Blessed James Alberione: Biography, Death & Quotes

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

Blessed James Alberione was a Catholic priest who at the turn of the twentieth century had, quite literally, a vision of making the Catholic Church known throughout the world. In this lesson, learn about his life and work.

The Pope's Opinion of Blessed Alberione

Blessed James Alberione has been described by Pope Paul VI as ''humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, 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.'' How did he earn this impressive tribute?

His life began the same way as many other Catholic priests. However, taking to heart a vision he had at the turn of the twentieth century, the second half of his life involved great action and movement within the church. Let's talk about who Alberione was, his vision and what he accomplished.

A Priestly Life

James Alberione was born in San Lorenzo di Fossano, Italy on April 4, 1884. He had five brothers and sisters and was raised by Catholic parents who were also farmers. In first grade he decided that he wanted to be a priest, and never wavered from this vision, enrolling in a seminary in the Alba diocese of Italy at the young age of 16.

Alberione is most famous for staring the Pauline Family, a collection of Catholic churches, publications and followers. He died at the age of 87 on November 26, 1971. In 1996, Pope John Paul II declared him ''Blessed,'' a high honor in the Catholic Church.

Life-Changing New Years

The reason Blessed Alberione stands out amongst other Catholic priests is because of a vision he had, and the actions that it inspired. On December 31, 1899, on the cusp of the twentieth century, Alberione spent four hours praying. During this time, he said he saw a ''particular light'' and felt a sense that his purpose in life was to do something for God and the people of Italy in the new century using the technology of the time.

Alberione was ordained a priest in 1907, and he never stopped pursuing this goal. His first job was as an assistant pastor in Narzole, Italy. Later, he went on to become a spiritual directory at Seminary of Alba. There, he also taught classes, gave homilies and spoke at conferences. He was constantly looking to see what he could do to help society.

Pauline Family

Alberione felt that the apostle Paul was the example that he should follow. He believed that, like Paul, he was called to preach the gospel to everyone. But unlike Paul, Alberione wanted to do this through modern communication methods. So he started the Pious Society of St. Paul in 1914, which led to the creation of the Pauline Family, name after St. Paul.

What exactly was the Pauline Family? It was a group of people who lived together and saw themselves as family, calling each other brothers and sisters. Although there was only one ''family'' originally, by the following year they had expanded enough to form a second congregation.

Alberione said that, ''the first concern of the Pauline Family should be holiness of life; the second, holiness of doctrine.'' He taught followers to dedicate themselves to Jesus (master and shepherd), Mary (mother, teacher and queen of the apostles) and to St. Paul.

In 1918, the first family of ''daughters'' went to Susa, Italy and started doing work that they called the ''Pauline'' lifestyle. Their work involved using communication to spread Christianity and helping pastors and parishes. Alberione's hope was that his followers would embrace a Christian life with their mind, body and spirit.

In 1923, the mission's growth stalled when Alberione fell very ill. His recovery was called miraculous by some; Alberione credited this to St. Paul, saying, ''St. Paul healed me.'' His also said that the following phrase was given to him from this time: ''Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sin.'' This quote shaped much of the work he would go on to accomplish in the rest of his life.

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