Jesus is always with us, alive and true in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Thus, the place that Father Hannibal gives to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in his Institutes is this: “The loving, fruitful, dutiful, and permanent center of this Pious Institute of the interests of Jesus is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. From now on, everyone must know that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the true, effective, and immediate founder of this Pious Institute. We may say of this foundation, “God did something new.” In fact, usually, the Lord grants a founder who is rich with his graces and gifts to his Institutions. However, our Lord himself in the sacred Tabernacle wanted jealously to be the real founder of this Institute, which was born to promote the Heart of Jesus’ divine command that has been neglected for so many centuries, into an Institution, without the intermediation of a founder as we ordinarily intend it. All the graces, help, enlightenment, and divine providence have all poured out from his divine Heart in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Truly, Father Hannibal felt and wanted all of us to feel the real presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle, as the center of attraction of the House!
Before making the first chapel sacramental, for two years, he fostered in his boys, girls, and people he assisted the living desire for the divine presence of Jesus through ardent prayers and moving poems, which resounded with nostalgic notes in the Avignone Houses:
Open, O Heaven of heavens,
Let the Beloved come down to us Enclosed in the host, as the victim Of his divine love
Let our beloved Redeemer
Come among his children!
On July 1, 1886, the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament took possession of the first Tabernacle of the Work in the Avignone slums.
Father Hannibal wrote, “Jesus came as a King in the midst of his subjects, as the Good Shepherd in the midst of his lambs, as a divine farmer to cultivate himself the small plant whose germ contained the small seed of the Divine Rogate! He came as a very loving Father in the midst of his children to form for himself a small family, which would live on his Flesh and his Blood and to enable it to receive from his holy lips the divine command, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest!”
Since then, he wanted to renew every year the loving expectation of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in ways suitable to awaken the fervor of the people. In the last days of June, the Blessed Sacrament was removed [from the tabernacle], and three times a day, the prayers and hymns were repeated. On July 1, Jesus returned with a new name: King, Pontiff, Father, Good Shepherd, etc. Every year, there were new hymns of praise, springing from the heart of Father Hannibal, which later became a volume of verses entitled “The Hymns of July 1”.
“The feasts of the First of July” – as St. Hannibal Mary called them (in the plural) – are “annual tributes of faith and love”, which is not limited to the date of the First of July, but also include the days before and after, almost like a triptych of love. This pious heritage wants to immerse us in the sentiments and faith of St. Hannibal Mary in the Eucharistic presence of our tabernacles, inaugurated on July 1, 1886, and renewed with great reverence “in the middle of each year”.
The days of waiting. Following the tradition of Father Hannibal, we live these days in the absence of the Eucharist as a deprivation of love, while we wait to be embraced again by it. In front of the empty Tabernacle, we repeat the words of Peter to Jesus: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). These days of preparation can be an “opportune occasion for renewal for the Pious Institute”, therefore they should be lived with a spirit of penitence and repentance, and as an occasion of purification for each Rogationist and for each community. It is a time of searching: we are the “scattered flock without a shepherd” who yearns to go in search of the Good Shepherd, who will come on the first of July “among his lambs in order to form his own little flock which, entrusted to Him in the sacrament to be tended by himself and to live with him without fear. ”
The day of contemplation. The date of the First of July, “in the midst of the year”, demonstrates the centrality of the Eucharist in our life as Rogationists and in our Institutes. We are reminded of the words of Habakkuk: “Lord, in the midst of the years revive it” (Hab 3:2). The First of July has been given to us so that we may welcome it without any preconception, and we can continue to do so each year with our hearts open to the “new things” that the Lord does.
The days of the mission. The days of celebration and joy for what the Lord has accomplished among us follow the central date of the First of July. Father Hannibal wanted them to be held especially in the presence of guests and friends of the community who could also enjoy what the Lord had done for the Pious Institute. Usually, they were held on the Sunday after the first of July, but to have friends and the whole community present, they were moved even as late as August.
Prayer for the Coming of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
(Scritti, Vol. I, Ed. Rogate, p. 81)
Come, O Jesus, sweet love, come. O Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father, come. O God Son of the Immaculate Mary, come. O Redeemer of souls, come. Jesus, misty lily of the valleys, come. Jesus, whisper of loving souls, come. Jesus, delight of hearts, come. You are the living Bread that came down from heaven. You are the mystical heavenly manna. You are the clear spring of the house of Jacob. You are the eternal sun shining in the midday of love. O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. O Jesus hidden in the holy tabernacle. When will be that happy day when you will come among us and dwell with us day and night? We desire you. We invoke you. We long for you. We cannot live without you. Come, then, O Jesus, the Supreme Good. Come and take possession of us. Come and reign among us. Come and make us all yours. Amen.