Simplicity in St. Hannibal
Written by Antonio Nocellado Jr.   
Thursday, 18 August 2011 01:59
In his familial words as the Major Superior, Fr. Herman Abcede, RCJ proposed to the whole members of the Philippine Delegation to altogether journey towards maturity from the perspective of living simply. Fr. Herman made his point plain and simple. It was for all the Rogationists to be renewed once again to consider and prioritize the basics of the religious identity with the creative fidelity to our Rule of Life.

In response to his invitation, nowadays there are the noticeable sensibility and awareness among the members of the Philippine delegation. A number of priests and brothers share their comments and reflections as their appropriation and personal deepening on the call for simplicity. Formation Houses would also integrate in their formation this timely exhortation for the seminarians and young religious’ growth and maturity.

With the exhortation and the positive response of a number of religious in the Delegation, it is but important also to look at first and foremost our saintly Founder as our model for living a simple life as he was himself enlightened and guided by the ultimate Rule of Life-the Gospel. Let us take then a glimpse on how St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia lived his earthly journey in simplicity.

The following are some notable instances in the life of St. Hannibal as narrated from the “Father’s Soul” written by Fr. Teodoro Tusino, RCJ and the “Fragments” written by Fr. Carmelo Drago, RCJ.

From the “Father’s Soul”:
Simplicity is an expression of interior life: Fr. Francis Fazio, a Jesuit testified that St. Hannibal was a saint of inner and simple life, which he lived in the charity for the unfortunates.

Simplicity is living the Evangelical Poverty: Fr. Vitale would give description of Fr. Hannibal as always child-like from the time of his birth to the end of his life. St. Hannibal’s room was lacking everything. He wanted his room simple and whitewashed, a few pieces of furniture, sacred pictures, and some papers. Every object of the house should be kept with care, else it would displease him.

A sister commented about Fr. Hannibal, “Accompanied by another sister I entered his little room to talk to him. I marveled at the bare walls and his big, reddish slippers, which I judged unfitting for a priest.
St. Hannibal’s clothes are humble, colorless, and shoes often mended. When benefactors would give him clothes, most often these gifts ended up in the hands of the poor. In like manner, the sisters made a new cassock for him but he was not satisfied. He said that money could have given to the poor, whereas his old cassock could last longer. For Father Hannibal poverty, simplicity and cleanliness go well together, and he showed it by combining the spirit of poverty with the sense of hygiene.

Simplicity is seeking for the last place: After the opening of the House in Oria, for ten days the brothers slept on emergency beds or mats or blankets while Father Hannibal slept on planks covered by sheets. He said that an old man’s bones are more resistant than children’s.

From the “Fragments”:
Simplicity is charity: When Father Hannibal was in a hurry to take the train and he accidentally left one of his shoes. What Father Hannibal did was he throw also the other one and so the brother asked, “Father, why did you throw the other one?” The Father replied, “so that the one who can find it, can use them.”

Simplicity is sincere acceptance of one’s assignment: The young religious brother then Fr. Drago said to Fr. Hannibal, “I do not know how at all how to cook or to be a treasurer.” Fr. Hannibal answered, “You will learn little by little…it doesn’t require any special course in cooking. Besides, I know a little, and I will teach you how to do…The main difficulty is not to administer and spend, but in not having anything to administer, nor money to spend, because as you see, we have no money at all. We have to entrust ourselves solely to the Divine Providence. We used to go to the market not to buy things, since we didn’t have money, but only to beg for charity.”    

Simplicity is justice: Fr. Hannibal asked Brother Giuseppe whether he was able to pay the ticket. He answered, “I didn’t pay.” This cannot be the Father added, “It is not right. You had to pay!” The brother replied, “Father I had all the good intention to pay, but the ticket controller could not reach me, as well as many others, because of the great crowd; many passengers did not get their ticket.” The Father responded, “You have to pay the ticket anyway, because it’s against justice.”

Simplicity is happiness in spite of hardships: Fr. Hannibal said, “Spirit of (poverty) simplicity is a certainly a guarantee for the Congregation. Many commodities are still lacking, thus, requiring not small sacrifices: you can see clothes and cassocks with patches and over-patches that honor the holy poverty. But it seems to me that the best sign is that no one complains and all are contented and joyful.”

Simplicity is a beautiful teaching on poverty:  Fr. Hannibal said, “The perfect observance of poverty enriches the soul with all goods and preserves and consolidates communities. When its observance becomes lax, the whole religious life collapses. We can get a teaching on this from the Orders and religious congregations which were more advanced, but later perished miserably.”

The above mentioned were just few of the many instances in the life St. Hannibal wherein one can appreciate how simple he lived his life. Indeed, St. Hannibal was simple in his entire life. He was truthful in himself and in his religious identity. The challenge to be simple was not just a remote instance in the life of St. Hannibal but rather it encompasses his entire life. This witnessing on simplicity was a clear expression of the Rule of Life “Gospel” in St. Hannibal.
© 2009 St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia
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