Our Father Founder, St Annibale Maria Di Francia, died in Messina, Italy on 01 June 1927. On this, his Feast Day, we recall now some of his words about his early days…
I was still a deacon when I entered the Avignone Quarter for the first time, 22 years ago1; this quarter was the city’s infamy, and it impressed me a great deal with its great misery and abandon. Those unhappy persons were living like animals: all marriages were illegal, children were immersed in mud, and were exposed to immorality, and old people died on the bare, wet ground of the slums. It reminded me of the words of the gospel:
As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his disciples, “There is a large harvest, but few workers to gather it in… Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” (Mt 9:36-38)
Ever since, I engaged myself to relieve those abandoned persons spiritually and materially as much as I could. …I thought what is the meaning of the few orphans who are saved, the few poor who are evangelized, compared with the millions and millions of people who get lost and are abandoned like sheep without a shepherd? I looked at my poor means, at the smallest sphere of my activity, and sought for a solution. I found a wide, unlimited outlet in the adorable words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Pray, therefore, to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” I seemed to have found the secret of all good works and of the salvation of all souls.
…The spirit of this prayer became quickly the spirit of this pious institute2 and formed its character, its aim and its practice.
In this pious institute, the two little religious orders take the vow to pray every day in order to win the good workers to the holy Church in obedience to the most holy Heart of Jesus’ command. Both Rogationists and Daughters of Divine Zeal wear on their chest the sacred red emblem of the most holy Heart of Jesus along with the gospel’s words “Pray therefore…”3
In fact, the two orders are concerned with works of charity and beneficence derives legitimately and immediately from the mission of the vocation prayer; in fact, if they pray continuously to win the good workers to the holy Church, if they follow the wish of the most holy Heart of Jesus through his divine command, much greater is the reason they have to strive to be good workers themselves. The fulfilment of the fourth vow not only engages them to this continuous prayer, but also binds them to spread its spirit everywhere, which they do by educating orphans and evangelizing the poor, by teaching them that the most desirable grace is to obey the command of the most holy Heart of Jesus through the practice of the Evangelical Rogation.
2018, and the need for us to pray is ever greater. God hears us and the love in his Divine Heart makes him yearn to be with us and to help us. In amongst our prayers for our hopes and concerns, let us take a little time today to say an extra prayer for vocations. Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into Your Church!
A reminder there will be a Eucharistic Celebration for today’s Feast Day on Saturday 09 June 2018 – see our invitation for details. RSVP date is 02 June, so feel welcome to get in touch soon!
Source: Rogationist Anthology, pp 223-226 (excerpts) | Image courtesy of difrancia.net
- Padre Annibale was writing this account on 10 October 1900.
- Comprising the Daughters of Divine Zeal and Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus.
- Today, only the Daughters of Divine Zeal are wearing the external emblem.