Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do you have a special prayer intention that you would like to share with others?

We frequently receive special prayer requests and many of you have asked for a place to share them on our website. We are experimenting with one interactive page that now allows you to add your intention in the "Comments" field. It would be nice to have an online community of friends of Pier Giorgio to pray for these intentions. So, if you would like to participate, visit the "Special Intentions" page. And pray.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Prayers for Marshall

It is wonderful to be back in the greatest country in the world! My flights from Rome to Paris to Atlanta to Nashville were quite memorable -- from the momentary panic of losing my passport and boarding pass in Rome to having my bags searched in Paris and being pulled aside by the Customs office in Atlanta. But, as they say, all's well that ends well.

Within hours after returning to the U.S., I received news of a prayer campaign being waged for a 16-year-old high school junior here in Nashville, Tennessee. His name is Marshall Billingsley and he is fighting a rare form of bone cancer that has spread to one of his lungs. Friends and family of Marshall decided to call on the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and have launched a Facebook page called, "Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for Marshall Billingsley."

They are asking as many people as possible to pray the following each day:

"O merciful God,
Who through the perils of the world
deigned to preserve by Your grace
Your servant Pier Giorgio Frassati
pure of heart and ardent of charity,
listen, we ask You, to our prayers and,
if it is in Your designs that he be glorified by the Church,
show us Your will,
granting us the graces we ask of You,
particularly, a complete and miraculous healing for Marshall Billingsley,

through his intercession,
by the merits of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen."

For those of you in the Nashville area, a Benefit Concert is being held on November 4th and all are invited to attend. You can also follow Marshall's journey via the CaringBridge website. Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for Marshall.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arrivederci Roma!

I have been "across the pond" for quite some time now and have put a lot of miles on my sandals! I must admit I am really looking forward to returning to the U.S. It has been a very busy time here in Italy but not all of it has been related to Pier Giorgio. I am just recently back from a week in Calabria where I was able to spend time with a lot of my Italian relatives.

The amazing thing about traveling around Italy is that every place seems more beautiful than the one you just left. Calabria is no exception. With the mountains and the sea and the olive trees and the wonderful people, it is a fabulous place to visit. I was spoiled rotten by my relatives with meal after meal of delicious homemade food, including the wine and olive oil. There are no words to describe both the joy of having such a loving family and the sorrow of having them so far away. In any case, I was grateful for the time to spend with them and left with many special memories and handmade treasures.

Back in Rome, the Lord continued to be full of surprises. On October 7th, I attended Mass for Luciana Frassati who died in 2007 at the age of 105 on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I chose Santa Maria in Trastevere and was not disappointed. It was a special place to be on that particular feast day. Yesterday, on October 8th, the Holy Spirit led me to attend evening Mass at San Crisogono. I had planned to go somewhere else but had to change at the last minute. I was not at all aware that it was the Solemnity of Our Lady of Good Remedy -- the patroness of the Trinitarians who are centered in that church. How wonderful to pray in front of her icon there on her feast day! Today, Wanda suggested we attend Chiesa Nuova. I had no idea that it is the first feast day for the recently beatified John Henry Newman -- the newest pride of the Oratorians who are centered in Chiesa Nuova! It was a Facebook friend who pointed that out. So, my last three days have been one special moment after another. God is good...all the time!

With the necessary check-in time, layovers and travel time, it will take me 24 hours to get home tomorrow -- assuming all goes well! Depending on the jetlag I experience, it may take me a few days to surface! I appreciate all of the prayers offered during the time I have been here in Europe and will continue to remember all of your intentions at Mass this evening. Ciao from Roma and Verso l'alto!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Wonderful Model for Youth: Blessed Chiara Badano

Who believes in coincidence? Not me. Everything happens according to God's perfect timing and it can be nearly electrifying to watch things unfold according to His plans.

Yesterday, a series of events led me to attend the Beatification of Chiara "Luce" Badano at the Sanctuary of Divine Love several miles away from the center of Rome. It took a long walk, the Metro and a bus to get there but it was well worth it. Thanks to Wanda and her friend (who happened to be named Piergiorgio!), I had a ticket to get inside the new church and ended up sitting six rows behind Mr. and Mrs. Badano throughout the Mass. After Mass, I was able to watch them being interviewed by various TV stations.

I had not heard of Chiara Badano until August 22nd when I was visiting some friends in Alabama. In honor of their wedding anniversary, another family hosted a little gathering that I almost didn't attend. It was during a conversation there that Chiara's name came up. When I heard that the beatification would take place on September 25th, something told me I was meant to attend.

