A Letter to St. Hannibal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 16 December 2005 10:10
At the end of the Year of Thanksgiving for the Canonization of our Founder, the Superior General, Fr.Giorgio Nalin, writes a letter to St. Hannibal

Curia Generalizia dei Rogazionisti Via Tuscolana 167, ROMA

Dear Fr. Hannibal,

At the conclusion of the Year of Thanksgiving for the gift of your Canonization, I thought of writing you a letter, to converse with you for a while, with the difficult desire to express the sentiments that I believe come from the hearts of us all.

Your being declared Saint by the Church confirms and strengthens a singular rapport between you, “Padre”, and us your children. A rapport truly born when we have met you at the start of our vocational journey; a rapport that has certainly grown in time, as we gradually deepen our knowledge of you, deciding to follow you… living the same adventure. A rapport, however, with Somebody we have heard, who has been certainly the guide, the inspiration that has oriented the life of each one of us, but has remained, notwithstanding all, in the past, in the remembrance brought by those who have lived with you, and of you, have underlined diverse and complementary aspects of images that have reached us.

I should recognize that to prepare the event of the canonization, hoped and waited from the time you slept in the Lord, we have said and written a lot about you. You have been the theme of circular letters and articles, the subject of paintings, mosaics, statues; the inspiration of songs, poems and recitals; the argument of studies, researches, conventions, transmissions, films. Your image has been reproduced in many versions. Confreres, sisters and experts have reconstructed your story, deepened your spirituality, defined your charism. In all of these works to make you known, we have made you a personality, an event to be contemplated and admired. We have spoken much about you, perhaps setting aside a dialogue with you, you who is for us… the “Padre”. Now recognized as Saint, for the consoling mystery of the communion with the saints that the declaration of your sanctity exalts and recalls, I feel that a new rapport with you has been established, even more intimate and profound. You are truly the Padre whom I can have recourse with confidence, the Padre to whom I can open my heart and mind, to whom I can confide the joys and hopes, problems and difficulties. The Padre whom, for the fulness of glory by which has been marked, I can, with trust… invoke. Thus, at the end of this Year of Thanksgiving, I told myself: instead of once again speaking of you, why not talk to you? It is for this that the desire to write you this letter is born… to start, continue and deepen a dialogue with you that I feel important and decisive for me, for all of us and for your Work that is committed to perpetuate in time the realization of your evangelical dream.

Above all, I would like to return to your canonization to which we reached with sudden acceleration of events. Something that is extraordinary. This has filled us with stupor and joy: in few months the laborious canonical itinerary for tha approval of the miracle has been completed to immediately arrive to the concistory that has fixed the date of the canonization. It almost seems that all happened so that we will not stop in this moment of glory, and we will not lose time preparing for the external feast: As good worker of the harvest, you have willed to send us immediately to our daily duty… where true sanctity grows and is nourished.

I believe that you would have particularly appreciated that all the work of preparation, realization and thanksgiving for your canonization should be characterized by a renewed spirit of collaboration in your family, the Family of the Rogate: Rogationists, Daughters of Divine Zeal and the Laity. It is not something new, but if this spirit continues and deepens itself in all levels, I am certain that we will witness with efficacy and creativity to our common charism in the world and in the Church.

Fr. Hannibal, you are Saint! It is really great to see you raised to the glory of the altars during that radiant morning of 16 May 2004 in St. Peter’s Square. Hearing your name resound once more just like what happened in the beatification… feeling your “heroic” christian, sacerdotal and religious rogationist experience pass in front of the world. It has been an intimate joy for us your children, to ulteriorly see the charism of the Rogate, of which you are the Apostle and Teacher, recognized by the Church in a higher way. It is beautiful to see you greeted and invoked saint by many people together with your great friend Don Orione and with the other four Blessed by the unforgettable John Paul II who now, I am certain, shares with you the same crown of glory. For me, and for all your sons and daughters, it has been a luminous day of grace. Imagine that for you, who was used to receive with promptness, simplicity and adoring gratitude, the unfolding of the designs of God, this moment should have added even more joy and glory, if it would be possible, to the joy and incommensurable glory that you live in the contemplation of the splendor of the sanctity of the face of God. That sanctity that you have tenaciously pursued with faithful constancy in your earthly existence and that the Church today has publicly recognized.

