Prudence
Written by Fr. Valentino Macca of St. Mary, O.C.D (Reporter of the Cause of Canonization of Hannibal Mary Di Francia)   
Friday, 21 August 2009 08:46

Prudence

89. – Speaking about the virtue of prudence, which must be the ornament of the superior, among the other things, The Servant of God says: “Prudence is one of the most important virtues which the superior should acquire. This virtue, which regulates all the other virtues, consists in properly understanding and learning everything, either spiritual or temporal. Prudence does not rush, does not go to the extreme, dissimulates, and is forbearing, patient, careful, cautious, careful not to be deceived, watchful, full of experience, always aware. However, the superior must be capable of distinguishing well between holy and profane prudence.

There is a prudence which comes from the Spirit of the Lord, and a false prudence which comes from the spirit of the world. The first acts with the right finality of God’s glory and for the good of souls, and because of this it can moderate itself, and when needed, it can be unpretentious but it can also give advice. The human prudence, instead, works for earthly finalities and interests, postponing God and souls to human respect, and personal attacks. Let the good superior hate this human prudence as a pestilential disease, and not work, think or dissimulate anything out of human respect, personal concerns or likings, though at times she can show some kindness and respect for the social level of some people. Prudence is not a discourteous and rough virtue, because in this case it becomes imprudence. Let the prudent superior never compromise with anybody’s conscience and in whatever circumstances. About doubtful cases true prudence will resort to prayer and sound advises. Let the superior be most prudent in order to avoid the serious damages which comes to the community because of imprudence. Let her pray every day the adorable Jesus Christ, the divine Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, the Virgin most prudent. Let her read regularly, in the sapiential books of the Sacred Scripture, the great praises that the Holy Spirit makes about prudence”[1].

90. - Fr. Carmelo Drago remembers: “The Servant of God often said to us: ‘Prudence is the rule of all other virtues”.

And thus he truly was in all his life, in his whole way of acting, both spiritual and temporal.

Prayer and counsel were the lights to his footsteps. He used to say: “Through prayer we place ourselves in God’s presence and see whether the thing to be done is pleasing to God or not. When it is pleasing to Him, prayer asks for the grace and the necessary things to act. Then we avail of the advice of prudent men, through whom ordinarily the Providence enlightens us on what we have to do”[2].

Bro. Michelino Lapelosa adds: “I can attest that I never noticed anything imprudent. (…) In order to act prudently he used to pray and to have us pray to God and to the Saints before everything especially when dealing with important issues. Since he was governing the Institute, he often called his closest and most experienced collaborators, like Fr. Palma and Fr. Carmelo to discuss about the most suitable ways to run the House. In Oria the bishop used to request his advises. Jokingly the Bishop often told us: ‘Father Hannibal has advised us and he will continue advising us’. I often saw ecclesiastical and secular people calling on him for suggestions”[3].

91. - Fr. Vitale said: “When it comes to prudence, although he practiced virtues in heroic degree, he didn’t impose them to others. Instead he seldom granted the permission to practice too arduous virtue. He was accustomed to say: ‘Do everything after having received advises, and you will not regret later’ [‘fac omnia cum consilio et not paenitebis postea]. He warmly recommended the bodily health and, like St. Bernard, he used to call youth’s follies the exaggerated penances that he did at that age. In the most difficult matters of the community he used to gather all the priests for suggestions”[4].

During the Informative Process the Promoter of the Faith asked ‘ex officio’ to Fr. Vitale: “ Concerning prudence, I desire to know whether the Servant of God has tried everything to prevent the separation of the female Institutes, which came about through the flight of some sisters from Messina, by night. They settled in Roccalumera, where they still resides, and from where they later on spread to other place under the direction of his brother Canon Francis”. Fr. Vitale thus answered: “Certainly the servant of God, as he was distressed by that experience, of which he ignored the preparation, thus he desired their return. I was present during a conversation between the Servant of God and Don Orione regarding this matter, but Don Orione was definitely contrary, because he retained morally impossible their fusion in the spirit of Can. Hannibal Di Francia. Nevertheless the Servant of God was generous with moral as well as, I believe, financial helps”[5].

