· Cardinal Bertone celebrates Mass for two religious Orders ·
The spirituality, but above all the holiness of Hannibal Mary Di Francia, is the heritage that enriches his spiritual Sons, the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus, and his spiritual Daughters, the Daughters of Divine Zeal, who are called today to perpetuate the witness of the Saint of the Rogate among the neediest and the most deprived, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in his homily at the Mass he celebrated in St Peter's Basilica on Wednesday morning, 7 July, for the Delegates taking part in the General Chapter of the two religious Orders.
Hannibal Mary Di Francia was born into a noble family in Messina, Sicily, on 5 July 1851. He was 17 years old when at prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament he was given the “revelation of the Rogate ”; in other words he became deeply aware that vocations in the Church come only through prayer. He later found in the Gospel that Jesus commands this same prayer when he says “Ask [ Rogate ] the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). Hannibal was ordained a priest on 16 March 1878. He felt that “Rogate ” was not only a recommendation of the Lord but also an explicit command and an “infallible remedy”. He founded the Daughters of Divine Zeal in 1887 and the Rogationists ten years later. He wanted both Congregations to live the Rogate as a vow. They were canonically approved on 6 August.
Cardinal Bertone celebrated the Mass straight after the Pope had blessed the statue of the Founder that now stands in a large niche in the outer wall of the Vatican Basilica.
The Cardinal also mentioned St Hannibal Mary's Beatification (7 October 1990) and, especially, his canonization (16 May 2004) by John Paul ii. He cited the Pope who had quoted the Founder's famous words on the commitment to the vocations apostolate: “Fall in love with Jesus Christ” ( L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 9 May 2004, p. 1).
Cardinal Bertone explained: “with these words St Hannibal evidently wanted to remind all Christians of their duty to be conformed to Jesus, to adhere to him and to strive for holiness. Indeed, this is the soul of every apostolate”.
The Secretary of State continued, “Your Founder reminds us that the prerequisite of all apostolic commitment and the antidote to all dangerous inner fragmentation is personal holiness in docile listening to the Spirit who liberates and transforms the heart”.
A special feature of St Hannibal's life and his intense apostolic activity and holiness, Cardinal Bertone said, was his joyful acceptance of God's will. And, “it was thanks to this attitude of total adherence to the divine will that your Founder was able to interpret correctly the signs of the times, understanding the cries of humanity in need of hope and salvation”.
“Dear Rogationist Fathers and Dear Daughters of Divine Zeal, the celebration of the General Chapter that you are beginning in these very days is a particularly important event in the life of your Congregation.
“May your Founder's original spirituality, characterized by a strong Christocentrism expressed and lived in love and contemplation of the Crucified One and of the Eucharist, be your programme.
“May the memory of St Hannibal Di Francia, an authentic precursor of the modern vocations ministry, awaken in all of us a renewed and even more pressing invocation to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest.
“May the Saint of the Rogate always be for pastors, Bishops and priests, as well as for consecrated people, a living witness and an effective intercessor so that the Lord may continue to bless his Church with, above all, the gift of priestly and religious vocations”.
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