Church of Barbiana / Wikimedia Commons - Horcrux92, CC BY-SA 4.0

Father Lorenzo Milani: A “Passionate Educator”

A Biographical Note on the Prior of Barbiana for Pope Francis’ Visit

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There is great expectation at the Italian town of Barbiana for Pope Francis’ visit, where, on June 20, 2017, he will pause in prayer at the tomb of Father Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967), on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death.
In a video-message sent to the participants in the presentation of the Opera Omni of the Prior of Barbiana last May 23, Pope Francis remembered him as “a believer, enamored of the Church,” a “passionate educator” who used “original ways.”
In his brief, but intense life, Father Lorenzo was an optimum interpreter of modern and contemporary pedagogy, a priest attentive to formative methods for young people, but especially for the poor. to the point that in a letter to a professor, he wrote: “If they are lost (the last) the school is no longer school. It is a hospital that cures the healthy and rejects the sick.”
According to what the “Father Lorenzo Milani Foundation” reports on its site, Lorenzo Milani was born on May 27, 1923, in Florence to a middle-class family.
In 1930, he went to Milan where as a youth he studied for the classical high school diploma.
In 1942, due to the war, the family was forced to return to Florence.
The previous year, 1941, Father Lorenzo became passionate about painting, particularly sacred painting, a passion that was at the root of his desire to go beyond in his knowledge of the Bible, in particular, the Gospel.
At this time he met Father Raffaello Bensi, who would become his spiritual father.
Lorenzo entered the Major Seminary of Florence in 1943, and on July 13, 1947, he received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and was assigned first to Montespertoli and then to San Donato di Calenzano, where he opened an evening school for workers and farmers. In 1954 he was appointed Prior of Barbiana, where he founded a school similar to that of San Donato.
In May of 1958, he published the work “Pastoral Experiences,” but the Holy Office regarded the reading of this work as “inopportune.”
Father Lorenzo fell sick at the end of 1960. The lympho-granuloma he was suffering was the cause of his death seven years later.
In 1965, he addressed a letter to Military Chaplains of Tuscany, who described conscientious objection as contrary to Christian love and an “expression of cowardice.”
For this letter, Father Lorenzo was indicted for advocating crime. For reasons of health, Father Milani was not present at the trial, but he sent the judges a writing in his self defense. Initially he was acquitted, but in a second trial, when Father Milani was already dead, his letter was definitively condemned.
In addition to this important letter was that which he wrote with the boys of the Barbiana school in 1966: Letter to a Professor.
On June 26, 1967, when he was only 44, Father Lorenzo died at Florence.
SOURCE: Fondazione Don Milani
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Giuseppe Cesareo

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