On 07 October 1990, Padre Annibale was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy. This anniversary brings to mind the time when Padre Annibale’s heart relic visited the Philippines in December to January 2001.
That visit was, indeed, a great blessing for each one in the community and to all the people of Laoag. It was a jubilant celebration and we still reminisce about that time. My heart is still full of gratitude for the opportunity of meeting the Padre, a holy man and a friend of God whose life was consumed for the love of God and his neighbour. God gave us a unique gift during that Christmas and I consider it great. My advent journey experience was a joyful expectation of the Padre’s coming and it became so real and full of excitement, like the Israelites who were waiting for the Messiah to rescue them from the bondage of slavery.
The presence of the Padre brought me back to the memories when he was still alive. History was repeating itself but now in the Philippine context. The dream of Padre Annibale to go to the mission land of Asia had become a reality and we, his spiritual sons and daughters, had gone ahead of him to prepare the day of his coming. He became alive in our hearts, to the people from different walks of life. I felt the presence of his love, his zeal for the Rogate, his burning love for the poor and his passion towards the abandoned harvest. His presence brought joy, love and hope as he touched others’ lives by reaching out to them. His visit was beyond my expectations and I consider it as God’s surprise for me.
The man who never said “no” to those who were in need of help came to answer the cry of the poor. Many graces were received through his intercession and the great grace I experienced was his presence. His sanctity inspired me in my journey as a consecrated person. I was also inspired on hearing the sharing of others, of their “love at first sight” with the Padre. As he has space for everyone, laypeople were also attracted to his example of life and reserved a place for him in their hearts.
This experience challenged me as his spiritual daughter, and I pray that the zeal for the Heart of Jesus’ interests continues to burn in my heart, like that of our Padre.
Were you there when his heart came to the Philippines? What was your experience?