Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Canonization Rumor!

I recently received an email asking the following: "Do you think Pier Giorgio will be canonized at World Youth Day? If not, why would they dig up his body and take it to Australia?" It seems a lot of people have had this on their mind, so I thought I would respond here.

No, I do not think Pier Giorgio will be canonized at World Youth Day! If that were the case, I would be on a plane to Sydney right now! Pier Giorgio has not had the second miracle attributed to him which is absolutely necessary for his canonization. One of the primary tasks of FrassatiUSA is spreading the word about Pier Giorgio and his spirituality so that people will know about him and will pray for a miracle through his intercession. When such a miracle is reported, you will be sure to hear about it!

The second part of the question -- why would they dig up his body and take it to Australia? -- is a little more involved. First, it sounds rather harsh to use the words "dig up." I'm picturing guys from some crime show with shovels on a hillside somewhere. Actually, Pier Giorgio's coffin was placed in a vault in the family crypt where it remained until 1990. Then it was transferred to a side altar at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin. So, it wasn't so difficult to remove it from the altar and transport it to Sydney. It was a rather involved process because of Australian regulations which led to a new coffin being constructed. But no shovels and dirt were involved! Why take him to Sydney? This actually was at the request of church officials in Australia. I can't speak for them, but I imagine they wanted to do something extra special as hosts of World Youth Day. Pier Giorgio has long been a patron of past WYD events and is known as the patron for youth, young people, university students. To bring his remains -- it would be better for us to think of his body as a holy relic -- is something most extraordinary. This has been done with other saints for different events. For example, the relics of St. Terese of Lisieux traveled around the U.S. several years ago.

Understandably, some people have trouble with this whole concept and I am not the best person to offer a theological explanation. But imagine if somebody decided to "dig up" the body of Elvis Presley and bring it to Las Vegas. How many millions of people do you think would line up just to walk past his coffin?

A couple of years ago, I went on a personal pilgrimage that took me to Ars where the incorrupt body of St. John Vianney is on display, then to Paray-Le-Monial where the incorrupt body of St. Margaret Mary is on display, and then to Nevers where the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette is on display. I cannot describe those scenes well enough to convey the aura of sanctity in each of the chapels. At the same time, I realize that those sort of places are not for everyone, in the same way that some people are averse to visiting the grave of a loved one at the cemetery.

Probably a more appropriate example would be the tomb of Pope John Paul II in Rome. Each time I have visited the tomb area, I have stayed awhile to pray. Each time, it has gotten more and more busy. So many people want to come and be in the presence of this great man for just a second or two. Now, the crowds are so great that they have a constant audiotape asking for silence in several languages.

In the case of a holy person like Blessed Pier Giorgio, there are many graces to be received by venerating his relics. For those pilgrims who love Pier Giorgio and are open to this aspect of the Catholic faith, praying in his presence in Sydney will be a true highlight of their journey down under and to the top.

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