Cristian Michael Libanati
Cristian Michael Libanati

As he prepares to graduate from St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, Cristian Michael Libanati expressed respect and admiration for the Benedictines who sponsor and help teach at the school. Their lives, he said, offer “an example of what you should aim to be, maybe not necessarily as a monk, but as a person.”

Libanati, 17, is a top student and athlete at the school, and this fall, he will attend the University of Chicago, where he plans to study economics or physics. Speaking of the Benedictines whose abbey is in the center of the school’s campus, he noted how they are men of faith and knowledge – intelligent, humble, kind and consistent.

“They pray, come to school, teach us, help pass knowledge onto the next generation… They’re busy giving so much to other people,” he said.

The National Merit Finalist said he has enjoyed the rigorous academic curriculum at St. Anselm’s Abbey School. “I really love learning… I like challenges,” Libanati said, noting that his favorite classes there have included Advanced Placement physics, world history, calculus and calculus-based physics.

During his years at St. Anselm’s, he was a four-time gold medalist on the National Latin Exam, and was inducted into the school’s French and Spanish honor societies.

Transitioning to the University of Chicago, another institution known for its academics, has him feeling excited at the intellectual opportunities ahead, he said. “I love talking about ideas.”

Libanati said he appreciates the academic grounding in his Catholic faith that he received at St. Anselm’s. Through the years there, he read works by St. Thomas Aquinas and other great thinkers in Church history, studied ethics and a number of papal encyclicals, and he now feels confident in discussing and defending Church teaching.

The religion courses at St. Anselm’s “help you explore Catholicism and use logic and reasoning to inform your faith,” he said. “That’s a really great gift not a lot of people have the privilege of getting.”

At St. Bernadette Parish in Silver Spring, he is an altar server and participates in the youth group. The son of Cristian and Laura Libanati, the St. Anselm’s senior has a younger brother, John Paul, who is now in the ninth grade there, and a younger brother Philip who is a fourth grader at the Christian Family Montessori School in Washington.

Libanati helped lead the Big Brother Program at St. Anselm’s, in which older students serve as mentors to incoming sixth graders. For his service project, he and fellow St. Anselm’s students have walked over to the nearby St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families in Hyattsville.

“I love helping at St. Ann’s Center. The kids are adorable,” he said, noting that he played with kindergarten students there and helped teach them their colors and shapes and how to count. He also admires their spirit. “They’re 3-years-old, yet they attack every day with a smile,” he said.

The student, who has attended St. Anselm’s for the past seven years, described it as “a second home” for him and said his teachers are “like a family” to students.

“It’s a really great support system,” he said. “I’ve never not felt loved and supported.”

St. Anselm’s small size – the senior class has 40 students – means the young men there have an opportunity to participate together in a variety of activities, and get to know and understand each other, he said.

Libanati has served as the captain of the school’s varsity soccer and wrestling teams, and he said those experiences have taught him about leadership, and “the difficulty of balancing being part of a team and keeping the team on task.”

This year in wrestling, he earned a silver medal in the 145-lb. division in the D.C. Classics competition, and during his years at St. Anselm’s, he earned gold, silver and bronze medals in wrestling meets, and helped his team win gold medals at this year’s and last year’s conference championships.

He competed for four years as a varsity player on St. Anselm’s soccer team and on its baseball team, where he played second base.

“I’ve grown to love sports. They’re an avenue for me to exercise my determination,” he said, adding, “It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work. It’s preparation for the real world.”

Also at St. Anselm’s, Libanati sang in the Men’s Chorus, was president of the Glee Club and participated in productions of The Music Man, Measure for Measure, and Twelve Angry Men.

Now as he prepares to graduate from St. Anselm’s and move on to his studies at the University of Chicago, he reflected on the Benedictines as role models of faith and learning, “of being open to what He (God) desires of you. The monks have committed their whole lives to getting closer to God… That’s the ultimate goal for any of us, right?” said Libanati, who added, “That’s what heaven is – being in communion with God.”