities, the knowledge of the Apostle of the Gentiles for his mysticism, his universality, his apostolic zeal.
Mary, Mother of every apostle of the Gospel
“The Queen of the Apostles is an irreplaceable model of the integrity of life...” (Fr Alberione). She conceived the Son in her mind by welcoming the mysterious words of the Angel and meditating on them continually; she gave Him to the whole world as the Incarnate Word (Edidit Verbum Dei); she followed Him to Calvary putting in her hands every plan and every movement of the will, asking us also to imitate her with the words she pronounced at Cana: “Whatever she tells you, do it”. Finally, at Pentecost, she conceived in her affections the same love of her Son for the disciples, becoming the spiritual mother of the Church of all times. For Fr Alberione Mary is, therefore – thanks precisely to this triple and integral conception - the living image of what we are called to become.
Making Pauline Spirituality and Devotions known
Fr James Alberione has always stressed that, like Paulines and the Pauline Family, we have to carry out not only the apostolic activity of bringing the Word of God to all by all means but also the mission of making known and spreading our Devotions (Christ the Divine Master Way, Truth and Life, the Queen of the Apostles, St Paul the Apostle). Together with members of the Holy Family and other Aggregate Institutes, IGS priests are committed to this important dimension of the mission. It is a much more important and fruitful mission than we think, even though we experience a certain indifference-incomprehension on the part of many Paulines who are led to understand the apostolic activity of the members of our Institutes almost exclusively in the diffusion of the products made by St. Pauls.
A “chain of prayers” in the Pauline Family
Another dimension of the gift that the profession of the Evangelical Councils in the IGS makes presbyters experience are the prayers and the offer of a life of so many members of the various Institutes of the Pauline Family. It is truly a powerful lightning bolt on our personal life and ministry that protects us from the continuous discharges of evil, always very active especially against priests. It is good to remember that Fr Alberione ardently desired the Pauline Secular Institutes because he had understood that the fidelity of the Paulines and of all the members and above all the fruitfulness of the Pauline mission, which is very difficult, was based on the grace of God. And holy members, with their prayer and their offering of life, would become a great resource of graces, blessing and apostolic fruitfulness.
His words after being miraculously healed in 1923 are very significant and strong: “The only reference is to the Divine Master: he is the Way, the Truth and the Life...Men do not count. Men would have done nothing. The House comes out of God’s will. Taken away the will of God, even humanly, all fertility of life is taken away. Therefore, no one must count on men and patrimony: the only patrimony is the Lord, and it is infinite...” (UCBS, VII-8).
Re-appropriate all means of grace
The IGS priests are committed to accepting the invitation of Paul and Alberione to dedicate ourselves to our salvation with “fear and respect”: the spiritual life is something extremely concrete and daily to be fruitful in carrying out the ministry. Fr Alberione said that if it is true that there is no life in the Spirit in detail, neither can an interiority left to disorder bear fruit. The IGS priests realistically wish to live an interior existence abandoned to grace and they understand their ascetic commitment primarily as leaving room for the Spirit, who wishes to unite two existences – ours and Jesus’ – in one life, always at the service of God’s people, valuing all the means and many collaborators to bring Christ to all. We would favour the passage from a religiosity of observance to a religiosity of covenant and communion with the Lord which makes us free and liberating. In the FP we do not have many formalities, but we care for the liturgy, daily meditation on the Word, Eucharistic celebration and adoration, apostolic zeal, a careful reading of the signs of the times, always in order to evangelize and bring Christ to all people by the most rapid and effective means.
Don Emilio CICCONI, Delegato IGS