“Despite all his moving around in the world, his Roman and in some sense Vatican roots, his political patrolling and social outlook, Igino Giordani never really cut the umbilical cord with his own hometown. To grasp how much he had loved his Tivoli, it’s enough to scroll through some of his writings in which he tells of the place, or to read the novel “La città murata” (The Walled City) that’s set in Tivoli.
In Memorie di un cristiano ingenuo (Memoirs of a naive Christian), he paints his hometown environment with words that betray this intense relationship and, in a sense, seem to justify his own basic choices as he assigns to them their own Tiburtine character: playful and untameable, courageous and consistent, aggressive at times but motivated by love for God and wisdom.
Igino Giordani was born into a family of humble origins. He more than once expressed veneration for his parents, for the dignity with which they lived their daily lives and for the Catholic faith that marked the key stages of life.
In Tivoli Giordani grew personally and also intellectually. He certainly didn’t have the opportunities that some other children with fine intelligence could had. In fact, his father geared him in the direction of manual labour as a mason worker. In the meantime, still a boy, he was fascinated by religious ceremonies and the celebration of the Mass even though they were in Latin. The little Giordani began to memorize some parts and, when he was alone even at work, instead of whistling some popular tune he would recite Latin parts of the Mass. Divine Providence made use of Sor Facchini (the contractor they worked for), who realized that Igino was not cut out for the cement bucket and trowel, but for school and book.
Sor Facchini decided to finance Igino’s schooling at the Seminary of Tivoli, which at that time was the best place for shaping the intellect and spiritual life of a thirteen year-old boy. He remained there until 1912 when he should have moved to the Seminary of Anagni. But Igino decided to stay in Tivoli and attend classical high school from which he graduated in 1914.
It’s likely that the passion for polished and effective argument about the intellectual basis of the Catholic faith was already engraved on Giordani’s life at an early age while listening to Jesuit Father Mancini at Saint Andrew Church in Tivoli. Giordani described the priest as a “compelling and unassailable man of the faith”. He spoke of Mancini as a man if irresistible and unattackable faith. He was a combative spreader of the Gospel; for Giordani he was a true role model. In this first phase of his upbringing we can already foresee several traits that would lead Giordani to assert himself as a debater and defender of the faith.
Shortly after his graduation from high school, Italy also entered the War. Igino faced Italian public life that was in the midst of a controversial debate over war and peace, as a resolute pacifist at a time when pacifist ideas were not easy to support. It is likely that thanks to the charismatic figure of Father Mancini, the solid experience of the faith in seminary and the pluralistic political ideology that was breathed in high school, Giordani – who even in those years seemed to have grown tepid from a religious point of view – had never lost the sense of love of neighbour, which led him to dismiss all forms of violence towards all human beings. A few years later he would say so himself with shining simplicity as he expressed his distaste for battle during those years of war: “When I was on watch in the trenches during the First World War thoughts of the divine commandment tortured me: ‘Fifth: Do not kill.” He had been raised in Tivoli where he had been trained in peace.
And in a song written by Giordani many years later, steeped in the devastating experience of war but also of faith and hope born from the encounter with the spirituality of unity: Contempt for man and his depreciation derive from the fact that we no longer see Christ in him; and so love is substituted by hatred, which is the spirituality of the prince of death.
Alberto Lo Presti
See: Igino Giordani, La divina avventura (Rome: Città Nuova, 1993), p. 141.