In a short time, many countries joined in the initiative and the Society spread from France to Belgium, Spain, Italy and many other nations. In the first months of the foundation of the HC, the Christian community realised the missionary power of the children, which was a big surprise among the priests and bishops in seeing the real welcome extended by the children to this missionary work which puts them at the centre of the Church and the world.
On May 3, 1922, mindful of the Society's great contribution to the missions for nearly eighty years, Pope Pius XI made it his own and recognized it as Pontifical. On December 4, 1950, Pope Pius XII created the World Day of the Holy Childhood, and declared the day of the Epiphany as the date for its celebration, but leaving each nation free to adapt the date to local needs.
Spiritualiy of Holy Childhood
He called it Holy Childhood because he wanted his children’s missionary movement to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who became a child. Christian children are called to work for the salvation of children who do not know Jesus, in honour of and in imitation of the Holy Childhood of Our Lord Jesus. From the first rules edited by the founder, it is evident that:
- the association is placed under the protection of the Child Jesus;
- the Virgin Mary is the principal protector of the association, along with the guardian angels;
- all the baptised children can be members of the association.
- the association is structured in groups of 12 in honour of the 12 years of the infancy of Jesus, imitating him in the following aspects: simplicity, silence, the joy of living, his total availability, his trust in Mary and the docility toward his foster father, and the desire to work on the things of his Father;
- the children are admitted from a tender age till they receive Holy Communion.
According to the charism of the Association, the formative itinerary must give the children a new awareness. With baptism, the child becomes a bearer of Divine grace in which it finds the fullness of the Spirit. Baptism is a generous gift that belongs to the individual but the abundance of grace that derives from it belongs to the universality of the brothers and sisters to whom we are united by the same Father God. For this reason was initiated the Association because Mons. De Forbin Janson could not accept that millions of children would remain outside of the true source of life. The missionary work is born out of baptism and it not just about the adults. The children, in as much children, are missionaries through their prayer and small sacrifices, always in wait of the time when they can themselves become missionaries in the fullness of the term, making the gift of their lives when they are adults.
The Bishop of Nancy, thanks to the Association, returned to the children a privileged place of sanctification: the infancy of the Son of God.