Blessed James Alberione

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I LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS. - Corinth was evangelized by St. Paul for 18 months in the year 52, with abundant fruits especially among the poor pagans. After Paul left for Ephesus, the Corinthians, instructed by others, especially by Apollo, broke into parties. Upon receiving in Ephesus the news regarding the Church of Corinth, first through letter and then by voice, St. Paul hastened to write this long letter in order to uproot the abuses and to respond to the questions raised by the Corinthians. The letter was written from Ephesus perhaps in the year 57.
The body of the letter has two parts. In the first, he reproves the Corinthians for their parties, for their scandalous licentiousness, their lack of mutual trust due to their quarrels. In the second, he responds successively to five questions proposed by the Corinthians: marriage and celibacy; meat sacrificed to idols; order in the religious meetings, and decorum in the celebration of the divine mysteries; the importance, value and use of the supernatural gifts; future resurrection.

II LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS. - After the first letter, St. Paul sent Titus to Corinth with another disciple of his, so that they could come back to inform him regarding the state of the Church of Corinth. He met the disciple probably in Philippi and from him he heard with great pleasure about the great love the Corinthians had for him. Hearing as well that there were some in Corinth who accused him as inconstant, ambitious and usurper of the name of apostle, he hastened to write this letter, which is a long apology of his conduct and of his apostolate; at first veiled and then open.
It can be divided into three parts:
First part: Veiled apology: he confutes the calumnies by showing that he was not fickle, inconstant, arrogant, proud, and he defends his way of doing.
Second part: Digression on the collection for the poor of Jerusalem.
Third part: Open apology: he vindicates his dignity as an apostle, by showing that not only he is not inferior, but even superior in everything to his adversaries.
This letter was written a little after the first one, perhaps from Philippi.

LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS. - Ephesus, the capital of proconsular Asia, was chosen by St. Paul as the center of his preaching. He went there towards the end of his second journey, but stayed only for a short time. During the third journey, he stayed there for three years founding there a flourishing Christianity. After St. Paul's departure, the Gnostic heresies soon began to abound. The Apostle, a prisoner in Rome, having come to know the state of the Churches of Asia, especially of Colossae and Ephesus, wrote the four letters of the first imprisonment: to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians and to Philemon.
The Letter to the Ephesians, in its dogmatic part, gives prominence to the greatness of the work accomplished by Jesus Christ; it affirms that all, Jews and pagans, are called to become adopted children of God in the Church, which is destined to unite all in her bosom. In the moral part, it traces rules for a Christian life and speaks of general duties, as well as particular ones.

LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS. - Philippi was the first European city evangelized by St. Paul. The Apostle arrived there during his second missionary journey and stayed there probably also during his last journey.
This letter is a thanksgiving of St. Paul to the Philippians for the generous offering that Epaphroditus in the name of the Philippians brought to St. Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Hence, it is not appropriately doctrinal, but is more of a newsletter concerning the imprisonment of Paul, to Timothy and Epaphroditus; it has only some hint about the Judaists.
It was written in Rome at the end of the imprisonment, that is, towards the end of the year 62 or the beginning of 63.

LETTER TO PHILEMON - Philemon was a Christian, rich, of Colossae, a friend of St. Paul and he had as a slave Onesimus who, after stealing from his master, had escaped to Rome among the vagabonds. Converted by St. Paul,
however, and convinced to go back to Philemon, Onesimus goes back with this short letter of St. Paul.
In it the Apostle, after a brief prologue of thanksgiving and praise to Philemon, presents immediately persuasive reasons to Philemon and clearly says that he is imploring him for Onesimus, asking for forgiveness and promising that he himself will restore the money stolen.
He concludes with greetings and asks Philemon for hospitality on his next visit.


The Bible in the formation of the clergy

How can the young walk without fault?
Only by keeping your words.

(Ps 118/119:9)

