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 St. Father Hannibal Mary Di Francia

Founder of two religious congregations: The Rogacionist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus and of the Daughters of the Divine Zeal of the Heart of Jesus. He had the grace to deal intimately with Luisa Picarreta during the last 17 years of her life, from 1910 to 1927 (Fr. Di Francia died on June 1st, 1927). Meeting Luisa Picarreta was a transcendental event in his life and the manifestation of the Divine Will became the center of his life, of his spirituality, and of his only reason for existence. Many times, he would go to Luisa’s house and he was her extraordinary confessor. In his last years, he was appointed director over everything referring to the publication of her writings by the Archbishop of Trani. He was named ecclesiastical censor for the Archdiocese of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie as well.

He was also the first to begin publishing Luisa’s writings, the first of which was «The Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ», which she wrote around the year 1913 or 1914. Saint Hannibal gave the title to this book and made four editions of it (1915, 1916, 1917 and 1921), all bearing the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. One of the best-remembered episodes, according to a number of witnesses was the time when Fr. Hannibal took the book, “The Hours of the Passion”, to the Holy Father, now Saint Pius X (who received him privately on a number of occasions, as did Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI as well). While showing it to him, he was reading a few pages when the pope interrupted him, saying, «Not while standing, Father; this book should be read kneeling. It is Jesus Christ who is speaking».

It was Fr. Hannibal’s intention to begin to publish all the volumes that Luisa Picarreta had written up to that time (nineteen). For this reason, he obtained the promise of Imprimatur from the Archbishop of Trani, while getting ready to print them. Divine Providence first put the publishing on hold with the death of Fr. Hannibal and years later when Luisa’s Confessor faced the decree of the Holy See that put the three (3) books of Luisa, which had already been published on the Index of Forbidden Books, which still existed at that time.

St. Fr. Di Francia left us the following documents: Letters to Luisa, the Preface to «The Hours of the Passion» and a Preface, which was never published, that he wrote for the volumes that he did not get to print. These are some of the most beautiful and most sublime testimonies that he left for us.

Saint Fr. Hannibal wanted Luisa Picarreta to live at the Orphanage of Saint Anthony, which he founded, so that Luisa could become teacher and model of imitation to the religious and orphans. His intention was to take Luisa to the Orphanage that he founded in Trani but Luisa said that the Lord had destined for Corato. During those days, St. Fr. Di Francia received a donation that allowed him to open a new Orphanage at Corato.

St. Fr. Hannibal’s desire was fulfilled a year after his death, when Luisa’s confessor, Don Benedetto Calvi, ordered Luisa to move to that institute.