The Sicilian years



Giorgio La Pira was born at Pozzallo in southern Sicily on 9 January 1904. At ten years old he went to live with his uncle Luigi Occhipinti in Messina in order to continue his schooling. His uncle ran a tobacconist’s selling wines and spirits . Being himself an anticlerical freemason, he didn’t even wish to see his nephew so much as talk to priests. La Pira’s early youth was spent in the Messina of the aftermath of the great earthquake, and he was one of a group of youngsters imbued with the atmosphere of the times. They rejected the Italy typified by Giolitti, which they considered too meek and resigned, and were enthusiastic about D’Annunzio and Marinetti as being the embodiment of rebellion and non-conformism; but at they same time they absorbed other books and ways of thinking.

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La Pira and his friends read Dante, Plato, the Bible, Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Russian novelists, the French poets. Amongst his friends was Salvatore Quasimodo, future Nobel prize-winner for literature. To him, in a number of letters,  he talked about his inner perplexities.
Having gained a diploma in accountancy in 1921, La Pira was persuaded to continue his studies by his teacher of Italian, Federico Rampolla Del Tindaro. After passing his school-leaving exams he enrolled in the Law Faculty. He met Monsignor Mariano Rampolla Del Tindaro, Federico’s brother, who became his guide in an intense spiritual life, as he tells in his letters . During Mass on Easter Day of 1924 something happened that led him consecrate his life to God. That is the day which his biographers refer to as that of his conversion. He himself describes the episode in a letter  to his friend Salvatore Pugliatti. La Pira therefore decided to consecrate himself to God, but his wish was to perform his apostolate in the lay world. He explained his reasons in a letter to his Aunt Settimia.

 

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