Chiara Badano died at the age of 18 in 1990 -- the same year that Pier Giorgio was beatified. She suffered from bone cancer but her spirituality allowed her to embrace her suffering and give it all to God. The story is inspiring and you can find it (in English) on her website: All of the events were streamed live on the internet and you can watch the recordings (with English translations) from this website:

Like Pier Giorgio, Chiara is often noted for being a regular teenager who showed that we can be holy. One of her meditations during her battle with cancer was, "If you want it Jesus, so do I." She also reflected often on these words, "I'll be a saint, if I am a saint now." Those words struck me as a good way to examine my conscience. Am I being a saint now? Chiara planned her own funeral with the intention for it to be a true celebration of her meeting with Jesus. Her last words to her mother were, "Mom, be happy, because I am. Goodbye." Throughout the Mass, I could not help thinking about the suffering that her parents endured then and the tremendous joy they were experiencing 20 years later. Imagine losing your only child and then witnessing her beatification.

The lives of these two Blesseds are incredible examples of how we can be modern and Christian at the same time. We are all called to be holy. We are all called to be saints. As they unveiled the large picture of Blessed Chiara Badano in the presence of her parents and thousands upon thousands of others who attended, the choir sang "Gloria!" On earth and in heaven, the choirs sang. Blessed Chiara Badano and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati...pray for us!


This morning, I stepped out of the 21st century and into the 8th century when I attended the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the Melkite tradition at the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Many of you may not know that I am born and raised Byzantine Catholic. I grew up hearing the Liturgy chanted in Old Slavonic, so today's Italian mixed with Arabic was quite different, but it was very comforting to experience the Eastern Rite here in Rome.

On a side note, the exterior wall of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is famous for the Bocca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth) -- a tourist staple. People stand in line to put their hand inside the mouth and see if they will pull it out unharmed. If you have seen the movie, Roman Holiday, there is a cute scene with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck standing in that spot. Till next time...Verso l'alto!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rome Sweet Rome

Okay, the technical difficulties with the blog seem to have resolved. And I have a few minutes for a quick update. So....

On Friday, Wanda and I went to Torino by train. It has never been my favorite city but it is the resting place for the relics of Pier Giorgio, so I am always glad to go for a little while. I attended Mass at the beautiful Consolata - a place that Pier Giorgio loved to go. Afterward, it was very appropriate to finish the novena in front of his tomb in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The big market was taking place that day, as well, so I milled around there just a bit. By 2:00, we were back on the train for Pollone.

The next day, we went our separate ways again. I have friends and family in the Modena area, so I stopped there for two nights before rejoining Wanda here in Rome. The small town where I stayed was called Castellarano. Lucky for me, they were having their annual festival. It was a wonderful way to spend the weekend. I arrived in Rome on Monday evening, a bit tired after the long day of train travel. But no rest for the weary. Wanda had planned a dinner on her terrace with a French priest and an American seminarian who are both interested in forming some sort of group to promote Pier Giorgio's spirituality here in Rome among young adults. It was a delightful evening. Yesterday afternoon, we met with another American student who is also interested in doing some work on Pier Giorgio's behalf.

The weather here is wonderful and a very welcome and much needed change. I walked to St. Peter's in the morning and caught my first glimpse of Pope Benedict yesterday at the start of the Wednesday Audience. I didn't have time to stay for the whole thing but enjoyed watching him zipping around in the Popemobile to the delight of the crowd on the piazza. A little later, I had lunch with one of Wanda's sisters before she headed out of town. And in the evening, I was able to spend time with a cousin who lives here in Rome. A very enjoyable day from beginning to end.

Now that I am feeling better, I have also been indulging my cappuccino habit. This morning, I went to one of my favorite cappuccino spots: Bar 67 in Trastevere. It's not far from the Basilica of St. Cecilia so I stopped in there to pray awhile in
front of the altar where one of the most beautiful sculptures in Rome (in my opinion) can be found. One of the very nice things about Rome is that the churches are open during the day and you can stop in one after another for a moment of peace and prayer. That means lots of opportunities to pray for all of you! Verso l'alto!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prayers from Pollone

It has been a week since we arrived here in Pollone. In just that short period of time, I have received news that a friend in Nashville needed a heart valve replacement, our bishop underwent six-bypass surgery, a beloved monsignor passed away, another friend has bleeding in the brain. In addition, I have received many prayer requests via email and the Facebook page. There is always so much to pray for! I can only imagine how Our Lord's heart aches for the billions of people who call upon Him each day with such great needs.

One of the special graces of being here is being able to experience the constant calm that emanates from Pier Giorgio's bedrooms. There are two -- the one he lived in when at this house, and the one he died in at the family home in Turin (moved here many years ago.) I spend the majority of my time in the room where he died. For some reason, it feels like the appropriate place to pray. Literally, prayers are placed at the foot of his bed on little slips of paper. Calling on his intercession, that is also where Wanda and I pray the novena nightly for your intentions. We will be here another few days, just long enough to complete the novena, before returning to Rome.

