Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

The amount of incorrect information about Pier Giorgio that ends up online or in print is a bit perplexing to me. The most recent example of this comes from a company that publishes a series of Saint Cards called "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives." Pier Giorgio is featured on Card 64 from Group 7.

I was recently shown this card and contacted the company to see if they would make the necessary corrections but have met up with a bit of red tape. So I thought I would at least share with you some of the inaccuracies:

First, the card states "Pier was not interested in learning..." This could not be further from the truth. Pier Giorgio considered his studies to be his primary duty and even wrote to fellow students about the serious duty of self-formation -- not to mention that he is considered the patron of university students! This statement on the card completely betrays his dedication to learning.

Second, in more than one place, such as in the sentence above, the card calls him only "Pier." As I have tried to explain many times in many ways, "Pier" is not a standalone name in Italian. It is a type of prefix. He was never called "Pier." The two names are always used together. It should always be "Pier Giorgio."

Third, the card states "Later Pier went to a Jesuit high school." This seems to imply that he attended a four-year Catholic high school which wasn't the case. Actually, he attended the state-run school in Italy for his education except for two years which were both on separate occasions: once when he was 12 and once when he was 16.

Fourth, the card says Pier Giorgio did not marry because "his parents deemed her too religious and forbade the marriage. To please his parents and calm the crisis, Pier Giorgio gave in." Wow, this is so far from the truth that I can't even think of where anyone would come up with this interpretation of the events. It is well-documented in the biographies and all other literature that his parents never knew of his love for Laura. He never even expressed it to Laura! The real story is that he sacrificed his love for Laura because his parents' marriage was on the verge of collapse and he did not want to "start a new family on the ruins of another." Laura was from the working class and he knew his family would not approve of her so he did not pursue the relationship. The nobility of his sacrifice is completely erased by the way the card is written.

Fifth, the card says he didn't tell his family of his illness. In fact, his family knew he wasn't feeling well. But they did not pay attention to the severity of it because of the death of his grandmother in the house at the same time. He never complained about how poorly he was feeling during this time and was overlooked.

Sixth, the sidebar on the card says the family "had no religious traditions." That is a bit extreme, I think. His family was Catholic and, except for his father, attended church. The children were baptized, confirmed, etc., and even tutored by priests. But it is true that there was no deep spirituality in the home.

Overall, the card presents a very inaccurate picture of Pier Giorgio which is quite a disservice to his memory. In addition to the factual errors, there are numerous spelling and grammar errors. Even his sister's name is spelled wrong.

Many years ago, I used to subscribe to this series of cards. Now, seeing how wrong this one card is, I have to wonder about all of the rest. In any case, I hope the above clarification will reduce any confusion this card may cause.


Michele said...

You are correct to wonder about the other cards. They, too, contain inaccuracies. Most of these brief lives of the saints are romanticized and "legendized". This ultimately does a great deal of disservice both to the saint and to the faithful, who then think it is impossible to become a saint since it is nearly unattainable as presented. Thanks for the corrections.

benchsitter said...

Thanks. I also received the offer and was wondering about this. Now I know not to reply.

Regin said...

Thanks for the pointer. I was thinking if I should buy it but decided to check online and your post helped!

Casa de OraciĆ³n Miami said...

Thanks a lot, without comments like yours one can actually be prevented from falling in an erroneous account of sacred lifes, that sometimes one does not know. So I think it was a blessing for others (like myself) that they didn't answer your calls!

-God bless you

P.S. I've read some other comments like yours just googling (like the one of Sandra Day O'Connors)