St Annibale as Servant of God, was conspicuous for charity toward his neighbour, but his most tender heartbeats were for the orphans. The Father’s apostolate among the orphans is bound to the Rogationist mission by ideal and history. He writes,
“It is by charity that the Heart of Jesus said in his zeal: ‘Pray therefore to the owner of the harvest to send workers to gather in his harvest.’ If we broaden our heart in this divine charity, we will fulfil our duty as good evangelical workers … When I went on the midst of the Avignone rabble, I remembered the Gospel’s saying of the crowds without a shepherd, and the divine command: Pray therefore… Since then, I committed myself to relieve that abandoned crowd spiritually and material ally.”
While teaching us, the Father used to say, “Be concerned with the mud in the streets, that is, with the abandoned persons, because they sin and lead other people to sin.
“Saving tender children is the holiest work to which we will attend with sacrifice, deeply aware of the excellent good we do when we take them away from vagabondism, risks, and depravity and provide them with a sound education and environment. Thus, by God’s help we form them to become good Christians, perfect Catholics, honest and industrious citizens as well as good parents when they marry. Salvation of abandoned orphans will be one of the most cherished works of the Rogationists. They will provide the orphans with a sound education and an appropriate profession… they will provide them with the things they need, considering the least of the orphans as the first of the Fathers.
“Rescuing an orphan from a deadly future along with providing him spiritual and temporal wellbeing is such a redemption that it does not end with the individual orphan, but continues to bring about innumerable good from generation to generation. Male and female educated orphans who succeed will convey their education and morals in the midst of society through their example as well as by becoming parents of children.”
Once the Father entered the country yard in Avignone District, in Italy, wearing a hat and a cape, which added to the majesty of his noble gait. The boys burst out, “Father! Father!” They used to hasten to him happily clapping their hands. The Father always smiled, opened the cape, and the kids went under it gladly. With measured steps they customarily walked around the courtyard … This is both a reality and symbol!
Next week: St Annibale – Father of the Orphans: Part 2
Source: Blessed Hannibal Mary Di Francia booklet, Philippines