Father Noel Reyes, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, took the associate vow of the Rogate. Courtesy photo

The Fourth Vow

Asking the master of the harvest to send out laborers

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An Act of Consecration plays an essential role in the devotional life of the Church. It is a conscious profession of deeply wanting to belong to God’s kingdom. Baptism consecrates us to God through our participation in the Paschal Mystery. An Act of Consecration to the Blessed Mother intensifies our spiritual affiliation as her sons and daughters.

To be consecrated for a religious community means to amalgamate someone to the charism of the order that affirms the fullness of one’s affiliation with the collaborative effort of the mission. An Act of Consecration to God is a conscious desire to be plunged fully into the source and summit of liberating love. The same Act of Consecration goes hand in hand with one’s commitment to intensifying a divine relationship.

In the context of religious life, each member professes their consecration and religious vows as a response to the evangelical counsels of living in poverty, chastity and obedience. One who vows to live the evangelical counsels is expected to be the living witness of God’s kingdom today and the Kingdom to come (eschatological kingdom). It is a way of following closely to Jesus Christ through the evangelical counsels. Though consecration is a personal decision and a choice, it remains a special privilege and a gift from God, who calls and ratifies his saving love.

There are often various arguments and discussions about whether the phrase “life of consecration” may be applied to the diocesan priesthood. As we all know, diocesan priests are ordained. Religious priests, on the other hand, are both ordained and consecrated. They profess to live in poverty, chastity and obedience under the canonical prerogatives within the context of their religious community. In contrast, diocesan priests are expected to witness poverty, chastity and obedience as ordained ministers, committed to living the life of ministerial priesthood in the parish community under the governance of the local bishop.

Both respond to a call to ministerial service as ordained ministers, yet are challenged to be witnesses of the fulfillment of their commitment on different ministerial grounds. A diocesan priest ought to find the completion of Christ’s mission within the context of parish life. On the other hand, a religious priest ought to be a witness to his consecration within the context of the religious community. A religious priest ought to become a saint within his religious family or community, and the diocesan priest ought to become a saint by sharing his life with his parish community. It is an assumption that both diocesan and religious priests are aware of this minute distinction in terms of the testimony of life that both share as ordained ministers.

In the long run, some religious orders and institutes openly share the spirituality of their religious congregation as a form of spiritual fraternal accommodation. They are known as third orders or associates. The Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites, Servites and other mendicant orders have been promoting their spirituality for centuries. The third order affiliation was primarily offered to the laity who wanted to keep their involvement in daily worldly affairs while adapting the spirituality of the religious order of their preference.

Laity access to affiliations as a third order member to either a religious order or a religious institute has become much easier today. Strict rules and guidelines based on the signs of the times have changed, and the outward signs of third order membership have been modified. Belonging to a third order or being affiliated as an associate to a religious institute offers the same spiritual benefits.

Where Did It All Begin?

I entered the seminary of the Rogationist Fathers in Manila, the Philippines, when I was 17 years old. I did not know the difference between a religious and a diocesan priest in those days. No one explained to me the difference between a religious consecration or the public profession of vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. I only knew that if I wanted to become a priest, I must live and study at the seminary, which in a culture like the Philippines considers a place for the “holy,” self-disciplined, cultured, well-mannered and educated. So, I grew up believing I was being taught to become a priest and a “holy person.” I knew I wanted to become a priest, but I did not quite understand the word holy as part and parcel of the way of life.

Since the main charism of the Rogationist Fathers is to pray for holy vocations to priestly and religious life, we prayed every single day and every single hour a one-liner invocation that says, “Send, O Lord, holy apostles into your Church.” It was a Holy Spirit inspired prayer from St. Hannibal Mary di Francia, the founder of the Religious Congregations of the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of Divine Zeal, who initiated the work with the poor in the slums of the Avignone quarters of Messina, Italy, in 1897.

I began formulating my idea of “holiness” since we were also given many books on the lives of the saints, our father founder’s charitable works, and the examples of Jesus in the Gospels. I even created my outward expression of holiness as I gazed upon the religious pictures of Sts. Aloysius of Gonzaga, John Berchmans, Dominic Savio and mystics such us Sts. Joseph of Cupertino, Teresa of Ávila‎, Gemma Galgani and many more.

Though I admired them dearly and prayed for their intercessions, especially for my studies, I realized that I was completely different from all of them. I never experience levitation or apparition events of any sort. I even ate snacks behind the basketball court during our Lenten Friday fast because I felt dizzy after our soccer games. I fell asleep many times during early morning meditations. There were several fights that I got involved in during our basketball games, as well as a water fight with another seminarian in the laundry area, which made us spend extra hours washing dishes after supper. Though the saints inspired me, the imagery portrayed in their stories was the opposite of my character. Yet, I never stopped exploring the different avenues to make the word holy a part of who I am.