What did you experience, Padre, in hearing the feeble but decisive voice of John Paul II, shouting in front of so many people and to the entire Church: Rogate! If you have already felt interior joy for the first manifestations of attention to the Rogationist prayer from the part of pontiffs during your time, how much joy have you proven hearing the Rogate proclaimed by the cathedra this high! You who have taught us that the divine exhortation (Rogate)… was given for the Church… it is the Church who should be officially praying for this scope. From some time, thanks to God, this happens in every part of the world. Today, everybody recognizes that most of the re-awakening of prayer for vocations is due to you, to your holy fixation.

Then, I do not know if you have understood in the words of the Pope, that beautiful change of accent (in the italian language) for which the reference to you, who had left us the Rogate as mission, has been translated into a command by the Holy Father for us. In fact, John Paul II, instead of saying “lasciò”, he left… he said “lascio”, I leave… to the Rogationists and to the Daughters of the Divine Zeal the duty to work with all their might so that the prayer for vocation should be “incessant and universal”. As if he himself, the Pope, and so the same Church as the one solemnly re-entrusting to us the Rogate during the day of the canonization. It has been a moment so beautiful that most of us have received as grace.

And how do we interpret the fact that both your beatification and your canonization have been supplied by two miracles that happened in countries far from yours, involving minors, both young girls in danger for their lives? Are you not calling us to a greater attention to the children, to the clean pearls, to the poor, specially in countries where Avignone Quarters did not just did not disappear but continue to grow, be it in extension and in poverty, and where women always carry the greater weight of misery? I praise the Lord with you and I thank Him for these miracles made through your intercession. May we not easily forget of your powerful interventions; may we educate ourselves to a spirit of more profound faith and to always see better the goodness and the greatness of God in the events that happen in our way.

Your canonization have had a particular resonance in your City, Messina. Who knows what you felt or thought from your eternal state in seeing yourself this year enthroned in the golden altar at the central apse of the Temple of the Evangelical Rogation. I imagine of your strong discomfort, you, Padre, who is used to the miserable houses of the poor, the bed of the sick, the mud of the street, the playful shouts of the children in the courtyard. You would have seen, as in a flash back, the precocious inspiration of the Rogate, the meeting with Zancone, the entrance to the Avignone houses, the penetrating actions of human and christian promotion practiced there, the ardent supplications made together with the poor for good workers, the first chapel, the 1st day of July 1886, the collaboration of the good persons and the sarcasm of the rich, the difficult beginning of the religious communities and then, all the evolution of your life made of generous, tireless and humble service up to your death. What a difference! From the golden altar where you are raised, you would have gone down immediately in order to meet more “Zancones” who often find themselves with nobody to break the bread for them, to go to the many Avignone Quarters still waiting for good workers, and also to assume again the simplicity of life of your first communities that we, today, find difficulty to imagine, taken, as we are, by the consumeristic tendencies of our time.

Inside that Temple we can find your mortal remains. You are there Padre. There, we freely return because we feel your spirit, your zeal, your voice. The Temple of the Rogate in Messina keeps you, apostle and witness of the Rogate, who, reading from that evangelical text then mysteriously hidden by a hand that covers it, has incarnated it in your life, sang it in your writings and poems, handed it through your teachings and examples. Right now you occupy a space that also symbolically represents the foundations, the ancient heart of the Avignone Quarter, to continue to be the foundation and the heart of the Evangelical Rogation, so that the Rogate should continue to be the reason of that temple that is our house, whose rocks represent all of us, to repeat ourselves that with and like you, we need to be living stones that interpret today the mystery of the compassion and indulgence of Christ from whom the divine Rogate flows.

It has been so emotional to see the Church of God that is in Messina to celebrate, in the cathedral that you loved and of which you were a canon, the joy of your canonization. That church that you had served with all your love and apostolic zeal, that city to which you have contributed for moral and physical re-edification, that people whom you loved, now they stand near you to invoke you with affection and admiration just like way by which the Archbishop, Msgr. Paino, prophetically invoke you during funeral, calling you saint, saint …! In that occasion, he had concluded his discourse saying: You from heaven pray. We down here we will shout loudly: glory, glory, glory; and you will answer us: charity, charity, charity. May your answer Padre resound again in the hearts of your sons and daughters. With you and at the beginning of this new millenium, we would like to go again farther with new creativity of charity to be credible witnesses.