On Sunday morning, we had the unexpected joy of having Mass in Pier Giorgio's room. When we were in the mountains on Saturday, we attended Mass at the old church in Oropa where the Brown Madonna is enshrined. Afterward, Wanda spoke to one of the priests and he was very much interested in coming to the villa. He is from Poland but is stationed in Switzerland. The majority of the Mass was in Polish, but he made an effort to add a little English for my benefit. He had a voice that reminded me so much of Pope John Paul II and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him, even when I didn't understand a word he was saying! A beautiful thing it is indeed to be Catholic and part of the universal Church.

During the week, I attend evening Mass at the old parish church here where Pier Giorgio often served on the altar. I enjoy making the short walk through town and think of how often he passed by the same houses on the same streets. The other day, I walked down to the cemetery and visited the tomb of Pier Giorgio's beloved sister Luciana and the rest of the family. The house is not the same without her. In fact, I have been sitting in "her chair" for meals and told Wanda that I feel like I am sitting on top of her!

We have had beautiful weather here -- none of the customary rain and a clear view of Mount Mucrone. You can't help but feeling closer to God when you look up at a mountaintop from below and sense His majesty. It is easy to understand how Pier Giorgio was moved to write, "Mountains, mountains, mountains, I love you!"

Even though I have still not loaded all the photos or managed to blog more regularly, be assured of my constant prayers from Pollone. Verso l'alto!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Home is where Pier Giorgio is!

Before I left for Italy, I was determined to blog more. But not long after arriving, I came down with what I think was just a very bad cold. Now, two weeks and a lot of miles and cities later, I am feeling better but still trying to get over a nagging cough. That's my excuse for the very infrequent blog posts! Tonight, however, I am determined to satisfy those of you who have been wanting more.

I will start in Poland but will use subheadings for those of you who want to go straight to Italy! :)

Wanda and I arrived in Warsaw on Friday, September 3rd. It was my first visit there and a privilege to go with her as it is the place of her birth. We got settled in our rooms and I went straight to bed. Woke up feeling terrible with still a bit of a fever and was disappointed that I would not get to see Warsaw. I only had Saturday there because the plan was for me to go on my own the next day to some other places and rejoin her later. Around 2:30 in the afternoon, I awakened to what sounded like a marching band. Now, Wanda is a great lover of music and often has something wonderful playing. So, I wasn't sure if it was coming from inside the house or outside. It got me out of bed, though. Sure enough, a marching band was coming down the main street. I could also see a lot of booths set up and a festival of some kind taking place. It was the push I needed to get moving. Wanda was not in the house, so I ventured out alone.

One of my first thoughts after spending just a little time in Poland was that I owe a major apology to everyone who came on the FrassatiUSA pilgrimage with me last year. I quickly realized how intimidating it is to be in a country where you do not understand a single word and how I had not considered that when they were with me. Even saying, "I don't speak Polish" is difficult in that language. I didn't stay out long.

Wanda returned shortly after I did and was surprised to see me on my feet. I convinced her I was well enough to see Warsaw and she took me to the old town. We walked past the President's palace where a bit of turmoil is still unfolding over a monument to the former president who died in a plane crash. We timed it perfectly to see the changing of the guard at the palace. We also saw weddings galore. It was like a Las Vegas chapel. One wedding was going on inside the church and another bridal party was waiting outside for their turn! My sense of Warsaw was that it was more American than other places I have been. There was a Subway sandwich shop across the street and a big Starbucks coffee shop -- two things I have yet to see in Italy. My energy was at an end and we called it a night.

I am only half Italian but full hard-headed and was determined to start the journey to the other cities that I had wanted to see. So, Wanda brought me to the train station on Sunday morning. She has been teasing me a bit about my Blackberry (which she sometimes jokingly refers to as my Raspberry) being a part of my body. The night before I left Warsaw, I was starting to type her instructions into the phone but she said she would write them out. That paper is one of the most valuable things she has given me these last few years! She wrote out the essential information I would need for finding my way and some key Polish phrases. Although I was assured by many people that "every young person in Poland speaks English," I quickly found this was NOT the case. In Czestochowa I met only one. Fortunately, he was in the train station and able to help me use the luggage lockers there. With just a backpack to carry, I headed off to Jasna Gora.

After a lot of pointing and showing my paper to a few different people on the street, I found my way. There was a special event going on -- some sort of Mass for farmers. The main street was filled with booths with local products, farm supplies, tractors and everything imaginable. A large outdoor Mass was taking place. In Polish, of course! I went inside and attended the Mass taking place in front of the image of the Black Madonna. It was completely packed. After Mass, I had an opportunity to sit and pray a rosary for everyone's intentions. I finished my time there by making the little journey on my knees around the sanctuary where the image is enthroned. Back down the hill, I stopped to watch some performers in traditional Polish attire. Then back to pointing at my paper and finding the train station. Managed to get on the right train to Krakow!