A Devotional Vow

As I continued my discernment, life’s journey led me to other possibilities. My seminary formation at the Rogationist Fathers was interrupted after my novitiate. I lived in Taiwan for a couple of years while I remained involved in the Church’s work with Filipino migrant workers. I came to know the Maryknoll Missionaries, which became an important part of my discernment as to where I wanted to continue my studies for the priesthood. My connection with the Maryknoll Missionaries allowed me to continue my seminary formation with the Archdiocese of Chicago. My ordination to the priesthood in 2005 confirmed that God had called me to the priesthood.

While I then was no longer an official member of the religious congregation, something in me stayed connected to the institute. My relationship with my Rogationist classmates remained intact, and my zeal to be part of the mission of praying for vocations and helping the poor remained. The charism of the Rogationist community — that is, prayer for holy vocations and caring for the distressed — never deserted from my heart. I continue to be fascinated and challenged by the words of the Gospel of Matthew.

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest’” (Mt 9:35-38).

On June 16, 2021, I asked the superior general of the Rogationist Fathers if I may be received and be permitted to deepen my spiritual connection with the charism of the Rogationists. I asked to become an associate member of the institute by making a private profession of their vow. I needed permission from my local ordinary, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, to ratify a clear affiliation that I remain as a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Since the private vow of the Rogate was a devotional expression of my intention to respond to the divine command, I committed myself to pray each day and to ask for good and holy workers in God’s vineyard. It was another moment in the history of the Rogationist family to navigate another avenue where the Rogate lives and witnesses within the context of the diocesan priesthood.

A Rogationist religious man or woman professes the intentional prayer for holy vocations as the fourth vow apart from the evangelical counsels. For them, Rogate and the work with the poor are the peak and summit of their charism. They share these gifts with the Church, as handed on to St. Hannibal Mary di Francia. It was emphasized during the deliberations among the provincial council of the Rogationists before I was received as an associate that St. Hannibal intended to promote the Prayer for Holy Vocations in his local diocese and also as an active response to Jesus’ command: Rogate! Pray, therefore!

Today, this fourth vow to the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of the Divine Zeal is being shared, lived and witnessed for the first time in the diocesan priesthood as a way of life and an expression of charismatic collaboration.

Where Is This Leading?

Yes, there is a slight yet significant difference between an ordained priest of a local diocese and an ordained religious priest who professed to live the fullness of the evangelical counsels. As mentioned, both lifestyles are meant to deepen a divine covenantal relationship, to magnify the love of God through one’s commitment to the ministry, but most importantly to sanctify the same relationship that liberates one to love without compromising the uniqueness of character that we receive from God as a gift of creation.

The vow of rogate that emanates from the charism of the Rogationists could be the road and, at the same time, the wagon that brings someone to full response to Jesus’ command to pray for the good and holy laborers in the Church. My devotion to the vow of rogate directs me to a more intimate relationship with him. The commitment to prayer for the holy and good workers in the Church ushers me to examine my conscience daily as I reflect on whether I am contributing well to the vineyard of Christ’s mission. More so, it is an act of constant supplication, of imploring the mercy of God until the same prayers become the transformative element of my life as a priest of Jesus Christ.

Living as a Rogate in the diocesan priesthood is possible without altering canonical status. The spirituality enveloped in the praying for good and holy workers in the Church is life-giving and mission-driven. As St. Hannibal composed for the prayer in 1880: “Let your Divine Heart be open, O Jesus, and from it the good and holy workers to your Church come. Yes, draw them from the depths of your Sacred Heart. Enrich your church with this great and priceless treasure of good workers!”

In the end, St. Hannibal became the answer to his prayers. Let those who adhere to the same devotion and aspiration be the living fruits of their humble supplications as they constantly pray: “Send, O Lord, holy apostles into your Church.”

FATHER NOEL B. REYES is the pastor of St. Jerome Parish in Chicago.


Meet St. Hannibal Mary di Francia, founder of the Rogationists

The Rogationists take their name from the word rogate — to ask — and based on Matthew 9:38, “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” As a young man of 17, Hannibal Mary di Francia was kneeling before the Eucharist in his native Messina, Italy, when he was given the “revelation of the rogate.”

Hannibal was born on July 5, 1851, to a father who was a knight and honorary captain in the Navy and an aristocratic mother. The third of four children, at just 15 months old, Hannibal lost his father.

Father Hannibal Mary di Francia
Father Hannibal Mary di Francia’s call from Jesus to ask for vocations. Courtesy of the Rogationist Mission

Throughout his life, Hannibal had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, the Eucharist and religious vocations.

Ordained to the priesthood on March 16, 1878, he soon was immersed in a ministry serving the poor and orphaned on the outskirts of Messina. He started orphanages.

Always committed to asking the master of the harvest to send out laborers, in 1887 he founded the Daughters of Divine Zeal. Ten years later, he founded the Rogationists — always living the rogate as the fourth vow.

To spread the prayer for vocations, he promoted several initiatives. He had personal epistolary contacts with the popes of his time. He also instituted the Holy Alliance, a movement of prayer for vocations intended for the clergy, and the Pious Union of the Evangelical Rogation for all the faithful.

Comforted by a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Father Hannibal died on June 1, 1927, in Messina. He was proclaimed a a saint on May 16, 2004.


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