Day 3: Retracing our charismatic roots! (continued)
Our next stop was at the Parish of St. Martin where Fr.Alberione received his communion on the 8th of March 1893 and his Confirmation on the 15th of November 1893. The example and the encouragement of the parish priest Fr. Giovanni Battista Montersino was instrumental in his decision to try the seminary in the hope of becoming a priest for the Diocese of Alba. Even in the midst of the trials which the young Alberione experienced in the seminary, Fr. Giovanni accompanied him in transforming these difficulties into opportunities to let the will of God break into his life in a new way, thus he renewed his 'yes' to continuing in his seminary formation and was subsequently ordained in 1907 on the 29th of June and celebrated his first Mass on the following day. Imagine the emotion of the parish priest in seeing this young boy whom he accompanied from the time of his First Communion, now distributing the Eucharist among his parishioners and fellow villagers. In the evening, after the celebration of Vespers, the newly ordained priest spoke, expressing his deep gratitude for all those who walked the journey with him and believed in the call that God had sown in his heart, especially Fr. Giovanni: " He welcomed me to the parish as a child, he taught me the first questions and answers for the catechism, from his hands I received my First Communion; in observing him I desired to embrace the clerical state." Little did Alberione now, the adventure was only beginning and it would bring away from diocesan structured life and in the direction of a religious family.
Piazza named after Fr. Alberione
On the 15th of November 1998, after a solemn celebration with Paulines and locals present, the Square outside St. Martin's Church was named after Fr. Alberione. A statue of the smiling Founder greets those who passes by on the street. A plaque on the wall recalls that Fr. Alberione celebrated his first Mass and thus the church continues to be one of the stops along the pilgrim journey for all Paulines who visit Piedmonte.
On the road again, we were off to Narzole, more precisely to the Church of St. Bernard. This is the place where the first encounter took place between our two Blesseds: Fr. Alberione and Timothy Giaccardo. We received a great welcome from Fr. Angelo, the parish priest, who whilst being diocesan is abundant in Pauline spirit and is very proud to have a blessed whose provenience is from the parish. It was here that Fr. Alberione began his pastoral activity in 1908 as vice parish priest! Here he spent a mere 8 months before being sent as spiritual director back in the Alba seminary. At this stage Alberione was 25 years old but in possession of a wisdom and stability that permitted the bishop to identity his capacity to be a leader or formator.
Narzole also holds the claim to fame as being the birth place of Blessed Timothy Giaccardo. A large painting at one of the side altars shows the saint in his priestly robes, an indication of the path of holiness which he choose to walk to sanctify his life. After meeting Fr. Alberione in the parish, Joseph (Timothy was his religious name) he was to become the first Pauline priest. He entered the seminary in Alba to study for the priesthood but in 1917, though still a seminarian, Joseph asked his bishop for permission to leave the seminary as he desired to join Fr. Alberione’s new order. The bishop reluctantly permitted Joseph to enter the Society of St. Paul and Joseph professed his vows in 1920. He chose the name “Timothy” after the beloved disciple of St. Paul. He died on the 24th of January 1948 from leukaemia, after spending his life at the service of the Gospel. He became not only Alberione's right hand man and a primary figure in the interpretation of the Pauline charism, he was also in a special way instrumental in the life of the congregation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM). He was also the first journalist to be beatified by the Church.
Soon in the Pauline Family, he was invoked for many favours and intercessions by those who remembered his deep life of prayer whilst alive. On May 9, 1985, Pope John Paul II declared Fr.Timothy Giaccardo “venerable.” Four years later, papal confirmation was given of the miracle attributed to his intercession, thus declaring him Blessed. Sr. Maria Luciana Lazzarini, a Sister Disciple of the Divine Master stationed in Japan but currently in Sanfre where we've been staying, had been dying of “bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis.” In July, 1954, at the end of a novena made to Fr. Giaccardo, she was completely and instantaneously cured. Later, the head physician of the sanatorium converted to Catholicism.
As the first beatified member of the Pauline Family, Fr. Timothy Giaccardo is outstanding also as the first modern-day apostle whose life was consecrated for the explicit purpose of evangelization with the media. His life is witness to the fruitfulness of contemplation joined with action–a call to fullest union with the Master. This is the same life which we Disciples of the Divine Master are challenged to live. Here's a thought from Blessed Timothy to finish up with:
“To merit a beautiful paradise, let us give everything to God: the body and its strength, the mind with faith, the will with confidence, and the heart with charity. Each of us should belong totally to God, always, everywhere, in everything–awaiting the reward which will surpass all imagination.”