Fr. Hannibal, I would like that you feel, just like me, that our Rogationist journey today, as always, continuously needs to confront itself with you… to meet you… to listen to you. The solemn recognition of your sanctity cannot only remain for me and for all of us as event to be celebrated, a gift to be acknowledged, an extraordinary glory for the Congregation, a favorable occasion to make you known. Your journey of sanctity is singular and sublime because it is constructed along the footsteps of the Christ of the Rogate. It interpellates and provokes me. Jesus has been the unifying center of your life, spirituality and mission, therefore, the central unifier and inspirer of your journey to sanctity. John Paul II, on the occasion of the one hundred years of the Congregation in 1997 said that you have discovered the Rogate “the instrument given by God himself to start that “new and divine” sanctity by which the Spirit wants to enrich the christians at the dawn of the third millenium to make Christ the heart of the world”. This original charismatic inspiration of yours, way beyond our small-minded discussions, is a great design, a wonderful calling to an essential service in the Church and in the world of today. You expect from me, from us, this high measure of sanctity, that same new and divine sanctity of which you are the intiator and teacher. Make in such a way that your canonization will be a propitious occasion so that we can re-appropriate our original vocation… so that we can be, like you, radiation of the light and the word of Christ. Make us walk along your footsteps, in the total acceptance of your apostolic charism, spirituality and mission to be like you salt of the earth and light of the world. Take me, take me by the hand, Padre, make us see how important is the word of God in your life, how much time you spent to study, understand and love it… to make it available to your children and to the poor, to your spiritual children, to all… Teach us the beauty of contemplating the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist, amorous, fecund, worthy and continuous center of your life… of the Christ of the Rogate that you have encountered in your neighbor. Form in us the loving heart of the Virgin Mary, the “bambinella”, the Immaculate, the Mother and Queen of the Evangelical Rogation. In you the Rogate has been the consuming fire leaving you no sleep and rest. In front of the infinite horizon of the ripe harvest, you ask night and day in front of God for holy apostles and have given up your life till to the end. You have sung one day…I dream, I dream, in the amorous ecstasy, fecund ground, determined workers. Make this dream be a reality in us.

Up there, near you, are being gathered during these years your first disciples, who, drawn by your passionate word and your wonderful example, have left everything to follow Christ behind you. Some of them have been important stones in the building of your Work, first faithful interpreters of the journey of sanctity started by you. The auspicious ecclesial recognition of their heroic experience of christian and rogationist life, happily concretized in Mother Nazarena Maione and proposed for other confreres, is a concrete proof that you have been and you are an authentic teacher of holy life.

Dearest Padre, during these months I am visiting the places where the Congregation has spread in world. With true consolation, I find you present in the different Rogationist Communities: I see you in the work of animation of the superiors, in the enthusiasm of the young, in the daily apostolic difficulties of the confreres, in the serene suffering of the sick, but also in the silent suffering that at times suprises us. At times you manifest through your children that come from various countries and cultures, new aspects, unexpected dimensions, spiritual and social answers according to the signs of time. I see you alive as they call you Padre and behind you spend their life for the Gospel of the Rogate. Your aura in theirs, inspite of the variety of origins and colors of skin, is always young and vigorous. Your canonization has infused in each of them the joy and enthusiasm. Make O Padre that the received grace find good soil in all so that it can produce genuine fruits of sanctity. Undoubtedly, beside the enthusiasm and vitality, you know Padre that I am encountering problems and difficulties of confreres and communities. They are the problems that we have discussed in the recent General and Provincial Chapters. You see how, notwithstanding the efforts, indications and proposals that came from differerent places in these recent times, it is not always easy to recuperate the passion that is asleep, to overcome the sometimes accumulated fatigue, to face the limits that age and situations give, to take again proper vocational enthusiasm, to live with joy in the communities that are small and over-loaded with works. Padre, at times I think that we all need to have an effective return to Avignone, to re-live with you our original environment, where, inspite of the stench, the difficulties, the need of collaborators, the many works, there was a clear knowledge of the greatness and beauty of the mission of the Rogate that your ascetic, energetic and indefatigable presence transmitted and that Jesus in the Eucharist envigorates everyday in the hearts of all. Help us to re-create that climate of simple life, near the poor, trustful in the providence and profoundly spiritual. One that has the characteristic of our original communities. From Avignone, we will start again… newly motivated and envigorated.