The second person I met who spoke English was a young woman who came into my car on the train just as it was pulling out. We had a wonderful conversation all of the way to Krakow about everything Polish. Two older women joined us and we included them in the conversation with the first young woman serving as translator. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. I love riding the trains in Europe. Some people complain that they are not reliable but I find it to be quite the opposite. It is such a relaxing way to see the countryside.

I was met in Krakow at the station by a Polish Dominican brother who brought me to where I would be staying on Stolarska street -- just across from the American Embassy and a minute away from the main square. It was cold and dreary and drizzly and I was surprised to find the heat on inside. In my previous blog, I mentioned how Brother Michael took me to the Priory and showed me around, including the spot where Pope John Paul II dubbed Pier Giorgio "the Man of the Beatitudes." He introduced me to Brother Lukasz. Between the two of them, I had the best guides for Krakow and the surrounding area.

On Monday, I took the six+-hour tour to Auschwitz. It was incredibly intense and left a lasting impression upon me. Over the years, I have viewed a lot of films and read a lot of books on the topic. The first office for FrassatiUSA was right next to the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and I had many opportunities to discuss the Holocaust and obtain resources in different languages. But, obviously, there is nothing like being there. It was very special to visit the cell of Maximilian Kolbe and say a quick prayer there. Our guide recommended two books. I purchased one that day and finished it the other night. It is titled, "I was Dr. Mengele's Assistant." Powerful and unforgettable. It was overcast and dreary that day which was quite appropriate for the sights that we saw. Too much in and out of the cold for me again, so I was back in bed not long after returning to Krakow.

Krakow (again!)
Trying to prevent a total relapse, I decided to sleep in on Tuesday. I joined a walking tour of Krakow at noon in the main square. Every place has its own special flair. One of the amusing traditions in Krakow is the bugle playing from the highest tower of St. Mary's every hour on the hour. I enjoyed it the whole time I was there. Our walking tour guide was very entertaining and I was able to see some of the most notable sights. Most of all, I loved seeing Pope John Paul II waving to us (okay it was a poster) from the Archbishop's house. I'm not a good one for appreciating architecture and art, etc., but did enjoy heading up to Wawel Castle and the other main points along the way. When the tour split up, I went back to the museum for JP2. I must say, what a totally COOL pope he was! In the middle of one room was a collection of his sports gear, skis, a kayak, shirts given to him by sports teams. I mean, what a guy! Later, I had my first real food in days -- pieroghies in Poland. :) I give Krakow two thumbs up and recommend a trip there to anyone. Not to mention the fact that the US Dollar is worth three zlotych, so your money goes a long way. But hurry before Poland switches to the euro!

It was either the salt mines in Wieliczka or the birthplace of JP2. For me, an easy choice. Unfortunately, there was not an organized tour for Wadowice. It was cold, windy, the usual. And I had to find my way there and back on my own without a cheat sheet from Wanda! The girl at the info booth drew me a map for where to catch a bus. Okay, I found the spot but to call it a "bus" was quite a stretch. It was a total death trap with a driver who was on and off of his cell phone the whole time. He used the brakes often and at the last possible minute. My stomach was three rows in front of me the entire time. After an hour and 20 minutes, we arrived at the final stop. From my first look at the town, I wondered what I was thinking. But after walking to the house where Pope John Paul II was born, I had no regrets. It was just great to be there. The weather was horrible but every once in awhile the sun peeked out for a second. It was the feast of the Birthday of Mary -- how appropriate to spend it in the hometown of a pope whose motto was "Totus Tuus." Attended Mass in the church where he was baptized, confirmed, received first communion, served as an altar boy. It was a wonderful experience. After a couple of hours, I flagged down the bus heading to Krakow. Much to my relief, it was a real bus with a professional-looking driver.

Thursday, September 9th -- destination Pollone and the Frassati Villa. Wanda left Warsaw early that morning and we met at the train station in Krakow. It was planes, trains and automobiles all day long! We took the train to the Krakow airport, then a shuttlebus, then a plane to Milano, a car, another train, another train, another car and finally arrived!!!

The second-to-last train I took was standing room only. She found a seat but I was stuck in a wall-to-wall throng at the entrance to the carrozza. Apparently, some accident down the line made this train the one everyone needed to catch. Probably about a dozen of us were crammed into a space meant for one or two. It was like that everywhere. A father with his five-year-old daughter were standing in front of me. A woman was complaining for at least 15 or 20 minutes after the train got moving. All I could think of was the cattle car ride to Auschwitz. No air, no light, no facilities, no space, no food, no water, no hope.

