St. Paul in the 21st Century

Interview With Pauline Superior General

ROME, JULY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org). – The Pauline order was founded with the idea that if St. Paul were alive today, he would be a journalist, communicating the Gospel through all forms of media, said Father Silvio Sassi.

Father Sassi, superior general of the Society of St. Paul, known as the “Paulines,” explained to ZENIT why the founder, Father Alberione, in the footsteps of St. Paul, wished to create a family to communicate the Gospel through all forms of media.

In light of Benedict XVI’s proclamation of the Year of St. Paul, ZENIT is dedicating a series of interviews and articles to the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Q: What is, for you, the most fascinating aspect of the apostle Paul?

Father Sassi: Among the many characteristics of the Pharisee Saul who became an apostle of Jesus Christ, is the relationship he lived from the beginning with the risen Christ and the mission of preaching, above all to the pagans.

This inseparable link is expressed by the words “for me, to live is Christ” — Phil 1:21 — and “I have become all things to all men” — 1 Corinthians 9:22.

The mission is not based on fanatic proselytism, but on a personal experience that he wanted to share with everyone.

Q: As Paulines, you have the figure of St. Paul as your guide. What most characterizes Pauline spirituality?

Father Sassi: Blessed Giacomo Alberione — 1884-1971 — founder of the Society of St. Paul and other institutions that today make up the Pauline Family, in his fruitful existence, was guided by the mission “to be St. Paul alive today.”

The motivating question for him was: “What would St. Paul do if he were alive today?” The best answer Father Alberione found was in a phrase used in the early decades of the 20th century: “If he were alive today, St. Paul would be a journalist.”

Upon founding the congregation that, since 1914, has been dedicated entirely to preaching through the press — then the great mass media outlets and today with worldwide communication and Internet — Father Alberione called it, without hesitation, “Society of St. Paul.”

Q: Is there a specific Pauline style of evangelization?

Father Sassi: The Society of St. Paul and, later, the entire Pauline Family, through Father Alberione, was born of the Spirit and approved by ecclesiastical authorities, for a pastoral end.

First, the press became a force in societies, then the mass media consolidated and, today, there is digital communication. The Pauline style of evangelization has always been characterized by a concern to make the meeting with God possible in all the forms and languages of communication.

No form of communication is extraneous to the work of evangelization: God can meet man and man can discover God.

It ties God’s hands when we limit meeting him to certain situations or types of human communication. We think of St. Paul who traveled and wrote a great deal.

Q: Do you think that evangelization today must also follow this model, in both traveling and writing?

Father Sassi: St. Paul’s preaching is carried out with the personal meeting, his travels and with his presence through letters.

He was the first, in the primitive Christian community, to write a letter, overcoming the impossibility of communicating face to face.

Today, both forms of preaching remain necessary and complementary.

Pastoral activity carried out in every parish community lends itself to interpersonal communication; the pastoral activity in communications today has no geographical or statistical limits, nor is it limited by a homogenous group.

Father Alberione often repeated to us Paulines: “Your parish is the world,” which means that our parishioners are anyone we can reach with communications.

Q: How can St. Paul help ecumenism?

Father Sassi: In the first Christian community, St. Paul received a precise mission from God: to preach the risen Christ to pagans.

To accomplish this he knew how to be in full communion with Peter and the other “pillars” of the Church, but at the same time put forth his own interpretation to separate Christianity from the practices of Judaism.

He could be a model for bringing unity out of the multiple lives of faith, among the Christian confessions, but also within the Catholic ecclesial community.

After St. Paul, the golden age of the Fathers of the Church confirmed this variety of insights.

In the Church too, history is life’s teacher: From the past one can find answers for the present.

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