Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Media Redeemed

It’s a statement of the obvious that we’re now on the threshold of remembering, in a life giving way, the sacrificial moment and mystery that redeemed the world. Liturgically, Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday is one uninterrupted moment. It grace-fully reminds us that, though won for us centuries ago, salvation redeems every ecstatic or tragic moment of our lives until we give each one back to God at the end, ready for it to burst open in the full flowering of that salvation.

Literature and drama also speak of redemption. Think of any great book, movie, poem, or play. Through a chain of events and choices, their flawed heroes even half-heartedly live the story of personal—and universal—redemption. In a talk at the City of Angels Film Festival in L.A. five years ago, screenwriter, producer, and director Randall Wallace (“Braveheart,” “The Rookie”) applied this literary device to the sphere of revelation when he said, “God redefines our identity; that’s what redemption is.” God doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, sweep it under the carpet, or cover it over, but buys back, recreates, starts over.

Not just spiritually either. Everything human, including social structures and culture, is redeemed too. That’s why in the Pauline Family our hope for media is irrepressible. How that redemption is played out is the great drama of life.

On March 11, the Pauline Family in New York held a Lenten retreat for friends and acquaintances that was also meant to reintroduce them to this hope as we Paulines envision it. (See blog post of March 14.) Brother Aloysius Milella, SSP, gave the following talk, linking sanctity and media in the way the Church witnesses to the Gospel:

“One of the constants in the talks, audiences and writings of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, is his oft repeated recommendation that as believers and Christians, we develop a relationship with Jesus, a communion with him, one-on-one in prayer. We know and learn about him in reading the Gospels and Scripture, but there is no substitute for relating to him as the companion of our journeying through the space we give him in prayer. Throughout his long and extraordinarily active life, our founder, Father James Alberione, was a singular example of this.

“I begin sharing this quotation:
‘What have we to gain from meeting the saints?  Two things: relief from monotony, and contact with vitality. Relief from monotony: people in their essential personalities can be very different, but sin blots out the distinctions and reduces the diversity. Sin drains out the color of the person (which is his or her own and inimitable) and replaces it with the color of sin which is common property.
All sinners look less like themselves and more like one another. Saints instead, are intensely themselves. Second: contact with vitality. Sin, being a following of the line of least resistance inevitably lessens vitality. It takes no more vitality to go with the stream of inclination than with any other stream. But to go against, as the saint does, demands immense vitality. If by chance you think saints are saints because they lack the energy for wrongdoing...try to know some of them and the incredible energetic accomplishments of human caring they achieved in Jesus’ name in their lifetimes.’

“That is an excerpt from the introductory remarks of Frank Sheed in Saints Are Not Sad, his classic collection of forty essays about the saints, published this year by Ignatius Press.

“Over the centuries in the history of our faith, we have  come to learn so much about God and of his Son come to live among us—perhaps not as much through theological studies as through the remarkable ways the saints incorporated the life and teachings of Jesus into their deeper selves.  This would often translate into an array of marvelous applications of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy for the benefit and service of the Lord’s people whenever and wherever. Apart from unique nudges of grace, their charisms nearly always grew out of intuitions and inspirations matured through a perceptive grasp of the Scriptures. It happened more often than not that their lives appeared as something akin to new, walking translations of the Word of God.

“All of this is by way of introducing some reflection on the founder of the Pauline Family, Father James Alberione—Blessed James Alberione.*  His Family is made up of five religious congregations:
and four secular institutes:
   JESUS THE PRIEST (diocesan priests)
   THE HOLY FAMILY (married couples),
plus the PAULINE COOPERATORS (lay associates and sharers in Pauline spirituality and mission).  

“As mentioned, every one of the saints shadows a linkage with Scripture, for example, Francis of Assisi with ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ Faustina with Jesus’ ministry of mercy in the Gospels, etc. If we were asked to locate Father Alberione in a particular area of the Scriptures, asking which part he fits into, it would likely be in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in its second half, which recounts everything about St. Paul. Paul was his huge hero. His relentless apostolic outreach and total dedication, in tandem with ‘the whole Christ that ever grew within him’ grabbed profoundly at the founder’s soul. 