92. - Sr. Emenegilda Serra gave this testimony: “In admitting to and dismissing from the congregation, the Servant of God acted always prudently. I can testify about my experience in being admitted to the Congregation”[6]. Fr. Carmelo Drago adds. “Though he was much in need of personnel, still he was very demanding in the admission to the religious profession and much more to the Sacred Orders”[7].

Fr. Carmelo continues saying that: “He used to demand much prudence in the new foundations. Ordinarily he required not less than one month of special prayers and application of intentions of Holy Masses. Then he wanted to be personally aware of how the foundation could develop both in its spiritual as well as in its material aspect; whether if the place was healthy, whether the surroundings were conducive for the health of the boys etc. His prudence didn’t allow him to do anything blindly”[8].

93. - Fr. Vitale underlines, “He did not venture into any of the biggest purchases, like the [real estate] in Oria, Trani, Altamura and Messina, without the advice of experts, and most of all, of his ecclesiastic superiors”[9].

Fr. Caudo, on his side, remarks: “For what concerns prudence I heard at times some rumors about a supposed eccentricity in the foundation of his Works (…), however the facts have shown that his institutions have always progressed, they have multiplied and enlarged”[10].

Sister Beatrice Spalletta has stated, “Concerning balance in his government the Father was exceptional. I mean: when there was minimal fault done by us he was immediately excited, he made us realized the gravity of it, he reproached us, and he threatened a punishment or imposed it. But later on he was immediately calm, and upon seeing a sign of our conversion he forgave the fault or reducing the punishment to its minimum, with joy in his soul”[11]. Bro. Luigi Barbanti, adds, “If any of us was at fault, he always reprimanded us by himself alone, and was very jealous of the privacy because he didn’t want any other to know about that action”[12].

94. - Fr. Vitale remembers that, “In order not to deepen the arguments among the members, he was trying with supernatural prudence to let each one see his wrongs and his rights, thus obtaining always harmony. Furthermore he was of a great finesse, with a true Christian diplomacy in conducting some discussions outside or in our houses”[13].

Mother Teresa Quaranta testifies, “In general I can affirm that in all the matters he was directed by a great prudence, as well as in advising and directing, although sometimes his zeal seemed quite strong to us. He educated us to govern ourselves, in view of the time when he would be no more”[14].

Sr. Antoinetta Galetta adds: “I found him always prudent, e.g., if any young lady was to be sent out of the institute, he was doing it with caution, and providing her with money, in case of necessity. His dealing with us was always reserved. Some of us would have liked to confess to him, but he refused, alleging his role as director of the institute”[15].

95. – Msgr. Fortunato Farina has deposed, “I noticed his zeal so that the inhabitants of Spinazzola might not be deprived of the help of a kindergarten laboratory for young women run by the Daughters of the Sacro Costato. The house where they lived was the center of their works which they rent. The owners of the house suddenly decided to sell it for a price comparable to their affection and with immediate complete payment. The dawning Congregation of sisters did not have at all the means to acquire it, nor the Bishop of Venosa, in whose jurisdiction Spinazzola is in charge. The good Bishop with great pain was foreseeing the suppression of the beneficial institution in that municipality, where the subversive propaganda in that time (1920) was asserting itself, had the majority in the Civic administration. Besides in that place there was a lack of Priests.

In view of all of this Can. Di Francia with great generosity committed himself to get the funds for the purchase, despite of the economic problems that he had for his Works. In fact he succeeded, the house was bought and is until now entrusted to the sisters whose work is developed and was highly appreciated by Spinazzola. In such circumstance I admired the prudence of the Servant of God: during the transaction he was even able to elude the exaggerated pretenses of the seller, who wanted to take advantage of the very strong urgency that the sisters and the Bishop had for that purchase”[16].

96. – And Fr. Carmelo Drago adds, “As much as the Servant of God was prudent and simple like a dove, so he was also very keen in very defending his rights and in making his reason heard”[17].

