The young Giorgio La Pira arrived in Florence in 1926 in the wake of the teacher with whom he was working on a thesis on the history of Roman Law. He came to Florence to get a degree and he stayed for the rest of his life. It was love at first sight, as witnessed by the first letters written to his family.
In Florence La Pira studied, taught, and took part in the charitable activities of the San Vincenzo de’ Paoli association. They called him “il professorino”, and when he spoke at the meetings of Gioventù Cattolica (Catholic Youth) there was always a full house. At the same time he became a member of the Dominican Third Order, and chose to live in a cell in the monastery of San Marco. Here he remained until a tendency to bronchitis forced him to move elsewhere; though he often returned to pray and share the communal meal with the friars. The desire to consecrate himself to God led also to his being one of the founders in 1928 of the Istituto dei Missionari della Regalità di Cristo, promoted by Father Agostino Gemelli a lay institute at which he was to take the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.
The 1930s in Florence were a ferment of activity. There were poets and writers such as Giovanni Papini and Piero Bargellini… Among those who had the greatest influence on La Pira was Don Giulio Facibeni , founder of the “Madonnina del Grappa”. And there was also Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa , whose advice La Pira sought before making any decision and who often defended him from criticisms and malice. La Pira was also a frequent visitor at the house of Don Raffaele Bensi , who became his spiritual father and confessor. It was there, as La Pira tells us himself, that was born the idea of the “Messa dei Poveri” in the little church of San Procolo.
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