Feast day: Nov. 26
A strong faith and industrious character came to Blessed James Alberione from his Italian farming family and provided the backbone for his legendary media apostleship. It also prepared him to establish numerous religious communities and gave him a zeal for souls.
After he initially expressed a desire to become a priest when in first grade, Alberione spent the rest of his childhood preparing for that goal. His vocation was confirmed and emboldened during an all-night Eucharistic vigil on New Year’s Eve, 1900, when Alberione heard a call to reinvigorate the Church’s mission in the new century, with an eye to the ever-developing field of media. “Particular enlightenment came from the Host,” he later wrote of that experience, “and a greater understanding of that invitation of Jesus, ‘venite ad me omnes’ [‘Come to me, all of you’ (Mt 11:28)].” The spirituality Alberione was later inspired to develop situates a Eucharistic Holy Hour, what he calls “the visit,” as a central part of each day. He described this time as “an audience or school where the disciple engages with the Divine Master.”
After his ordination to the priesthood in 1907, Alberione’s first years were spent in parish work and then as a spiritual director at the seminary at Alba, Italy. Fueled by a deep interior life, Alberione was filled with the zeal of the apostle St. Paul, who was the namesake, patron and intercessor of the apostolates he founded. His efforts began in 1914 with the foundation of the Society of St. Paul, a religious community for men. The following year, with the help of now Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, he established the Daughters of St. Paul for women. In total, over the course of his 64 years of priesthood, Alberione established five religious institutes, several other secular institutes for diocesan priests and laity alike, and an association for lay cooperators.
“There is a strong family bond among us because we were all born from the Tabernacle. We all share the same spirit — namely, to live Jesus Christ and serve the Church.”
Together, all the foundations begun by Alberione constitute what’s known as the Pauline Family, whose spirituality is built upon the vision of the “media apostle.” “There is a strong family bond among us because we were all born from the Tabernacle,” he described. “We all share the same spirit — namely, to live Jesus Christ and serve the Church.” Also according to the “media apostle,” “the means of evangelization are varied but the method is one: to give Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life.” This ministry of evangelization is accomplished primarily through the media, in all its forms. Alberione guided this work and mission as a writer and publisher, as well as a director and producer of film.
Never really in robust health, Alberione experienced a spiritual darkness amid suffering related to tuberculosis. Thinking he would die, but later miraculously recovering, Alberione credited his healing to St. Paul. During this time, he also heard the Eucharistic Lord speak to him, saying: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sins.”
By the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), at which Alberione was a daily participant, the membership of his institutes had grown to more than 10,000. At the council, he played a part in the drafting of its decree on social communications, Inter Mirifica.
Alberione’s final years remained active, and, like St. Paul, he traveled the world many times in service to the spread of the Gospel and to build up the communities he established.
Just before his death on Nov. 26, 1971, Alberione received a visit from Pope St. Paul VI, who held Alberine in high esteem. Paul VI once heralded him as “humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, ever recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to action; always intent on scrutinizing the ‘signs of the times,’ that is, the most creative ways to reach souls.” Alberione was beatified in 2003.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of OSV’s Simply Catholic. He writes from Indiana. Taken from the “Inspired by the Eucharist” saint booklet.