Driving up the main street in Pollone (which happens to be named Pier Giorgio Frassati Street!), Wanda pointed out a new addition. In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Pier Giorgio's Beatification this past May, the town has hung some banners from a few key streetlights. It added to the anticipation of getting back here since leaving last July 5th. What can you say about having an opportunity to sleep in the house where a saint slept, to live in the house where a saint slept, to pray in the room where a saint lived, to kneel at the foot of the bed where a saint died, to pray a novena with the niece of a saint? As many times as I have been here, I know that it is a special grace and one that not everyone can experience. So the first order of business was to begin a novena for all of your intentions. I always find the novena in honor of Pier Giorgio to be very powerful but there is no comparison to the experience of praying it in his room. I went to sleep very happy to be back in Italy, most especially to be here.

I woke up on Friday morning feeling like a small child on Christmas morning -- wanting to go everywhere and see everything. But I really needed to get some rest and so did not overdo it. The weather was beautiful and majestic Mount Mucrone was standing taller than ever. Wanda and I had some business to take care of and I didn't venture far. But in the evening, I did walk up to the parish church for evening Mass. This is a tiny town. I knew what I would find upon arriving at the chapel. The tiny pews and the space in the back where my long legs would fit. The same short little old Italian ladies who lead the rosary. Old Don Mario (the priest) who has been serving God for more than 60 years. It's a little home away from home here.

Today was another picture perfect day. Wanda was inspired to take a ride up into the moutains in Oropa. Just fantastic. We ended with the 4:30 p.m. Mass in the Old Church -- where Pier Giorgio would regularly go to pray at the feet of his beloved Brown Madonna. The church was packed and it was just wonderful to attend Mass there. Afterward, Wanda talked with a priest who is coming tomorrow morning to say Mass here in Pier Giorgio's room. What a great way to celebrate Sunday morning in Pollone!

Well, that is a trip down travel-blog lane! I really wanted to get some pictures uploaded here and onto the Facebook page but it is getting late and I am supposed to meet Wanda in Pier Giorgio's room at 10 p.m. to continue the novena. So, maybe tomorrow... Thanks to everyone for all of the prayers for my safe travels and health. Know that wherever I go, I bring you with me and remain united to you through our common friendship with Blessed Pier Giorgio. Verso l'alto!

Monday, September 6, 2010

In the Footsteps of Pope John Paul II

There is so much to write about the last several days but, as usual, so little time. Wanda and I headed to Warsaw last Friday. On Sunday, we parted ways for a few days and I journeyed to Czestochowa and then Krakow. I took a 6+ hour tour to Auschwitz and Birkenau today. Tomorrow, I am going to venture on my own to Wadowice -- the birthplace of Pope John Paul II.

Well, that's the short version. The long version goes on for pages and hours and is too much for a blog post. But there is one great story that I have to share. Here in Krakow, I am the guest of the Polish Dominicans -- a group of 92 priests and brothers. Some of them have Pier Giorgio as their patron and a small group just recently visited the Frassati Villa in Pollone. Upon my arrival, Brother Michael took me to the priory to show me some areas that are closed to the public this week (for their retreat.) One place was the earliest room where they studied in the 13th century, the refectory, an underground storage area, some spectacular artwork, the prison where one priest was kept for three years! All very cool things to see but not the highlight.

In a certain sense, these Dominicans are where it all began for Pier Giorgio. Thirty-three years ago, on March 27, 1977, the Cardinal of Krakow -- Karol Wojtyla -- attended the opening of an exhibit about Pier Giorgio. The exhibit was in the halls of the Priory in the large common area outside of one entrance to the main church. It was then that Cardinal Wojtyla was so overcome with emotion and encouraged others to go view the exhibit. As I understand it, the Dominicans were having a retreat at the time that focused on the Beatitudes. Accordingly, Cardinal Wojtyla offered this exhortation: "Go and look at these photographs. Behold the man of the eight beatitudes who bears in himself the grace of the Gospel, the Good News, the joy of salvation offered to us by Christ..."

The title stuck and Pier Giorgio became known ever since as the "Man of the Beatitudes."

Last night, I stood in the spot where Pope John Paul II (then Cardinal Wojtyla) was photographed looking at a picture of Pier Giorgio prior to making those remarks. It was a real moment of completeness for me. Perhaps, just perhaps, if Pope John Paul II had not spoken of or promoted Pier Giorgio so much, I might never have known whom he was. A common thread definitely runs through both of their lives. And both of their lives have so profoundly impacted the direction of mine. For those reasons and many more, it cannot be more appropriate for me to be here now and to be so inspired by the inspiration of Pope John Paul II. Setting off for his birthplace tomorrow is a little pilgrimage of gratitude, I suppose. Having so often visited his tomb, it will be nice to see where it all began for him.

On a sad note, I also retraced a few of his footsteps today, as well as those of Pope Benedict, at Auschwitz in Block 11, Cell 18, where St. Maximilian Kolbe died. Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau is an intense experience summed up well by Pope Benedict during his remarks in 2006: "Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?"

