Day 5: Alba- the return!

Out and about in Alba
After greeting the Lord with our morning praise, we headed back to Alba, our little Bethlehem, for a busy day of visiting lots of churches!!! However, each one of these are part of the mosaic which composes the history of the Pauline Family. Each one of them have a special significance and have left an imprint on the life and the formation of Fr. Alberione. When we arrived in Alba, we arrived right in the middle of a mini fun-marathon so the town was alive and buzzing bright and early! "Corre sotto il torre"- a delicate play on words which translates in English as 'Run under the tower' is an annual event for young and old which involves running the 1 kilometre track around the town. Our first stop on the agenda was at the Cathedral of Alba, which happened to be the finish line for this funrun so we got to meet many Albese people. In a way, we were a mini- tourist attraction, a colourful group of young sisters from 8 different countries. Many people were surprised to see young sisters so we were glad to be able to give this witness.

Here's a brief summary of the churches which we visited today and their significance:

Looking at the underground passages
in Alba Cathedral which date back to
the VI century
1) Alba Cathedral:  On the night of 31 December 1900, the night that divided the 19th and 20th centuries, Fr. Alberione prayed here for four hours before the Blessed Sacrament and contemplated the future in the light of God. A “particular light” seemed to come from the Host and roused in him a sense of obligation “to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century”: he felt “obliged to serve the Church” with the new instruments provided by human ingenuity. We came back here in the afternoon for the ceremony of welcoming of the new parish priest.

2) Church of St. Cosmo and St. Damian: Located about halfway down Via Vittorio Emanuele (Via Maestra). Canon Chiesa came here in 1913 as parish priest and remained for 33 years. It is a place where many important decisions were made for the Pauline Family regarding the birth and the development, a place of profound spiritual encounters between Fr.Alberione and his spiritual director. Canon Chiesa. It is here that the first encounter between Teresa Merlo (who would later become the first Superior General of the Daughters of St. Paul) takes place in the sacristy. For the Disciples of the Divine Master, it is the memorable place where the Founder takes on the suggestion to 'secure a religious family which will remain faithfully in Adoration before the Tabernacle as to obtain the graces necessary for the rest of the Family".

Our Lady of Moretta
3) Our Lady of the Moretta: We joined with the parish community for the celebration of the Eucharist. It was heartwarming to see the preparation that went into the celebration as well as the involvement of all in the liturgical functions and services. It was here in the sacristy that Fr. Alberione received the mandate from the mission to continue the work of 'Gazetta d'Alba' which was the diocesan newspaper. The paper continues to be in circulation today. This small Sanctuary was very dear to Fr. Alberione who often make this small trek from the seminary to the church so as to honour Mary who so often had provided light, comfort and strength in times of difficulty and darkness.

4) Church of St. Magdalene: Sadly the Church is no longer consecrated but it is important to pay a visit all the same. For many years, Alberione was a Third Order Dominican who also served as spiritual director to the enclosed Dominican sisters. The sisters are currently located outside the town, having fled during World War II. We can see in Fr. Alberione some of the Dominican influences which he brought with him to the emerging Pauline Family. His thirst for the Truth, the encounter with the living Jesus was the motor in his life, later leading to the Way-Truth-Life spirituality which is the pendulum of Pauline living. Alberione adapted the title 'Primo Maestro', a Dominican title, hoping also to avoid the title of Founder because for him St. Paul was the true founder! Another imprint is found in the monastic outline which he initially applied to the life of the Disciples of the Divine Master, a congregation which still has a strong monastic base at its spirituality and prayer life.

Browsing along Via Maesta
At this stage, it was time to take in some of the local culture and fashion and walk the famous 'Via Maesta' for some window shopping, not only because of the prices but also because it was Sunday! Many local traders set up stalls with traditional Albese cuisine and foodstuff, especially pasta, tartuffi and desserts made from hazelnuts. Obviously the best seller was not lacking: Nutella! All this walking, visiting and browsing gave us a healthy appetite for a wonderful lunch which was waiting for us back in Narazeth House, one of our PDDM hospitality communities. Here we had some of the typical Albese food and relaxed to recharge our batteries for the afternoon visit. Thanks to our hosts Sr. Andreina and Sr. Myriam!
Seminary chapel

5) The visit to the Seminary in Alba is a necessary stop. First of all, it allows us to re-visit how Alberione was formed, see the places which were associated with his seminary life. One of the jewels of this seminary is the chapel. Its decoration comprises a perfect synthesis of his formation. Everything begins from the Trinity where the plan of salvation is revealed in the coming of the Son and the gift of the Spirit. From the Trinitarian life follows: Mary’s role in the Incarnation; the Eucharist as the centre of Christian life; the Gospel represented according to the configuration of the four evangelists in such a way that it composes the name of the city of A-L-B-A; the Beatitudes and the via crucis expressions of Christian life; liturgy as sacrificium laudis; the Bishop’s ministry at the service of God’s Kingdom; the figures of Mary and of the Church; the saints on whose footprints God’s people walks, especially the seminarians; and the niche, behind the movable altar piece, for the cultivation of special devotions. Looking at the four churches of the Pauline Family, we can see how Alberione integrated these elements.

Despite being mid-September, temperatures were still quite hot so the general consensus was to move onto higher ground towards the mountains to take advantage of the cool breeze.  So off to Benevello we went to the Sanctuary of our Lady of the Langhe! Alberione, whilst in his early thirties, became very ill and was sent here to recover in a form of sanatorium. In 1923, the parish priest, Fr. Brovia, a good friend of Fr. Alberione, by means of the parish bulletin encouraged the parishioners to pray for the health of this young and frail cleric through the intercession of our Lady of the Langhe. Soon after Alberione regains his health and strength but never forgets the graces which the Madonna did for him. His visits to this Sanctuary were regular, the long journey from Alba to Benevello failing to stifle his tender devotion to Mary. The beautiful landscape was the perfect opportunity for photo shoots and we discovered that we have paparazzi in our midst! The evening arrived quickly and soon it was time to say goodbye to our sisters and head back to our community  in Sanfrè, tired but very happy.
Photo gallery