In the Pauline Family, we take our cue from the rest of the Church in honoring St. Paul at the end of June. But—no surprise here—we’re not satisfied with just a day or two; we give Paul the whole month! Brother Aloysius Milella, SSP—“Br. Al” to us Paulines—is my guest blogger twice this month. In this article, first he remembers what Paul meant to our founder, Blessed James Alberione, whom John Paul II has called “the first apostle of the new evangelization.” (Br. Al would remember: He spent eighteen years in Rome as a general councilor, passing a portion of that time during Fr. Alberione’s last years, privileged to assist at his death.) Second, he cocks his ear to catch some of what Paul might be saying to all of us today.
St. Paul constantly strove to make Jesus known and to evangelize people. He seems to have mirrored the Gospel story of Emmaus: offering the most convincing insights about the Christ and then discovering him in the same way as the disciples (in listening to his word, in the “breaking of bread”). He evangelized street people, the great mass of common folk open and disposed to the touch of grace.
Our community apostolates in the media and the marketplace are geared to do the same.
In St. Paul, Father Alberione, found the hero his yearning and gifts begged for. For one thing, Paul’s love for, and extraordinary understanding of, Jesus struck a deep chord within him. For another, Paul’s creative and energetic commitment to making the Way, Truth, and Life of Jesus known by all stirred every fiber of his being.
Father Alberione wrote: “Without an apostle, there is no apostolate.” The founder expanded on this: “The whole secret of St. Paul’s greatness lies in his interior life. In vain do we ask God for the grace to become heroes before people. Our first need is to ask for the grace that will make us dear to God and only then for the grace to become apostles in the midst of the world.”
Under the tutelage of the Divine Master, Paul grew and made himself all things to all people. He accommodated himself to every culture, convey that whatever its particular history or ethos the Gospel “belonged.” Nor did he ever nest in one place, in one approach, in one technique. The goal was to reach as many and as far as possible, wherever and however in the then known world. For him, a heart for the Gospel was synonymous with learning, determination, availability, and adaptability. Always, in whatever circumstances, he knew in whom he trusted (See 2Tm. 1:12).
St. Paul spent more time in forming, building up, and deepening faith communities than in any other apostolic concern. Because our Pauline media outreach was to grow out of vowed faith communities, the Founder matched him in bedrocking them in the temper of faith that carried Paul.
Now, as disciples of Jesus and fashioning our lives to his with all of its palpable concern for the good of humanity, so often we find ourselves naturally drawn to shield and protect others from whatever might bring harm, disfigurement, or outright evil to their lives. We find this preoccupation prominent in all of the saints, but especially in St. Paul. He was more than a father and educator in faith to so many. But once, through the Lord’s grace, he birthed anyone in the Gospel, he was more than determined that the precious gift of faith, however new, fragile, or immature, be utterly upheld, safeguarded, deepened…at whatever cost to himself.
And so we have his letters and the unparalleled witness of selfless outreach and a prayerful, devoted keeping of watch and ward over Jesus’ flock, however threateningly frightful the opposition.
How much Father Alberione patterned himself—and his sons and daughters—on this Paul. How much the infrastructure of the members’ apostolic life and apostolate reflected this vibrant and effective Paul in serving the Church, the Body of Christ.
Serving the media in opportune missionary outreach, our charism (the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us Paulines) has found these media to be blessed tools in effectively communicating all that Jesus taught. It has also found itself challenged and mightily overrun in recent times by those who use the same media instruments in wide and hostile disaccord with elementary Christian faith and morals.
For this, our venerated Founder had foreseen the need for unsparing prayer in support of the media as positive apostolate, while at the same time beseeching the mercy of God for those who would use these powerful means in harm, divisiveness, and outright evil. For this he inspired this Pauline Offertory prayer:
O God, in union with all those who today celebrate the Eucharistic sacrificial banquet as a memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection, I offer my own poor self with our Lord:
—To make amends for the error, deception, and allurement to sin spread by the media of communication;
—To beg your mercy for the people who often allow themselves to be led astray by indiscriminate use of the communications media, and who thus turn away from the love of your fatherly heart;
—For those who knowingly reject your Son, the divine Teacher, and use the media of communication with malice to obscure his will for their neighbors and impair his life within them;
—That all may hear and follow him alone whom, you, heavenly Father, in your boundless love gave to the world saying: “This is my beloved Son, hear him”;
—That our use of the media of social communication may help others learn and believe that Jesus alone is the perfect Teacher—the truth which gives light to the mind, the way to be followed, the pre-eminent example of holy living—and that only through him the supernatural life of God is communicated to each person;
—That there be a great increase in the number of priests, religious and laypersons who, by prayer, example, and professional work, are devoted to the Christian apostolate of communications, helping Christ’s teaching become more widely known, understood and acted upon;
—That all those who work with the media of communication may strive to become holy, knowledgeable, and proficient in their efforts, full of wisdom and zeal, for the glory of God and the ultimate good of others;
—To fervently ask you that the specifically Catholic endeavors in communications may fulfill their role in society, realizing all dimensions of their rights and responsibilities, thriving with artistic and professional quality, yet obvious to all that they are but means which God uses to develop his relationships with people;
—That we come to know our strengths and weaknesses, and your love which alone makes us worthy to call upon you as our Father, urging us to kneel humbly before you, imploring your light, compassion and mercy.”
Brother Aloysius Milella has been a Pauline for 65 years. He has had various editorial assignments in Pauline publishing and media sectors, as well as directive responsibilities in vocation promotion and community offices. He is currently the administrator of the Dearborn, Michigan Pauline Community.