On the 29th of June 1907 James Alberione was ordained a priest at the age of 23. His first appointment was to Assist an ailing nearby Parish Priest . Meanwhile, studious as he always was, he managed to obtain a Doctorate in Theology from the St Thomas Theological College, Genoa.
Seeing the spiritual and intellectual maturity in the young priest, Fr Alberione, in 1908 the Bishop of Alba appointed him as the Spiritual Director and Confessor of the seminarians. He held this duty admirably well. It was a serious responsibility for such an inexperienced man but, even as a student, Fr Alberione had impressed his classmates, teachers and superiors by his holiness, wisdom and sound common sense.
In the course of time Fr Alberione was assigned to more and more tasks. He lectured on Church History, and taught Sacred Eloquence, Liturgy and the history of Art. He was the Master of Ceremonies to the Bishop and was deeply involved in every other aspect of seminary life. Meanwhile he saw quite clearly that the fruits of his liturgical studies, of new thoughts on Scripture and of other branches of sacred learning should be brought to the people in a way they could
grasp. Atheism, immorality, anticlericalism, etc., were rampant everywhere and their protagonists were spreading their ideas through the most potent medium of the time, the Press. The very same medium, the Press, Fr Alberione thought, would be the most effective means to enlighten people in the Catholic teachings and to counteract the evil forces.
Provoked by the problems of the time, the Bishop of Alba felt the need of revamping the Diocesan newspaper, well produced and edited, which would unite his people by presenting Christian teaching clearly to them. He thought Fr Alberione to be the right person to edit the Diocesan newspaper "Gazzetta dAlba", and added that post to him on 12 September 1913. Thus the Bishop of Alba made the hour of God strike for Fr Alberione for his future apostolate.
For many years before the origin of the first Pauline congregation, Fr Alberione cherished an idea of having an organisation of writers, printers and booksellers, who would have to be Religious men and women dedicated to the practice of poverty, chastity, obedience and the common life. With this inspired idea and with
the added experience in the Press, he started the Society of St Paul, then known as "Printing School", merely with two boys, in a rented house in Alba on the 20th August 1914. Tito Armani and Desiderio Costa were those boys who later became great Pauline Priests. At the end of the same year four more boys joined the little group. G. Timothy Giaccardo who was a seminarian joined Alberione in 1917. He died in 1948 and was proclaimed "Blessed" in 1989 by Pope
John Paul II.
As the 1st World War was going on, it was a very difficult time for Fr Alberione. By the year 1921 the number of the Aspirants had risen to eighty, and there was a rapid expansion of the Press. He developed a solid Pauline spirituality based on "Jesus Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life"; offered to the Paulines Mary, the mother of Jesus to be venerated as the "Queen of Apostles"; and accepted the great Apostle Paul as their patron.
Besides the Society of St Paul for men (for the spreading of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church), Fr Alberione founded different Religious Congregations for women, and four Secular Instiutes, and also the Pauline Cooperators. All these are conjointly known as the "Pauline Family".
Fr Alberione was small in stature, slight in build, and fragile in health, but he showed a surprising energy of mind and an impressive strength of will. His fatherly concern for his spiritual children impelled him to visit each Pauline community around the world. He visited the small community of the SSP in Allahabad during the extreme summer of 1949. The second House in India was started in Mumbai in 1952. He visited both the Houses in 1955 during which the first two Pauline Postulants of MumbaiFr Mark Fonseca and Br Carmel Kizhakel were privileged to be vested with the Religious Habit by him.
In November 1971 Fr Alberione, at the age of 87, fell seriously ill. On the 25th of November, in full consciousness, he received the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum. That evening he muttered: "I am dying..... Paradise!" After an hour he gasped: "I am praying for everyone!" In a feeble voice he repeated constantly: "Ave Maria, Ave Maria!". These were his last
decipherable words. His condition worsened alarmingly on Friday, the 26th of November and by noon he was in a coma. At 5 p.m., the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI came and knelt by the bedside of the dying Fr Alberione and prayed for and over him imparting absolution and blessing. Less than half an hour later, at 6.25 p.m., the saintly Fr Alberione passed away peacefully to be with the Lord in Paradise.
On the 25th of June 1996, Fr Alberione was declared "Venerable" by Pope John Paul II. Let us pray to the good Lord to honour him in the Church by beatifying and canonising him, and to grant us many favours through him.
We can be true, zealous and happy Paulines only if we eagerly absorb the spirit of our saintly Founder. As Pauline vocation is very great, a wise Pauline in his or her formative years will pray and strive hard fortifying his or her divine call. Apart from his or her academic studies he or she must get hold of all the literature available on and by the founder.