Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I was an instrument of Divine Providence."

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Augustine, the son of Saint Monica, who converted from a decadent lifestyle to become one of the greatest saints and doctors of the Church. His conversion is often attributed to the many years of prayers his mother offered on his behalf. Saint Monica's faith was rewarded by living to see her son's conversion.

Pier Giorgio likewise experienced the joy of seeing a loved one return to Christ and the Sacraments. In 1923, his uncle Pietro, had a deathbed conversion because of the encouraging words and prayers of Pier Giorgio. Pietro Frassati was the brother of Pier Giorgio's father Alfredo. The brothers, although cradle Catholics who respected religion, did not practice the faith. It was a cause of great joy for Pier Giorgio to know that his uncle, in his final moments, received the Sacraments. He wrote about it in a letter to his friend Antonio Severi on August 20, 1923. An excerpt follows:

"Dearest Tonino,

I should have climbed Mont Blanc with Delpiano last Saturday, but we didn’t understand each other very well on the telephone and so Delpiano left on his own. At first I was very displeased, but today I saw that this misunderstanding was a plan of Divine Providence, because the other day my uncle, already sick for a long time, got worse and so I would have been infinitely more upset to have been away.


My uncle, who loves me so much was so moved to see me, that today I couldn’t approach his bed for fear of upsetting him too much, but now my task has been accomplished. Although unworthy I was an instrument of Divine Providence, along with my good mother and the nun who lovingly cared for him, because I was able to get him to perform all his religious practices. Believe me that when he received the Sacred Host tears of joy mixed with those of sorrow streamed down my face. As soon as he received the Host, our merciful God soothed his pain and afterward my uncle made us call the parish priest of the village to tell him about his satisfaction in having received the Blessed Sacrament.

In His Infinite Mercy, God has surely not kept my innumerable sins in mind, but He has heard my prayers and the prayers of my family, and has given my uncle the great grace of receiving the last Sacraments while fully conscious.

I believe that life should be a continual preparation for the next life, because one doesn’t know the day nor the hour of our passing.


Affectionate greetings in J.C.
Pier Giorgio

Pax Domini sit tecum."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

God in the whisper

This blog is devoted to Pier Giorgio and I usually don't get personal, but I had a bit of an Elijah moment today that I hope is worth sharing. One of my favorite scenes in the Bible takes place in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is on the mountain waiting for the Lord to pass by. He doesn't come in the wind or the earthquake or the fire but in the tiny whisper. This is often how I encounter God; although, I admit that, because of my spiritual deafness, I can have difficulty hearing that whisper from time to time.

Working toward the canonization of Pier Giorgio has sometimes called for more energy and resources than I have felt I could provide. Like Elijah, I have known my times of discouragement. And there are those moments when I stop and wonder if all of the sacrifices are worthwhile and ask how long can I continue? But tonight, I heard that tiny whisper.

It came in the voice of my niece Stephanie who is a senior in high school in Pennsylvania. She is also my godchild. Recently, she was asked to sing at the 100th anniversary of a local church and she covered the Joy Williams song, "Do They See Jesus in Me?" As I watched the YouTube clip, I was again able to put a face to one of the reasons why I work for this cause. It is because Pier Giorgio has so much to offer, especially to the young people among whom I count my 28 nieces and nephews, that I do this work. Stephie was one of the first people to join The Pact and is a great example of the revolution of charity FrassatiUSA is working toward creating. Not only that, but the lyrics of the song she sang pretty much sum up everything I am about.

Yesterday I saw a rainbow. Today I heard a whisper. I can hardly wait for tomorrow. Verso l'alto!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pier Giorgio Frassati: "Super Saint"

Although we are still a miracle away from Pier Giorgio being canonized, this week he is getting "super saint" treatment! Bob and Penny Lord, who have filmed many shows on the lives of the saints for EWTN, have arrived in Turin today and will begin filming in many of the places that are central to Pier Giorgio's life. They aren't sure how many shows will result from the material but they are certain that at least one episode of their "Super Saints" series will be devoted to Pier Giorgio. Please keep their work in your prayers this week as it is just one more great opportunity to bring Pier Giorgio to the attention of millions of people all around the world. And keep praying for that canonization miracle!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Birthday Prayer for Luciana Frassati

Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven? If so, there will be a big celebration today. It is the first birthday Luciana Frassati will spend with her big brother Pier Giorgio since his death in 1925. She turns 106!

Two years ago, when I headed over to Pollone, Italy, to begin the work of FrassatiUSA, I arrived at the family villa just in time to celebrate Luciana's 104th birthday. We sang Happy Birthday in Italian ("Tanti Auguri!") and had an ice cream cake in the sun room. (I call it the sun room; it was a great place to sit and enjoy the sun or, more often, the rain!) How surreal it was for me to be spending time with Pier Giorgio's sister. And what a privilege. Over the past two years, I had many such opportunities. I was even at the family villa the last month of Luciana's life and was able to attend her funeral in Turin and Pollone last October. These were special gifts from the Lord that helped me to understand and appreciate the life and spirituality of Pier Giorgio even more. It was his sister, after all, who brought him to us through her many books and labors. Now she enjoys her heavenly reward and, undoubtedly, a birthday hug from Pier Giorgio! But I miss her.

May God grant her eternal memory and blessed repose.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps and Damien Molokai

I've had a little Olympic fever this year and have really enjoyed watching a lot of the different competitions. The big story, of course, has been the amazing athletic performance of swimmer Michael Phelps who has become the greatest athlete in Olympic history by virtue of his gold medal count. Each time I see him being interviewed, I think about how close he is in age to Pier Giorgio at the time of his death. And I wonder how close he is to Pier Giorgio in his love for God. Not to judge him or lessen his physical accomplishments in any way. I just keep thinking how awesome it would be if, in one of his many post-victory interviews, he would give credit to God who created him and endowed him with his physical gifts. What a platform for reaching young people around the world.

The way I see it, there's gold and then there's gold.
In the past few weeks, someone else has reached the heights but won't be getting Olympic gold or even a fraction of the media attention. You may have read recently that Pope Benedict has approved the second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Damien Molokai. He was a young priest who volunteered to work in a leper colony and then later died from leprosy himself at the age of 49. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 and now the path is cleared for his canonization. This is the sort of gold that will not rust or corrode. This is the gold worth striving for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Help! A real problem is taking place that threatens the cause of Pier Giorgio. People are deciding to change his name to Pier. I don't know how to stop this from getting worse. Pier is not his name. It is not even a nickname. He would cringe at this. He would not answer to this. He would never call himself this. His friends would not call him this. His family would not call him this. Nobody who loves him would call him this. Now, because so many people are using the wrong name, it is starting to show up in print, online and other places. It causes confusion and is not helping the effort to make Pier Giorgio known. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to stop this? Help!