A strong faith and industrious character came to Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) from his Italian farming family and provided the backbone for his legendary media apostleship. It also prepared him to establish numerous religious communities and gave him a zeal for souls.
After first expressing a desire to become a priest when in first grade, Alberione spent the rest of his childhood preparing for that goal. He entered the seminary at age 16. Then, during an all-night Eucharistic vigil on New Year’s Eve, 1900, Alberione began to discern a call to serve the men and women of the new century with the various forms of new media that would emerge in the following decades.
After being ordained a priest in 1907, Alberione’s first years were spent in parish work and then as a spiritual director at the seminary at Alba, Italy. A pastor in the truest sense, Alberione was committed to study that enabled him to excel in preaching and catechesis.
The fruit of a deep interior life, he understood the Lord was calling him to preach the Gospel to all people in the manner and spirit of St. Paul. When Europe became engulfed in World War I (1914-18), the opportunity was ripe for Christian visionaries like Alberione to bring the Gospel to the world in new and fresh ways.
In 1914, he founded the Society of St. Paul, a religious community for men. The following year, with the help of now Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, he established The Daughters of St. Paul for women. In total, over the course of his 64 years of priesthood, Alberione established five religious institutes and several other secular institutes for diocesan priests and laity alike.
Together, all the foundations begun by Alberione constitute what’s known as the Pauline Family, whose ministry is focused on transforming the world by proclaiming Christ through the use of media. Alberione guided this work and mission as a writer and publisher, as well as a director and producer of film.
According to the “media apostle,” “The means of Evangelization are varied but the method is one: to give Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life.”
In 1923, Alberione went through a dark time when it appeared he might be suffering from a life-threatening illness. Miraculously recovering, he credited his healing to St. Paul. During this time, he also heard the Lord speak to him, saying: “Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sins.”
By the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), at which Alberione was a daily participant as a peritus, or theological adviser, the membership of his institutes had grown to more than 10,000. At the council, he played a part in the drafting of its decree on social communications, Inter Mirifica.
Blessed James Alberione’s final years remained active, and he traveled the world many times to visit the various locations of his religious family.
An hour before his death, Alberione received a visit from Pope St. Paul VI, who heralded him as “humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, ever recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to action; always intent on scrutinizing the ‘signs of the times,’ that is, the most creative ways to reach souls.”
He died on Nov. 26, 1971.
His feast day is Nov. 26.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter at @HeinleinMichael.