And Fr. Salvatore Russello: “In his way of acting didn’t see any semblance of recklessness: he knew very well where he wanted to reach and how to adjust the means to it”[18].

Fr. Carmelo Drago continues, “He was always calm and reflexive in everything, especially when he had to judge the moral and religious behavior of his neighbor. In this he seemed to have a special intuition even supernatural. His prudence was outstanding in particular way when he had to deal with people who allegedly had ecstasies, visions, revelations etc. With them he was very cautious and prudent, and he didn’t allow absolutely that others be obliged to believe”[19].

Sr. Alvina Manicone has testified, “I know a fact that happened personally to me. I was a novice in 1925 in Altamura. One of the sisters dreamt of Melania and relates her dream to the Superior. The Superior relates it to the Servant of God who in that time was in Altamura. The Servant of God, who didn’t absolutely believe in dreams, wanted to call the dreamer. Because of a misunderstanding it was I who called, I that have never dreamt. The Servant of God started to speak to me of the dreams, which are things not to be believed”[20].

97. – One of the Theologians Censors got perfectly the point in this regard. He wrote, “However, though as a speaker used to indulge willingly on these details, we cannot say that he did not have the correct concept of “private revelations”.

“In a letter on August 10th 1925 to Msgr. Charles Liviero, bishop of Citta’ di Castello conserning the printing of the diary of Saint Veronica Giuliani he rightly observes: ‘I always held... (Sic) that deceit can always enter in the visions or locutions, especially to women, even though holy. Poulain imputes some of these errors even to saints that the Church honors on the altars. How many contradictions between St.Brigida, D’Agreda, Emmerich and etc. I believe that the revelations or locution cannot be taken as scriptural words, that some are to be omitted, and some to be annotated with some explanation to give them a correct and prudent meaning” (vol. 29, pag.82).

“In another letter to Msgr. Bergamaschi of Montefiascone (no date) he expresses the same concept, “It seem to be according to prudence and sacred rectifications, about private revelations, not to proceed immediately with blind faith at the same level as for the Canonical Books or the Decrees of the Holy Church. Many are blunders that even highly enlightened person can get, especially women, in similar visions, revelations, locutions or inspirations. Often the divine work suffers the alterations of the human channel through which it passes” (vol. 37, p.p. 115-8) “.[21]

98. – Another of the Theologians Censor, referring to Melania and to the apparitions at La Salette observed that the Servant of God encouraged the Rev. Emile Combe to write a biography of Melania Calvat (a previous book of the same Combe, entitled “The secret of Melania”, had been already condemned by the Church). However [Fr. Hannibal] “submits with extreme frankness some correct and balanced ideas to him (see “frank declarations” N.I vol. VIII, p.62), about “the errors in which ordinarily people incurs in defending La Salette, with great prejudice for this holy cause” (p. 60). (…) Canon Di Francia observes, “Besides defending the apparition of the Sacred Virgin, “you do not proceed with the due prudence, circumspection and reservation and even charity” (p 60). And he added “according to weak opinion, your too exaggerated defenses of the apparition of La Salette and its Secret have greatly jeopardized these divine events; thus the only one gaining is the devil”. He continues: “According to the teaching of the sound Theology God wants all that he works privately in his church, be directly submitted to the opinion and will of those who represent him. God is jealous of this order established by himself, and doesn’t want this rule of faith be altered”[22].

99. – Still another Theologian Censor, considering the position of Fr. Combe, has written: “[Fr. Hannibal] showed the same balance in appraising the work done by Leon Bloy with his writings in favor of La Salette”[23].

Msgr. Fortunato Farina, Apostolic Visitor for the Works of Fr. Montemurro, testifies: “The charges moved to Fr. Di Francia were that he was impressionable and impulsive, and therefore rash in his decisions (…). It seemed to me, that they mistook his strength and promptness in the execution of the decisions, deemed reasonably necessary, as impulsiveness, whereas he revealed himself to be reflexive and balanced; nor was he sticking to his opinion only, but he used to ask for advises”[24].

