Today is the birthday of Saint Annibale Maria Di Francia who was born in Messina, Sicily, Italy on 05 July 1851.
Annibale’s mother was a noblewoman called Anna Toscano and his father was Sir Francis Di Francia, Marquis of Saint Catherine, named by Pius IX as Papal Vice-Consul and Honorary Lieutenant-Commander of the Navy. His father died while he was just two years old and later at the age of seven, his mother sent him to the St Nicholas Boarding School run by the Cistercian Fathers. During his stay there, Annibale nurtured himself in the rudiments of knowledge and religious fervour, and he would always cherish the good Fr Foti, who enkindled in him the flames of love for the Blessed Virgin.
St Annibale’s love for others was manifested in his early years at the boarding school. One day, a poor man gained entrance to the school canteen and while he was in a corner eating the meagre food that had been given to him, one of the schoolboys gave the signal to make fun out of him. Not only several of the schoolchildren were involved but also those running the place made fun of the poor man with wisecracks, then they started tossing fruit peels, cores and scraps at him. Before the humiliated man was able to get up and leave, little Annibale, who could not bear what he had witnessed, put some bread, cheese and fruit in a basket. Then he ran to the man and gave him the food. Overwhelmed by the gesture, the old man with tears in his eyes, embraced and kissed Annibale.
During the time of the Italian Revolution of 1866, all religous institutions were forced to close down, including St Nicholas Boarding School. Still, the young Annibale continued his studies and made good progress under the tutelage of the famous Sicilian poet Felice Bisazza. Though born with a natural inclination for poetry that could certainly reap laurels, Annibale preferred to dedicated his life to charity. After all, is not charity the highest form of poetry?
What kind of poem would your life write?