Deus Meus et Omnia!
(My God and My All!)
Luisa and the Franciscans
…The interest in Luisa is worth mentioning, both because of the attention devoted today to acquiring a deeper knowledge of this mystic (and Luisa is such since with her contemplation and acceptance of physical and spiritual sufferings she attained a remarkable intimacy with Jesus) and because Luisa was known and visited by several of our friars (Fr. Fedele from Montescaglioso, Fr. Guglielmo from Barletta, Fr. Salvatore from Corato, Fr. Terenzio from Campi Salentina, Fr. Daniele from Triggiano, Fr. Antonio from Stigliano, Fr. Giuseppe from Francavilla Fontana, to mention but a few), who were able to communicate to her essential elements of Franciscan spirituality, while from her they assimilated love for Christ and commitment in doing God’s Will….
Fr. Mariano Bubbico
By Padre Bernardino Bucci
It seems that the Franciscan fathers, and particularly the Capuchins, suggested to Blessed Annibale that he place his works under the protection of St. Anthony of Padua. It is certain that there was a deep reciprocal esteem between Blessed Annibale and the Capuchins. I personally heard a lot about Blessed Annibale Maria di Francia from our older fathers.
Fr. Annibale published Luisa’s writings, many of which were given to our friars, whom he warmly commended not to disclose the author’s name to anyone since the devout writer wished to remain anonymous.
The Capuchin friar who had the most to say about this was Fr. Isaia from Triggiano, who was simple and humble, the figure of an authentic priest. This father had a deep veneration for Luisa Piccarreta and jealously preserved her writings and a few objects that had belonged to the Servant of God. Among these was a holy card with a picture on which a prayer had been written by Luisa in her own hand.
Fr. Isaia often used to say: “Luisa is a great saint and Fr. Annibale another great saint, because he enabled us to know her. Saints understand one another. It is God who brings them together”.
In far off 1917, Fr. Isaia from Triggiano was a Capuchin student at our friary in Francavilla Fontana, where on several occasions the friars gave hospitality to Fr. Annibale Maria di Francia, who was establishing one of his works in nearby Oria.
These are Fr. Isaia’s impressions of Fr. Annibale: “He was a priest who truly belonged to God, and at the sight of him, we students would gather round him with great sympathy. We all went to him for confession. He had an unusual appearance, as well as an unusual manner of speech and gestures, always moderate and with a reserve that did not command fear but filial trust. He constantly spoke to us of God’s Will and exhorted us to bear with hardships and contradictions. He told us that a soul who was consecrated entirely to God was suffering and praying for us all”.
“This soul”, Blessed Annibale said to Fr. Isaia, “is a daughter of your region, and this is a sign that the Lord is blessing the people of Bari”. To comfort him in his doubts and sufferings, he gave him L’orologio della Passione, which he himself had had printed. Fra Isaia, a Capuchin student at the time, asked him where this holy soul lived and who she was, but Fr. Annibale answered: “just think about preparing yourself properly for the priesthood and always doing God’s Will, and in due course you will discover who this soul is”.
Fr. Isaia, become a priest, went to see Luisa Piccarreta, from whom he sought advice and – not infrequently – comfort in his apostolate, threatened by malicious gossip.
This father had extraordinary ideas about running the students’ community with a draconian discipline; he frequently left the students fasting, because they had to mortify themselves and resemble the crucified Christ. The worst thing was that he did not even allow them to study. Their studying was to consist of the crucifix and penance; he consequently placed in the students’ rooms a large crucifix and a scourge. It is easy to grasp the state of mind of all the students, many of whom fell ill. Fr. Annibale di Francia, on one of his visits, called Fr. Gerardo and made him understand that young men who were still growing could not be treated with such a regime. And he himself set the example, by taking a great many provisions to the friary and begging them to eat their fill, at least sometimes. Fr. Annibale was very sensitive to the young students’ health, and would often say to them: “This is not God’s Will”.
It seems that Fr. Gerardo was not totally unmoved by the exhortations of Fr. Annibale, who could speak with such conviction and love that he had an impact on even the hardest of hearts. In fact, the results were immediately noticed: books were bought for the priestly formation of the young men, and slightly larger portions of bread and soup began to appear.
