Blessed James Alberione

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His practical life - Division of the subject matter - Notices

The Priest.
- Pius X in his Exhortation to the clergy of 1908 has these very serious words: We remind the priest that he is forbidden to attend only to his own sanctification: he is the worker whom Jesus Christ led to work in his vineyard. It is his serious duty to pull out weeds from there, sow good seeds on it, and watch so that the enemy does not come to cast weeds there... Let the Priest then beware of a life for individual sanctification while forgetting the pulpit, the confessional, the sick, the children, the afflicted, the sinners: let him move about like Jesus, doing good to all and freeing the oppressed from the devil.1 Hence, the priest cannot be a man who lives for himself alone: he cannot have as motto the words: I-God. It is absolutely a must that he works for the salvation of others that he writes on his own banner: I-God-People.
Just as Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Marriage for the procreation of the body: so did he establish the
Sacrament of Holy Orders for the generation of the spirit. St. Paul says: Per evangelium ego vos genui.2 And Jesus himself established the purpose of the Priest when he said: Faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum.3 Better still he explained it with other words: Posui vos ut eatis et fructum afferatis et fructus vester maneat.4
On the Priest weighs a great responsibility: the head of the family shall stand for his own children before God's court: the teacher for his students: the Priest for the souls that he can save! The Apostle, almost as if scared of such a responsibility, said: Vae autem mihi si non evangelizavero!5 While, on the other part, he encouraged the good ministers to work: Qui bene praesunt presbyteri duplici honore digni habeantur.6 And the two honors are: Centuplum accipietis et vitam aeternam possidebitis:7 the hundredfold of spiritual consolations in the present life and heaven in the future.
The Priest therefore is not merely learned: he is neither a saint alone: he is, instead, a learned-saint, who avails with science and of holiness in order to become an apostle, that is, in order to save souls.

Life in practice. - Now it is undeniable that in real life, priests, especially the young ones, meet serious and varied dangers of losing sight of this right idea of the Priest. And how many of them have unfortunately lost it! St. Alfonsus de' Liguori writes of his time that good priests were few, if not to say very few: I do not know what he would say if he wrote of today.
1. Others believe they are good Priests when they devotely recite the Breviary, celebrate the Holy Mass and add to these some other practices of piety. They do not check on
their use of time, on their zeal, on their manner of preparing their sermons, on their hearing confessions, etc. He who is not zealous is not a true priest.
2. Others get engaged almost totally in good works in preference to other things: while he seeks to be an apostle and light of the world, he forgets to provide for himself oil for his lamp: that is, he neglects study and piety. Time will come when zeal will also die down because its springs have run dry.
3. Then, there are others who, having attended to these two elements of their formation-study and piety-when they move on to exercise the apostolate, they either do not know adequately the work they have to do and so they end up neglectful; or else, they dedicate themselves totally to external activities thus forgetting the more necessary, that is, the spiritual activities: or else, they take care only of these and set aside and perhaps despising the former. From this originate fatal errors in the direction of activities, pessimism among others, optimism in some, imbalance in work, very little fruits in relation with the sacrifices rendered. How much very precious energies wasted or atrophied!
These are the dangers that we agree to keep away or at least diminish, at least for the sake of the young clergy, through practical suggestions that we try to give.

Division. - We would mention: 1. Which are the means the Priest may use not only for his own training, but also in order that he may remain a man of healthy knowledge and of fervent piety: this in order that he may have the foundation of a life of zeal.
2. What might be the true idea of care for souls; what are the general means that could help such care; how the priest should regulate his relationships in order to open for himself the path of caring for souls; what are the concerns of some categories of priests.
3. Some specific activities belonging to priestly zeal: the Holy Sacraments, preaching, devotions, Catholic action, etc.

Notices. - Here, there is no pretension to say new things, but to just place within sight numerous works to do, with some practical rules suggested by tried persons.
Neither is there the intention of formulating treatises: for example, speaking of preaching, to say what books of sacred eloquence already says: there is but the attempt to take note of certain pieces of advice that are outside the treatises of Theology, Eloquence, Canon Law, all studied in the seminary, and which are better utilized in the concrete practice of those things learned in the aforementioned treatises. Up to now, pastoral theology has been too closely bound and almost confounded with treatises of Moral Theology, or of Eloquence, or of Canon Law. These are things not proper to this work either speculatively or practically speaking.8
It is good to mention at least once: the reader is supposed to be quite knowledgeable not only in Theology and Canon Law, but also in eloquence, in liturgy, in the synodal prescripts, etc.: and he is supposed to be holy and at ease with ascetical matters, ever desirous of always improving.

1 PIO X, Haerent animo, Exhortatio ad clerum catholicum, ASS XLI (1908), p. 562.

2 1Cor 4:15: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

3 Mt 4:19: “I will make you fishers of men.”

4 Jn 15:16: “It was I... who appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

5 1Cor 9:16: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

6 1Tm 5:17: “Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching.”

7 Cf. Mt 19:29: “... Will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

8 For a deeper study of the historical evolution of Pastoral Theology, cf. M. MIDALI, Teologia pastorale o pratica, cammino storico di una riflessione fondante e scientifica, LAS, Roma 1985, pp. 17-44.