We have already said that Holy Scripture is the most beautiful book for spiritual reading; it is useful for all times, for all circumstances of life and for every personal condition. All can find therein abundant and healthy food for the soul.
If it is so for Christians in general, how much more for those called to the Priesthood.
The Bible is especially for young boys who tend and aspire one day to become God's ministers. It is to these little ones that the Holy Spirit reveals the secrets and the divine beauty of the Bible. Jesus himself tells us: I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the
wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (Lk 10:21; Mt 11:25)
The office of preaching the divine word to the faithful belongs to Priests. In fact, the Bishop during the ordination of the Deacon says: Receive the power to read the Gospel in the Church of God. Such words confer precisely on the ordinand the power to instruct the faithful in the faith.
St. Paul reproves the Corinthians because some were saying they belong to Apollo, others to Kephas, and others to Paul; and this because some received the Gospel from Apollo, others from Paul, and others from Peter. The Apostle, on the contrary, wants them to say: we belong to Christ, that is, we are formed according to his holy Gospel.
The young man who habitually reads the holy Gospel builds his house on solid rock, while receiving an unshakable formation, a gentle and delicate spirit.
Wonderful are the books of St. Thomas, St. Bernard, St. Alphonsus and of other distinguished writers even if not saints as for example Alessandro Manzoni, Dante, etc.; the beauty of the Gospel, however, is infinitely superior; the reading of it is much more effective than that of any human book.
How many young men, upon reading and hearing the Holy Gospel read, gave up everything to withdraw and follow Jesus! Hence, Holy Scripture is firstly for you, O young men.
St. Anthony Abbot,1 a very cultured young man of 18 years, after hearing these words of the Gospel: If you want to be perfect, sell what you have and give to the poor, goes home, sells everything, and the money of the sale he distributes to the poor and then retreats to the desert where he reaches a very high level of sanctity and became famous for
his miracles and struggles against the demons who visibly appeared to him under the most frightening forms.
St. Paul the Apostle commanded his disciple Timothy to read the Sacred Scriptures: ...attend to the reading, exhortation and teaching... (1Tm 4:13) And to St. Titus he says that one of the principal qualities of the bishop must be knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. Furthermore, he tells him to choose, for ordination, only those who are strongly attached to the words of truth.
St. Paul himself boasted of having learned the law of Moses and the Prophets in the school of Gamaliel.
St. Jerome, a supreme master of Holy Scripture, wrote very beautiful letters addressed to clerics in order to encourage them to read Holy Scripture. For example, he tells the cleric Neputian: Read the Sacred Scriptures very often: do not even set aside the sacred lessons from your hands. Learn what you will have to teach. The great Doctor was so convinced of the necessity of Holy Scripture in the formation of youthful souls, that he has continuous and very ardent expressions inviting to sacred reading.
In all the letters that St. Jerome wrote to the Roman virgins like Marcella, Paola, Algasia, Asella, he recommends that they read the Bible, and the chaste spouses of Christ so desired that sacred reading that they stormed with letters the faraway holy Doctor, for him to soon translate other books and to send them to them.

* * *

There are seven Sacred Orders. In three of them
the Church recommends the reading of the Sacred Scriptures, their practice and their teaching.
In ordaining the Lector, the Bishop says: It is the task of the Lector to read what must be communicated to the faithful... What you will read with your lips, believe with your heart, accomplish with your works, so that you may teach your listeners with your word and example.
To the Subdeacon he says: Receive the book of the Epistles, with the power to read them in the Holy Church of God, in behalf of both the living and the dead.
Entrusting the book of the Holy Gospels to the Deacon, he says: Receive the power to read in Church the Gospel, in behalf of both the living and dead.
During the Episcopal ordination, the entire Sacred Scriptures is put in the hands of the Bishop to be ordained and to him are repeated all the fervent exhortations that St. Paul addressed to the Bishop St. Titus.
If for so many times and with such solemnity the Church recommends the reading, practice and preaching of Holy Scripture, this means that the reading of it is very important: whoever is faithful and listens to this command of the Church could be killed but never overcome: Sacerdos Dei Evangelium tenens et praecepta Dei custodiens, occidi potest, vinci non potest, so St. Epiphanius wrote.

* * *

If you want fervent souls, give them the Holy Gospel; and you shall see the transformation that shall take place in those souls!
The sacred book is very effective in raising up vocations! It is Jesus himself who through those printed words calls and invites the soul to follow him.
When a young man enters the Pious Society of St. Paul, and soon loves the Holy Gospel,
kisses it and reads it with pleasure, in a very short time he enters the spirit of the House and makes big steps to sanctity.
Let us pray to the Lord, as a beautiful act of charity, so that he may give us the grace of forming our hearts on Holy Scripture and so that every one called to the priesthood may learn quickly to love and read the Bible, and so become divine little by little, until becoming another God, another Christus. Priests, as the Apostle St. Peter writes, are other Gods: Dii estis.2 And about what must the Priest speak and write, if not about Holy Scripture and what is contained in it?
Let us therefore speak and write in our own language which is the scriptural.

