Thursday, November 27, 2008

Counting the Blessings

What a beautiful tradition we have in our country to take one day out of our busy lives to really focus on giving thanks to God for His many blessings. Having the "attitude of gratitude" is a good way to go through life on a daily basis, not just once a year. I have found that if I take a few minutes at night to reflect on the day and to thank God for the many blessings it held, I end up feeling very humbled at God's goodness. After all, as St. Paul said, it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

In his letters, Pier Giorgio was constantly thanking his friends, family and anyone else for any little act of charity or kindness -- for sending him a postcard or letter, for letting him borrow an ice-axe to climb a mountain, for a birthday remembrance, for prayers on his behalf. It was never lost on him that we are all here for one another and that we bear the weight of each other's eternal glory.

In one letter, he reflected on the gift of friendship and wrote the following: "In this earthly life after the affection for parents and sisters, one of the most beautiful affections is that of friendship; and every day I ought to thank God because he has given me men and lady friends of such goodness who form for me a precious guide for my whole life.

Today would be a great day to reflect on all of the people in our lives who have helped us to find, keep and live the Faith. It would also be a good time to commit to being that kind of friend to the people around us.

Happy Thanksgiving! Verso l'alto!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Death and Dying

The Church marks the beginning of November with two great feasts: All Saints and All Souls. And then, almost without fail, it seems a lot of good people pass away. So far this month in my small circle of friends and acquaintances, two good priests, a nun, and a great pro-lifer have all left this world. This morning, I learned of the death of another good woman who was a fixture at daily Mass at my church for as long as I can remember. All of these people, I think I can say with confidence, were ready to meet the Lord. But we do miss them.

Death is such a mystery. It should really be something we think of daily and prepare for on a regular basis. This is one of the things I connect to the most with Pier Giorgio. In his book of letters (which is still unavailable in English but will hopefully get published soon), he wrote a beautiful reflection on death to his good friend Antonio Villani. I think it is worth a read or two and so I am providing the following excerpt for you. It was written on July 19, 1923, when Pier Giorgio was just 22 years old.

"...and yet I have sometimes been ambitious. And for what? Just for death, this great mystery, the only just one which spares no one, which will dissolve this body of mine and in a short time will turn it into dust. But beyond the material body there is the soul to which we must dedicate all our energy, so that it can present itself before the Supreme Tribunal without fault or at least with little faults, so that after having served some years in purgatory it will be able to go up to Eternal peace. But how does one prepare oneself for the great Transition and when? Since one does not know when Death will come to take him away, it is very prudent to prepare oneself every day as if one is going to die that same day; and so from now on I will try to make every day a little preparation for death, so that I shouldn’t find myself unprepared at the point of death and have to regret the beautiful years of youth, wasted from the spiritual side."

We would do well, I think, to follow Pier Giorgio's example and make each day a little preparation for death. It is more than just living in the present moment. It is considering the future that awaits us all.

And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, now rest in peace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Celebrating an American Saint

Today we celebrate the feast of the first saint who was an American citizen. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini came to the U.S. and, in spite of enormous obstacles and difficulties, managed to found 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. Wow! And sometimes it seems like a great accomplishment for me just to make it to 6:30 a.m. Mass!

Reading even a short bio of Mother Cabrini makes me shake my head in amazement. I don't think I could ever do even a fraction of what she did. And that makes me all the more grateful for the example of Pier Giorgio. He inspires me to strive for holiness on a daily basis -- not by doing great things but, as Mother Theresa once said, by doing small things with great love. Are we not the luckiest -- to have examples of such holy men and women to guide us through this often crazy world? Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering Our Veterans

Today, as we celebrate and honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good, my thoughts turn especially to one man. My father served on the USS Spearfish -- a submarine -- during World War II. He explained to us that the subs back in those days were small diesel "boats" -- nothing like the high-tech nuclear subs of today. Fortunately, everyone on the Spearfish made it home but not without a few stories of very close calls.

Since the days of my dad's military service, many more men and women have been called into battle and so many have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We should never forget it or take advantage of this priceless gift. Do something nice for a veteran today!

Click here to find out about Pier Giorgio's military service.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Indiana or bust!

Heading off to Indiana this weekend to talk about Pier Giorgio. If you're in the area, stop by! Both talks will be at St. Mary of the Knobs Church in Floyds Knobs, Indiana. Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. is for youth and families and open to all!

In other news, the new "Verso l'alto" t-shirt has arrived. Check it out in the PGF Bookstore!