Shortly afterwards Fr. Gerardo left the Order and was excommunicated for his bizarre ideas and his rebellion against the Church. The Venerable Annibale’s words came true. Indeed, when the despairing students knelt at his feet for confession, he would often say: “Continue to live God’s Will intensely, because in a little while everything will change. Courage!”.
Many fathers were in contact with Fr. Annibale and through him became acquainted with Luisa. How is it possible to forget Fr. Daniel from Triggiano, a splendid figure of a Capuchin, a man who was a true little flower of St. Francis. Still today, his simplicity, his words and his acts live on throughout our Monastic Province.
“Are you Bucci from Corato? Did you know Luisa? You should know that she is a great saint and you should never stop praying to her if you want to be a priest”.
I also heard the following fathers talk a lot about the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta. Fr. Giovanni De Bellis, who was frequently invited to Corato to preach, went to Luisa’s house on these occasions. Fr. Giovanni, my confrere in the community of the Friary of Trinitapoli when I was superior and parish priest, often spoke to me of Luisa Piccarreta and Blessed Annibale Maria di Francia, whom he had known personally. I had the good fortune to be present at Fr. Giovanni’s last moments. This father died while he was completely immersed in prayer, ‘his hands joined, the beads of the rosary between them. His last words were: “May God’s Will be done”. It was 1982.
Fr. Terenzio from Campi Salentina also deeply venerated the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta and would talk of her every time he met me. It was he who told me that the beatification cause of Fr. Annibale, Luisa’s confessor, had been initiated. When I was a young novice at the Friary of Alessandro, Fr. Terenzio was superior. One day he offered me this testimony: “There was a period when I was going through a crisis in my faith, and one day I went to Luisa, who listened to me kindly. She clarified all my doubts, and gave me such clear and profound theological explanations that they were a revelation to me. All the doubts that my theological studies had not clarified were dispelled by Luisa. There is no doubt that Luisa had the gift of infused knowledge”.
Fr. Guglielmo from Barletta, one of the most distinguished priests of the Province who had several times been Minster Provincial and was rector of our theology center for students, spoke one day, during a lesson on ascetics, of Venerable Fr. Annibale and his works. He spoke at length of L’orologio della Passione and of the book Maria nel Regno della Divina Voluntà. Referring to Luisa Piccarreta, he said: “She is a great and marvelous soul. We are not even worthy to be her finger-nail”. Fr. Giuglielmo did not tell me whether he had known Luisa personally.
Almost all our older fathers had direct or indirect contact with the Venerable Annibale and Luisa Piccarreta. Among them those to be remembered are: Fr. Zaccaria from Triggiano, several times Provincial; Fr. Fedele from Montescaglioso; Fr. Giuseppe from Francavilla Fontana; Fr. Tobia from Trigiano; Fr. Antonio from Stigliano, who left some writings on the Servant of God; Fr. Dionisio from Barletta; Fr. Arcangelo from Barletta, also Provincial; Fr. Pio from Triggiano, Provincial; Fr. Gabriele from Corato; Fr. Timoteo from Aquarica, a great friend of Luisa’s last confessor, Fr. Benedetto Calvi, in whose parish he often preached (he also assisted at the translation of Luisa’s body from the cemetery to the church, and concelebrated at the Mass in the main church for the opening of the beatification cause of the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta); Fr. Salvatore from Corato, of whom I shall speak in a separate chapter. Many lay brothers who went to Corato to beg for alms never failed to visit Luisa: Fra Ignazio, Fra Abele, Fra Rosario, Fra Vito and Fra Crispino, who often spoke to me enthusiastically of Luisa, whom they greatly revered.
Quotes from St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace!
Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.
Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.
If a superior give any order to one who is under him which is against that man’s conscience, although he do not obey it yet he shall not be dismissed.
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.
No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.
Fra Bernardino Giuseppe Bucci, a Capuchin student
(standing, second from the left beside the director)
with the other students in a souvenir photograph.
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