Well, it may be a few days before I write again. God-willing, that will be from the Frassati Villa in Pollone where I will rejoin Wanda on Thursday. Looking forward to praying for you there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Bells of St. Mary

There are many pleasures in Rome. One that I had forgotten was the beautiful sound of the church bells that mark the time here in Trastevere. Every 15 minutes, the bell tower of the beautiful basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere tolls a certain tone once for each hour and once for each quarter of an hour. You never need to look at a watch. Unfortunately, I haven't been feeling very well since my arrival here and am forced to spend the entire day today in bed. The bells are my consolation. A wonderful consolation.

Upon arrival, despite a pounding head, I did take a walk down to St. Peter's. It is almost a tradition for me to visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II upon my arrival in this city. I was filled with emotion as I knelt behind the ropes and reflected on all that has transpired these past few years. I prayed for all of the benefactors of FrassatiUSA, everyone on the mailing list, everyone on the Facebook fan page, all of my family and friends. There are so many special intentions. I also asked that holy man to advance the cause of Pier Giorgio Frassati. I think he would have loved to have been the one to canonize him. Now it will be up to someone else some day.

Another favorite spot of mine is the Divine Mercy church here -- officially it is the Church of the Holy Spirit. They have Eucharistic Adoration every day and it is a very peaceful, holy place. I enjoyed being there for Mass.

Of course, here in the piazza where I stay, I am fortunate to be able to regularly visit Santa Maria in Trastevere. It is a beautiful place and a church that is very alive in Rome. During yesterday's homily, the priest made a point worth reflecting on at length. He spoke of how we have become so preoccupied with the rights of every sort of group, the rights of animals, etc. But we have forgotten that with every right comes a corresponding duty to live up to the responsibilities that the right bestows. Ultimately, all of our rights, our very dignity, come from being sons and daughters of God. And with those rights comes the duty to love God in return and live lives worthy of such a distinction as to be called children of God.

Not feeling well has kept me from spending much time with Wanda so far. However, I did get to visit with her and another of her sisters for a little while yesterday. We will make up for lost time in the days ahead. Thanks to everyone who has sent well wishes and the promise of prayers. It is all very much appreciated. Verso l'alto!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To the Top ... sort of!

In just a few hours, I will be leaving for the long journey to Rome. Although I do not enjoy the inconveniences of travel, the final destination (and the excellent cappuccino!) makes it all worthwhile.

The purpose of this trip is to once again spend time working with Wanda Gawronska, Pier Giorgio's niece, on various matters related to the work of FrassatiUSA and the efforts to promote his spirituality. As always, I will do my best to provide updates and photos that may be of interest. Most importantly, I will be praying for all of the many friends of Pier Giorgio back in the U.S. as I visit so many holy places. Verso l'alto!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio

Thanks to Jillison for sharing this story:

"In late June, my uncle fell while trimming tree limbs and suffered an internal separation of his head from his spinal column. While not paralyzed, he was, needless to say, in critical condition and was thought several times to be near death. One day in particular, I received word that they were calling for the family members to come to the hospital, as they feared he would not last much longer. Not living close by I went to Mass instead and prayed fervently for the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio (he needs another miracle and so did we!!). When I returned from Mass I had a voicemail waiting from my mother – it seemed that an adjustment of my uncle's medicines had reversed the severity of the situation and my uncle was – for the moment – out of the woods. After several surgeries (and a nicked artery during one of them), my uncle is out of the hospital and back home again. And all of this after the doctors had suggested it would be months upon months before he was well enough to leave the hospital and all associated rehab facilities! There is no doubt in my mind that his recovery – while perhaps not "miraculous" – is due in no small part to Blessed Pier Giorgio and his eternal charity."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Frassati Catholic Academy Opens!

Today was the first day of school for students at Frassati Catholic Academy in the Archdiocese of Chicago! Click here to read a story in the Daily Herald. Take a minute to visit the school's website. We wish all of the faculty, staff and students a wonderful year guided by Blessed Pier Giorgio. Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Tee Shirt is Worth a Thousand Words

Former Beatle Paul McCartney performed recently here in Nashville and the ticket prices were staggering. I was amazed at the willingness of people who paid more than $200 for the "cheap seats" and would have gladly paid $2000 for a seat on the floor. When it comes to music, celebrities and sports, it seems we often have no hesitation in going all out to show our admiration and devotion.

And yet, when it comes to witnessing for our Faith, a timidity creeps in. Human nature can't help it -- we want to be liked and fit in. But conformity was never a goal of Christ. In fact, in Romans 12:2, we are exhorted to be different: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Thoughts like these run through my mind when I put on any sort of religious clothing whether it's a sweatshirt from Lourdes or a t-shirt from Fatima. Just like everyone else, I wonder how I will be viewed.