In the last General Chapter you called us to be Apostles of the Rogate… renewing our passion for the rogationist mission. You have given us many reminders: from the dinamism of the spiritual life to be men of prayer and the communities, houses and schools of prayer, to the daily exercise of ministry shared with the confreres as place of our sanctification; from a renewed passion for the world of the children and the needy, to a new and qualified attention to the pastoral work for vocation and the youth; from the apostolic sharing of charism with the laity, to a renewed commitment in the world of culture and communication. Awaken in us O Padre an effective missionary conscience to renounce our comfort zones so we can go with you, audacious missionary of Avignone, in the diffusion of the rogationist prayer, in the service of the children and the poor, of the least and the abandoned of this world, not only in the periphery of the metropolis but also in those lands where poverty is becoming inhuman misery.

Looking at you and your life, I see that it is proper of the profound passion for the harvest of the Lord and at the same time for the Lord of the harvest that you have found the most true meaning of your human experience, of your sanctity, of your life.

With your canonization, the Church re-launches all and each one of us, Rogationists and the Family of the Rogate, for the roads of the world in order to face the challenges of the new evangelization. It is the era and the hour of the Rogate! It is the time of generosity, of profound prayer and of great sacrifices, of new horizons, of prophetic choices and new frontiers. In this journey, we are not alone. You preceed us. You wish that we live like you. How beautiful it is to be Rogationist like you!

This year dedicated to you will be closed in the joyous climate of Christmas, a feast that you love most and that you taught us to live in a simple and concrete way. Christmas is the feast of the beginning, it is the promise of the future, it is the announcement of the joyful fulfilment. It is Jesus who comes. With the force by which you are enriched by God, open our hearts to the coming of the Lord of the harvest. May he widen the horizon of our mind to see with commpassionate attention the men and women of our time and to know how to accept their real needs. Maintain alive in us the fervour of rogationist religious life. Re-enflame the enthusiasm of the beginnings of our christian and religious vocation to be true Apostles of the Rogate for the third millenium. Finally, I ask you Fr. Hannibal, to bless again all of us, our communities, the laity that share the charism, the collaborators and benefactors, the children, the youth that we educate, the poor that we serve, the commitments and works of all. May your blessing touch our hearts and make us walk in your footsteps.

Dear Padre, I hope that I have not made you tired. Closing, allow that my conversation with you becomes prayer:

Beloved St. Hannibal, our father in the Rogate Model of prayer and of communion Of interior life and apostolate You who are the authentic anticipator And zealous teacher of the pastoral work for vocation Look with favor on the journey Of our community, of our Congregations Of all the members of the Family of the Rogate Born of your prophetic zeal. Teacher in the Spirit, Guide us in the holy mountain that is Christ, To listen everyday to His word, To become witnesses of His paschal mystery Of love and salvation for all. Saint of generous and continuous “yes”, Saint of charity and of compassion Towards the orphans, the children and the poor of the world, You who, following the Christ of the Rogate Have been close to the necessities and to needs of the brethren, Make us also be sincerely committed To the service of the poor and the suffering of our time. You have transmitted to us the Rogate As instrument given by God To raise that sanctity “new and divine” By which the Spirit wants to enrich christians At the dawn of this millenium To make Christ the heart of the world, Render us ardent and generous to the fulfilment of this mission Open our hearts to the great horizons Of the needy of the Church and of the world So that we can offer a qualified service To the harvest of souls waiting for love and salvation You who nourish infinite tender love For the Virgin Mary Immaculate, May she who has kept in her heart the divine Rogate, Intercede so that we, following her example, Can sing the Magnificat For the great work of the Rogate That the Lord fulfills again among us And become always docile and available In saying our daily “yes” to the Lord of the Harvest. St. Hannibal, together with our prayer, Present to the Lord our thanks and praises Forever and ever. Amen

With Filial Affection and Veneration,

Fr. Giorgio Nalin

Last Updated on Friday, 16 December 2005 10:10