100. – Fr. Roberto Risi has deposed, “Fr. Palma was for Canon Di Francia what Don Rua was for Saint John Bosco”[25].

Fr. Camillo Ruggeri, answering to a question “ex officio” has said, “A great part of the accusations against Fr. Palma originated, from inexperience and from the lenience of some of our confreres. Also in connivance with some sisters (like Sr. Olimpia, who wrote now in favor and was against Fr. Palma). These accusations would certainly have been dissipated if Fr. Vitale, to whom those brothers often wrote, had made some serious investigations. Thanks God, however, every time Fr. Hannibal got wind of something he used to intervene immediately, giving to everybody what they deserved. For what I remember Fr. Palma was never scolded.

I forgot to say that Fr. Palma was so generous, also when it comes to inheritance, to leave the full power of attorney to Fr. Vitale also after the death of the Founder. With this proxy Fr. Vitale could have been able to send the good of the Congregation to ruin thus forcing the properties of Fr. Palma who were already as guarantees, to be tied up, as I have told previously. From what I have said and that I have been able to remember to my best, it seems to me that I can answer to the interrogation of the Promoter of Faith that the Servant of God was prudent also in leaning his trust on Fr. Palma”[26].

101. Fr. Carmelo Drago who for many years was close to Fr. Hannibal and to Fr. Palma has produced a testimony whose premised says: “The present writing aims only at one thing: to enlighten the Judges who deal with the “Cause of Beatification” of the Servant of God, Hannibal M. Di Francia, on the absolute and exemplary virtue of prudence practiced by him in entrusting to Fr. Pantaleone Palma, fervent Religious Rogationist, many and delicate assignments not only economical, but also spiritual concerning several Houses of the Daughters of Divine Zeal, especially in the Continent.

I still retain that it was an act of excellent prudence of the Servant of God, to have entrusted in the hands of Fr. Palma almost the complete management of the patrimonial goods of the Work, and especially to have named the same Fr. Palma as “universal heir” of the economic good of the two Congregations, through his holographic will[27]“.

102. – Mr. Paul Gazzara testifies, “I have never noticed imprudence in his behavior, unless we might call imprudence his boundless trust in God”[28]. And Mr. Salvatore Bulone: “When it comes to charity he didn't have human prudence; he trusted only in God and thus he used to reach the goal”[29].

But the most beautiful praise of the prudence of the Servant of God was uttered by Msgr. Joseph Guarino in a particularly delicate moment when the Cardinal wrote to Fr. Hannibal, “You acted with your usual highest prudence, which I always liked”[30].



[1] Writings, vol. 1, p. 203.

[2] Testimonianze, n. 312.

[3] Testimonianze, n. 231.

[4] Testimonianze, n. 67.

[5] Testimonianze, n. 95.

[6] Testimonianze, n. 492.

[7] Testimonianze, n. 313.

[8] Testimonianze, n. 313.

[9] Testimonianze, n. 83.

[10] Testimonianze, n. 104.

[11] Testimonianze, n. 194.

[12]Testimonianze, n. 116.

[13] Testimonianze, n. 83.

[14] Testimonianze, n. 440.

[15]Testimonianze, n. 442

[16] Testimonianze, n. 428

[17] Testimonianze, n. 313

[18] Testimonianze, n. 187.

[19] Testimonianze, n. 312

[20] Testimonianze, n. 485

[21] Decrees and Evaluations on the Writings, p. 19 - 20.

[22] Decrees and Evaluations on the Writings, N.I., pp. 70-1, cfr. p. 29

[23] Decrees and Evaluations on the Writings, N.I., p. 29

[24] Testimonianze, n. 430

[25] Testimonianze, n. 263

[26] Testimonianze, n. 370

[27] Testimonianze, n. 336

[28] Testimonianze, n. 179

[29] Testimonianze, n. 261

[30] Documentation, Doc. 45; Chronology, p. 1299

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