“The Christ who never stayed static would influence Fr. Alberione all his life long. The same for Paul’s sense of romanità—thinking always in the broader scope of the ‘empire’ rather than in confined geographical zones.

“Until St. Paul’s entry on the apostolic scene, the preaching of the Gospel was in great part carried out in the area of Jerusalem. There was valid reason for this. But it is St. Paul who, under the impetus of the Spirit, launched the nascent Church into its missionary dimension, opening the saving message of the Gospel to the peoples of the then-known world. For him, the Gospel had to be brought to every culture and find its home in it. The Gentiles, the outsiders, those with no standing, no citizenship, were to know of it, especially those without any identity of faith, like the Athenians whom Paul evangelized (Acts 17:16ff.).

“Father Alberione’s commitment and passion for transmitting the Gospel throughout our contemporary world in a linguistic variety of cultures, stands out in faithful imitation of the great Apostle, and as one of the admirable achievements of his religious Family. It was for this reason that Pope Paul VI publicly commended him for giving ‘the Church new ways and instruments for expressing itself.’ For this reason also, in his homily during the Mass of Father Alberione’s beatification, John Paul II authoritatively referred to him as the ‘First Apostle of the New Evangelization.’

“From the very beginning, at its earliest stage, Father Alberione placed a fundamental emphasis on living and interiorly integrating the Gospel on all who aspired to join the Pauline Family’s consecration to the Gospel. This would effectively complement the substance and urgency of its enterprising media use. ‘There is no apostolate without an apostle,’ was an early axiom of his.    

“Now as all of us are aware, our world has not felt the full, exhilarating impact of the Gospel’s Good News. When it hopefully does, it will be transformed. For the present, it goes about dazed and somewhat confused by its own hunger for the something it cannot define: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love. And the secular media, as we know it, is largely its blatant platform. 

 In her Eucharistic, liturgical, and priestly service,
Sr. Ann, a Sister Disciple, works and prays
for the redemption of the media.
 “Along with a concern for the times we live in, and the way to best confront the world’s groping and widespread hurting, the Pauline Family—with our mission of principally serving through the media and reaching out in faith, hope, and healing—is to pray and encourage the media’s broader redemption. In our Family tradition, this has always been a special dimension of the spirituality attached to the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master as well as to the Brothers of the Society of St. Paul.

“To effect this redemption, that is, to realize the potential and right use of today’s ingenious media forms, Father Alberione ever insisted that we join prayers to the sacrifices and self-spending inherent in living our vocational charism. There is an enormous responsibility and enormous urgency in making of the information instruments in this digital age a service in truth to humanity.

“Some years ago during a community retreat, I remember a veteran confrere observe that like St. Paul, the Founder had also known a Damascus-type experience (Acts 9:1-22). The observation drew halting ‘how’s that?’ skepticism. But as he began to elaborate and place it in perspective, what seemed altogether obscure proved insightful. He situated the Alberionian ‘Damascus’ within the well known lengthy Eucharistic adoration that a young James Alberione was effecting in the Cathedral of Alba during the critical night separating the nineteenth century from the twentieth. As his nocturnal adoration went on, surges of light and purpose impelled and stirred him profoundly. Beyond himself, the young seminarian’s response became an overriding commitment ‘to do something for the men and women who would people the new century.’ Not unlike the piercing beam that so transformed Paul, this nighttime illumination in the presence of the living Eucharistic Christ would—as  he verified time and again—impact all of Fr. Alberione’s remarkable and prolifically graced Pauline life.”

* Today would have been Fr. Alberione's 128th birthday.
Photo credits: Sr. Roberta Christine Hummel, FSP, Br. Xavier Lee, SSP, Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP. Alberione: file photo.

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