With tales of long ago in our minds and hearts we set off on the road again, this time to Alba! The emotion and excitement was palpable in our little minibus, especially for those who were visiting Alba for the first time. Alba is the cradle of the Pauline Family, here everything was born, here are found the first houses of the Society of St. Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul and the Disciples of the Divine Master.Alba is a town and comune of Piedmont, Italy, in the province of Cuneo. It is considered the capital of the hilly area of Langhe which is famous for its abundant vineyards and hazelnut trees. For us in the Pauline Family it is the holy land from which almost all of the first vocations came from.
Our first stop was to the huge complex of the Society of St. Paul which houses a number of realities. The Disciples of the Divine Master have a community there with sisters giving service to the priests and brothers in the infirmary, kitchen and laundry, as well as the co-ordination of employed staff. There are two large communities of priests and brothers, some of which are in the infirmary, others still work in various ministries, but primarily at the printing press, editions, bookshop, etc. We paid a nostalgic visit to our Mother House which is now part of the house of the SSP, but we remained in quiet prayer in the original chapel where many of our sisters spent their early years of formation. If only those walls could talk..! After a quick visit and some refreshments with our PDDM sisters, we went to the famous Temple of St. Paul- a majestic sight indeed! Our guide was our Pauline brother Fr. Carlo Recalcati who explained all the particulars of the Temple, intertwining many stories and anecdotes which kept us enthralled.
The Temple is one of the four Churches which Fr. Alberione had built. Each church is not just a collection of bricks and mortar, but the history of the Pauline Family, the dream of a Founder and spiritual father, the desire of a charismatic and spiritual architect who would built bridges between theological aesthetics, liturgy and faith, to the point where simple men and women walked securely, deepening their faith and devotions.The stones, inside and outside, speak of God who explodes into our history, a sacred poem which continues to be narrated, and engraved among the generations.Already on the 15th of February 1924, Alberione began his appeal to the Pauline Co-operators, firstly for prayer, so that the Temple would be built, well and speedily. The vision for the laity begins in their involvement with the construction.
The Temple represents an immense spiritual and human patrimony, first of all for its invaluable artistic value, secondly because of the faith, dedication and courage which accompanied its construction during the humble beginnings of the Pauline Family. In this, the capacity of Fr. Alberione to dream even greater things shines through. Obstacles such as money, labourers, restricted means and resources could not block his vision. He believed that such dwellings were fitting for the Divine Master, Queen of the Apostles and St. Paul, and providence would provide for this work which was for the glory of God.
Why did Alberione want to construct this Temple? The Temple of St. Paul, in the midst of the various buildings of the Mother House of the Society of St. Paul in Alba is not only an artistic monument but represents the centre, heart and soul of the Pauline Family. This idea follows Alberione throughout the whole of his life; where the Pauline Family is present, a church must be built in their midst to remind them of their ultimate scope and goal in life: the way of sanctification through the Word of God and the Eucharist. The Divine Master in the Church diffuses his rays which are the way, the truth and the life: and these rays, among us in the house for the heart, the soul, which come to us through the mouth of the superiors, form the apostles of the press. And for the pens, the characters in the typeset, the machinery in the house, they enlighten souls, guide them, and enliven them. And from here, the missionaries of the good press leave for the mission countries. It is in this Temple that we find the compendium of the pastoral project of Fr. Alberione, his prophetic vision and his enlightened intuition regarding the salvific dialogue between the Church and the world. Thinking of the immense inheritance which our Founder has left us, we bowed our heads in prayer before the Eucharistic Lord, joining with the Pauline Family which forms the community in heaven, asking their intercession that so we too may be faithful and fervent children of Alberione!
After sung Evening Prayer with the Adorers, the brothers of the Society and the sisters, we joined them for an evening meal which was the opportunity to meet the rest of the community. We had already visited our elderly and infirm brothers, eager to hear their stories of living with the Founder, the adventures of the beginning of the foundation. Sometimes the past, remembered sharply and realistically, has obvious lessons for history is human! Whilst it spurs us onwards, to embrace the daily fatigue of our spiritual and apostolic life with the same joy and faith which they had and continue to have.