EXAMPLE. - Mysterious dream of St. Jerome.3 - Born of a Christian family in the year 342. At age 12, Jerome was sent to Rome to study. Here he became passionately interested in the Latin and Greek classics, so much so that he was continually seen with the works of Virgil, Cicero, Terence, Lucretius, Seneca, and others of distinction. And his love for them grew to the point of exaggeration.
Here is what he himself wrote in this regard: Wretched me, I fasted before reading Cicero. After having spent nights awake, after the remembrance of my sins made me shed many tears, I used to take Plautus. But the Lord healed him through an exceptional vision.
Here is how he describes it to us: While the serpent of old thus toyed with me, around the middle of Lent (probably Lent of 375) an internal fever came to me which, finding my body so exhausted due to lack of rest, consumed it in such away that my bones were hardly joined together. Already my funeral rites were being prepared; my body became colder and colder; the only remaining warmth made my heart beat. Suddenly, my spirit fell into rapture and I was led to the court of the Supreme Judge. The light was so blinding, those who surrounded him exuded a splendor so vivid that, after falling to the earth, I did not dare to look up. They asked
who I was; I answered that I was a Christian. You lie, the Judge told me; you are a Ciceronian and not a Christian, because where your treasure is, there your heart is.4 I fell silent, and under the beatings (since the Judge ordered that they whip me), even more tormented by bitter remorses, I repeated within myself this verse of the Psalm: For who among the dead remembers you?5
I exclaimed crying: Lord, have pity on me, have pity on me. This cry echoed between the blows. Finally those who were present fell at the feet of the Judge and prayed to him to forgive my youthfulness, to grant me the time to do penance, to severely punish me if I happened to again read pagan books. To draw me away from misery wherein I found myself, I would have promised even more; therefore, I swore, and taking his name as witness, I said: Lord, if henceforth I keep and read worldy books, let me be treated as one who has denied You. After this oath, they freed me, and I returned to the world. Everyone was surprised in seeing me open my eyes; these shed a flood of tears that my sorrow convinced even the most unbelieving. This was not one of those vain dreams that deceive us: I appeal to that tribunal, before which I lay prostrate, I appeal to that sentence that scared me. Would to God that such a torture may never be applied to me again. When I woke up I still felt the beatings, and my shoulders were still aching. From that moment, I studied the sacred books with greater ardor that I had not applied in reading profane books.
The Lord thus gave to the Church the supreme Doctor of Holy Scripture, to whom we owe the translation and the commentary of the whole Bible.

LITTLE SACRIFICE. - I shall recite the litany of the Sacred Writers (see at the end of this book) so that the Holy Gospel may be loved, read and assimilated by all those called to the Priesthood.


A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.
Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.
The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments,
O LORD, we look to you;
Your name and your title are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world's inhabitants learn justice.
The wicked man, spared, does not learn justice;
in an upright land he acts perversely,
and sees not the majesty of the LORD.

(Is 26:1-10)


Requirements of the Clergy

For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you, on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious. For a bishop as God's steward must be blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and selfcontrolled holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.
For there are also many rebels, idle talkers and deceivers, especially the Jewish Christians. It is imperative to silence them, as they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should not.
One of them, a prophet of their own, once said, Cretans have always been liars, vicious beasts, and lazy gluttons. That testimony is true. Therefore, admonish them sharply,
so that they may be sound in the faith, instead of paying attention to Jewish myths and regulations of people who have repudiated the truth.
To the clean all things are clean, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean; in fact, both their minds and their consciences are tainted. They claim to know God, but by their deeds they deny him. They are vile and disobedient and unqualified for any good deed.

(Ti 1:5-16)


Longing to enter the house of the Lord

Grant me justice, God;
defend me from a faithless people;
from the deceitful and unjust rescue me.
You, God, are my strength.
Why then do you spurn me?
Why must I go about mourning,
with the enemy oppressing me?
Send your light and fidelity,
that they may be my guide
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place of your dwelling,
That I may come to the altar of God,
to God, my joy, my delight.
Then I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.
Why are you downcast, my soul?
Why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, whom I shall praise again,
my savior and my God.

(Ps 42/43:1-5)


1 The example of this great saint, transformed upon hearing and reading the Bible, is referred to several times in LS: pp. 147, 155-157, 290, 311.

2 Ps 81/82:6; Is 41:23; Jn 10:34.

3 References to this “supreme” doctor of Scriptures and to his opinions are on pp. 96, 152, 176n, 198, 203, 213, 245, 247, 297. Jerome (Hieronymus, from the Greek Ieronymos, “who has a sacred name”) is the principal translator of the Vulgata. His essential profile is taken from De viribus illustribus (no. 135), a work of 393 by Jerome himself and from his letters. Born in Stridonius, in Dalmatia, around the year 347, in 360 he went to study in Rome, where he received baptism in 366. Jerome's life was especially marked by three periods: the Oriental period (372-381), the Roman period (382-385) and the second Oriental period. Pope Damasus' death (December 384) and strong tensions with the clergy of Rome forced Jerome to go back to the Orient. On August of 385, he established himself in Bethlehem. The years 386-393 marked an intense literary activity above all in the area of translation and commentary of the Scriptures. Death caught up with him on 30 September 419 (or 420), when he was commenting on the book of Jeremiah. Towards the year 570, an anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza wrote that Jerome rested under the church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, alongside the tombs of Paola and Eustochius. The existential itinerary of this doctor found in the love and study of the Bible the roots of sanctity.

4 Mt 6:21; Lk 12:34.

5 Ps 6:6; cf. Is 38:18; Sir 17:22.