Last weekend, I was in a shopping mall that caters to a higher end sort of clientele. Now, I personally hate to shop. The female shopping gene I was supposed to have somehow got mixed up with one that loves football! I usually have to "offer it up" when I am forced to go to a mall. But last weekend, it was almost fun. I decided to wear the n
ew Pier Giorgio Frassati t-shirt. I was very conscious of the puzzled looks at his name on the front of my shirt as I walked around. When I ran into a small boy wearing the newest Tim Tebow Denver Broncos shirt, I stopped to chat with him and his mom. They didn't ask about my shirt but I wondered whom they thought Pier Giorgio Frassati was -- maybe a new fashion designer or a member of the Italian cycling team!

The back of this shirt sums up everything about Pier Giorgio in a simple sentence uttered by Pope John Paul II during his beatification homily: "He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone." Whether you're in the cheap seats or sitting on the floor or at the mall or in your home or sweeping floors or entertaining millions or suffering from an addiction or raising a family or unemployed or athletic or uncoordinated or beautiful or plain or rich or poor or anything else, holiness is for YOU! And all I had to do to spread the message was walk around the mall and let the t-shirt do the talking.

So what have your clothes been saying lately?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Waters of Baptism

Last week, several members of my family headed from all directions to Maryland for the baptism of our newest addition -- cute little baby Katie! I don't know at what point in my spiritual life I began crying at baptisms but I do find them to be very emotional. As the water flows over that little baby and she is washed clean of original sin and made spotless in the sight of God, we are witnesses to one of the most incredible gifts of grace the Lord has given us.

As they so often do, my thoughts turned to Pier Giorgio. I remembered the beautiful story of how he served as the godfather for a baby of a poor family. The mother did not even have money for a baptismal gown, so he provided the funds and encouraged her to have the baby baptized. And, in his usual unassuming way, he mentioned it only briefly in one of his letters to a friend in 1923: "Now I have a goddaughter, who is 20 days old, I held her at the baptism the other day; she is pretty enough as far as babies are at that age they're more or less all the same."

Pier Giorgio had a great appreciation for the sacramental life and, consistent with his strong commitment to the apostolate of persuasion, he was always finding ways to bring others to these life-changing encounters with Christ. The significance of the sacrament of Baptism was not lost upon him. He referred to it on several occasions in his letters.

In 1924, he wrote to a friend, "And let us hope that this Faith that we have received in Holy Baptism, [...], will accompany us until the last day of our earthly journey [...]" Later, in 1925, while going through a personal turmoil, his letter to a friend gave us one of the most beautiful reflections:

Every now and then I ask myself: shall I go on trying to follow the right path? Will I have the good fortune to persevere to the end? In this tremendous clash of doubts, the Faith given to me in Baptism suggests to me with a sure voice: 'By yourself you can do nothing, but if you have God as the center of your every action then, yes, you will reach the goal.' And I would like to be able to do precisely that and to take as a maxim the saying of St. Augustine: 'Lord, our heart is restless until it rests in you.'

I was happy to discover the picture above when I got home from the baptism -- the water flowing over my niece's head from the hands of the priest transforming her into a pure child of God. It is an eternal grace that we receive at that moment and Pier Giorgio knew it well. He held fast to that grace throughout his lifetime and encourages us to do the same. Maybe if I had the faith he had in his early 20s, I would have started crying tears of joy at baptisms a lot sooner. Verso l'alto!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrating the Feast Day of Blessed Pier Giorgio!

Over the past several years, each feast day of Blessed Pier Giorgio has become more special for me. It is such a gift to us as Americans that we can celebrate both our Independence and the Feast of Pier Giorgio on the same day. I like to think of it as the "Frassati Fourth of July!" And, often when I give talks about Pier Giorgio's life, I will say, "Think Frassati when you see fireworks!"

Praying the novena in honor of Pier Giorgio during the days leading up to July 4th has also become very meaningful. The meditation on each Beatitude helps to put me in the mindset of Pier Giorgio and reflect on his life, his struggles, his joys, his sacrifices, his family life, and so on. It never fails that I experience some special consolation during that timeframe. This year has been no different.

It is such a blessing to be an American -- something that I took for granted until recent years. This is truly a great country founded on religious freedom and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. In Nashville, Tennessee, where I live, we have one of the country's best Fourth of July celebrations. The feelings of patriotism are overwhelming when you are among such a large crowd with one common bond. In a similar way, from being in "The Pact" and knowing that we are all united in prayer and our commitment to works of charity, there is a special feeling of spiritual camaradarie. All of these sorts of things go through my mind as the fireworks go off over my head.

I feel certain that Pier Giorgio is smiling on us from Heaven today and is grateful to everyone who has helped to spread his devotion here on earth. He continues to be our constant companion on our journey to holiness each day of our lives. So, wherever you are today, whisper a special prayer intention to him. Add a prayer for God to continue to bless America. And have a happy Frassati Fourth of July! Verso l'alto!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watch Pier Giorgio on EWTN this weekend!

