To Whom My Grace Pending Blog Is Dedicated: Pier Giorgio Frassati
Verso L’alto – To The Top
Those words, as close as anything, constitute the spiritual motto of blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
They were words that he himself had inscribed on the back of a photograph of his last journey up a mountain, gaze fixed upwards, taken in June 1925, just one month before his death at the age of 24 from polio, a disease which he’d likely contracted during one of his many visits to the poor of Turin, Italy.
Pier Giorgio, as many of you already know, is in some ways my idealized spiritual model, the Godfather, so to speak, of this blog.
His life story, short though his time on earth was, continues to inspire me, time and again. Pick up at least one good biography of his life to better understand why.
The rich, privileged son of one of Italy’s most prominent families, Pier Giorgio, much like St. Francis before him, completely reversed the framework of Mark’s rich young man, setting him off on a course that ultimately touched many lives – certainly more than if he had, quite understandably, chosen to simply walk away, cast his eyes inward, and trust in earthly riches.
But here’s the thing: he did so without, for a moment, relinquishing his excitement for life, his contagious adventurousness, his winsome playfulness.
Rather, he embraced these passions with abandon.
In fact, these full-blooded emotions were integral to his relentless advocacy on behalf of the poor; an advocacy delivered not so much with words as with countless, selfless, mostly hidden, works – hidden, that is, from his family, his close friends, and his playmates.
But the poor of Turin knew them well. And they turned out en masse for his funeral.
Frassati reveals to us just how extraordinary one ordinary man can be. He is a role modern for a modern age.
In 1990, during Frassati’s Beatification Mass in Rome, Pope St. John Paul II said this:
Certainly, at a superficial glance, Frassati’s lifestyle, that of a modern young man who was full of life, does not present anything out of the ordinary.
This, however, is the originality of his virtue, which invites us to reflect upon it and impels us to imitate it.
In him faith and daily events are harmoniously fused, so that adherence to the Gospel is translated into loving care for the poor and the needy in a continual crescendo until the very last days of the sickness which led to his death.
His love for beauty and art, his passion for sports and mountains, his attention to society’s problems did not inhibit his constant relationship with the Absolute.
Entirely immersed in the mystery of God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor: thus we can sum up his earthly life!
Perhaps it was because he was so full of life, so young, so passionate, that he stood closer to the ideal of who we, in this day, can ourselves become.
Saint John Paul again:
Human eyes — young, sensitive eyes — must be able to admire God’s work in the external, visible world.
The eyes of the spirit must be able to turn from this external, visible world to the inner, invisible one: thus they can reveal to others the realm of the spirit in which the light of the Word that enlightens every person is reflected (cf. Jn 1:9).
In this light the Spirit of Truth acts. This is the “inner” person.
This is how Pier Giorgio appears to us. Indeed, his entire life seems to sum up Christ’s words which we find in John’s Gospel: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).
That is Pier Giorgio in sum.
That Pier Giorgio, at an early age, was invaded by grace, as Bishop Robert Barron calls it in the video embedded below, is obvious.
But more importantly to each of us here today, we too are often invaded by grace throughout our lives. We have but to listen and be mindful.
What, or who, has now crossed our path that may be holding the door open to grace?
What, or who, is trying to interrupt our lives?
And why now?
But this is key: it’s not enough to simply recognize those moments of grace.
Once we do we are faced with a choice, as Bishop Barron tells us.
Do we cooperate with that grace, or do we reject it?
I compare the fruits of Pier Giorgio’s response to an invasion of grace in the last century, to those of Mark’s rich young man from 2,000 years ago.
Perhaps it’s not really much of a choice.
Perhaps it’s just not so easy.
My continuing desire, though I fail often, is to say yes to any grace that might invade my life. And then to relinquish, finally, my spiritual mediocrity – the one that Bishop Barron warns about.
And then one day, perhaps, I’ll even be able to share a drink or two, and maybe even swap a few good stories, with Pier Giorgio himself.
For more about Pier Giorgio, please see this recent excellent post over at Aleteia: A Model of Charity Who Annoyed His Father.
Be sure to read it as well!
Image Credit: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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