In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I have come to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12:49) Jesus doesn’t mince words here. Jesus is calling his disciples to be pyromaniacs! Of course, Jesus isn’t asking his followers to burn down buildings. He is looking for people who, everywhere they go, are ready and willing to spark fires for the glory of God.
For instance, Saint Paul became a brilliant light for Christ after his conversion on the road to Damascus. In the Book of Acts, Saint Paul described that encounter with Christ : “I saw a light from heaven shining more brilliantly than the sun round me and my fellow- travelers.... I heard a voice saying to me: ‘I have appeared to you for this reason: to appoint you as my servant and as witness of this vision in which you have seen me, and of others in which I shall appear to you. I shall rescue you from the people and from the nations to whom I send you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:13-17). Saint Paul after encountering the brilliant light of Christ then carried that light everywhere he went, throwing out sparks and setting the world on fire. If we want to be Christ’s followers today then I imagine that we need to do the same.
Have I seen this kind of witness today? The answer is yes! I have witnessed this kind of “pyromaniacs for Christ” discipleship in the members of the Pauline Family. It is a spiritual family of five religious congregations, four secular institutes, and one lay association founded by Blessed James Alberione whom Pope Paul VI called “A Marvel for Our Times” and Blessed John Paul II called “The First Apostle of the New Evangelization.” It would be too much for this short article to go into the particular apostolate of each of these congregations and institutes, but suffice it to say that individually—and even more so collectively—they live out the commission of their founder: “You must be Saint Paul living today.” For my part, I didn’t just want to sit on the sidelines and admire from afar this spiritual family on fire for the Lord. Therefore, I threw my log on the fire and became a part of the Pauline Family.
My name is Father Michael Harrington and I am a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a member of the Institute of Jesus the Priest, one of the ten branches of the Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione.
I must say I had never heard about the Institute of Jesus the Priest until after my ordination to the priesthood in the year 2000. From my first days in the seminary I had gained a great deal of familiarity with two Pauline congregations, the Daughters of St. Paul and the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. I had witnessed firsthand their inspiring mission and work. I had also heard a little bit about their brother congregation, the Society of Saint Paul, priests and brothers who evangelize the world today using the media.
On the day of my ordination when my nose hit the marble of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, however, I certainly never imagined the possibility of joining this great family of faith! I began my priesthood as great friends with many of the sisters and deeply admired their mission. Whenever possible I joined the sisters on common evangelization projects. Then one day in 2001 two of the Daughters of St. Paul told me that their founder Father James Alberione had also founded an institute for diocesan priests. Named most appropriately after the great high priest Jesus, this institute belonged to the Pauline Family and shared in the spirituality and prophetic charism of its founder. Though the Institute of Jesus the Priest had many members in Rome, both priests and bishops, there were no members yet in the United States. Hearing there had been a preliminary discussion that the Institute might be started in the United States, I was intrigued and immediately decided to give the Society of St. Paul a call. I did not hear what I had hoped. I was told I should check back in a few years. Disappointed, I nevertheless decided to continue to grow in my knowledge of the Pauline Family to see where it would lead.
In 2005, I had a meeting with Brother Aloysius Milella which became the moment that set in motion my entrance into the institute. The General Government in Rome had told him only months earlier that if he found a priest who had interest in the institute and if this priest possessed a good knowledge of Pauline life then it was time to begin the institute in the United States. The door was finally opening. As I grew in a deeper understanding and love of the Pauline charism, I discovered a fire that needs to burn brightly. On November 22, 2011, I made my first profession of vows in the Institute of Jesus the Priest.
Although there are many challenges to being a part of “the beginnings” of the Institute of Jesus the Priest in the U.S., there have also been many advantages. The spirituality of the Paulines has permeated my life as a diocesan priest, bringing with it more opportunities for creative evangelization. I have experienced the riches of the Pauline Family which supports and prays for me. And finally, the formative spiritual exercises brought to life by Blessed James Alberione have given me a program of life that meets the hope my bishop has for all of his diocesan priests. In 2013, we welcomed a second priest into the institute. The mission of the Institute of Jesus the Priest, integral to the Pauline Family as a whole, is a branch laid on the great fire of the Pauline Family burning brightly in the Church and in the world. May we burn with the love of Saint Paul and may that fire, as Christ so ardently desires, set the world ablaze. We are looking for some “pyromaniacs” to join us.
by Father Mike Harrington
Interested in joining the Pauline Family as a priest, brother, sister, or lay person? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.