This weekend on July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, EWTN will re-broadcast a 2009 interview with Wanda Gawronska -- the niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. It will air for 30 minutes each day at 1:30 p.m. EST. If you do not have EWTN on your television, you can watch it online via their audio/video streaming:

For those of you outside of the United States, check the schedule in your part of the world:

Pass it on and tune it in! Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul!

Today is a very special day for friends of Blessed Pier Giorgio. "Peter" being the first part of his name, this feast was always considered his name day. In those days, it was still a holy day of obligation. (By the way, it remains a holy day of obligation in the Eastern Catholic Church to this day.)

This feast day also marked the beginning of Pier Giorgio's last days on earth after contracting the polio disease. One of the most moving books by his sister Luciana is: My Brother Pier Giorgio, His Last Days. In the opening pages of the book, she recounts the request Pier Giorgio made to the maid Maria on that day. "Two cigars. Today you have to give me two cigars: one for St. Peter and one for St. Paul; it's a double feast day today!" (p. 8) I love the fact that his good sense of humor remained with him even to the end. And it is nice to read how much he practiced his faith and celebrated the great feast days of the Church.

We are on the fifth day of the novena in honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio. How nice to be able to celebrate the patron saint of Pier Giorgio just a few days before we celebrate the feast of Pier Giorgio himself! Verso l'alto!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now you can download and print the Frassati Novena!

For those of you who will be joining the worldwide Novena in Honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, you can now download and print a .pdf version of the prayers. The document is in the forms section on the FrassatiUSA website. Click here to go directly to the novena page.

If you want to include your intentions with those being offered around the world, visit the website of the Compagnia dei Tipi Loschi. Click here to go directly to the page inviting your participation. In the small box on the right, click on the word "INGLESE" to read the instructions in English. They will post your prayer intentions on their website if you send an email to: and include your name/group and country of origin. (If you want to see all of the intentions already posted on their website, click on the word "ADESIONI" at the bottom of the small box on the right or click here to go directly to that page.) On the Fourth of July, they will offer a special Mass for all of these intentions.

Day One of the Novena begins today. Start your prayer engines! Verso l'alto!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Frassati Novena Begins Friday June 25th!

We all need a little help from our friends -- especially our friends who are already in Heaven! Friday, June 25th, marks the start of the novena in honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. It will conclude in time to celebrate his Fourth of July feast day! All of the novena prayers can be found on the website.

If you are on the FrassatiUSA mailing list, you should have received an email today with some additional info. If you did not receive the email, your email provider may have blocked it or sent it to your spam folder. Be sure to add "" to your address book to be sure to get future emails.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pope Benedict Promotes Blessed Pier Giorgio as Model for Youth

Speaking to the youth in Turin recently about the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Pope Benedict pointed to Blessed Pier Giorgio as an excellent role model:

"His existence was totally surrounded by grace and love of God, and it was consumed with serenity and joy in the passionate service of Christ and neighbor," the Pontiff said. "Young like you, he lived his Christian formation with great commitment, and gave a testimony of faith, simplicity and efficacy.

"He was a young man fascinated by the beauty of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, who experimented all of the joy of being a friend of Christ, of following him, of feeling in a living way that he was part of the Church."

In light of his testimony, the Pope encouraged the youth to have "the courage to choose what is essential in life."

"Like [Piergiorgio]," the Holy Father said, "discover that it is worth it to commit oneself for God and with God, to respond to his call in the fundamental decisions and the daily ones, even when it is costly."

(Click here to read the whole article.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Twenty Blessed Years

When Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati on May 20, 1990, he bestowed on future generations a wonderful gift -- the holy example of "the Man of the Eight Beatitudes." The life of Pier Giorgio challenges us to examine our own effort to grow in holiness. He reminds us that holiness can be found in the normality of life and that mediocrity is not an acceptable goal. He teaches us to live and not merely exist. He reveals the joy of being Catholic. Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the last twenty blessed years and look forward to the saintly ones to come. Happy Anniversary, Pier Giorgio! Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Canonization Novena Begins Today!

Today is the day to begin the Novena in Honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio if you want to end in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his beatification on May 20th! A worthy intention to add to your novena would be for a canonization miracle to move his cause forward, if it is God's will. Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville Needs Your Prayers

The last several days have been unforgettable here in Nashville -- the home of country music and FrassatiUSA.

I had been to Minneapolis and Lexington to give a series of presentations on Pier Giorgio and returned to Nashville for a relaxing weekend. At some point, it started to rain. It rained. And it rained. And it rained.

By Sunday morning, we all started to realize something wasn't right. When I went outside to look around, I discovered that the streets nearest me were now only passable by boat. The next several hours were spent watching the water rise and trying to decide if and when to evacuate. Many neighbors had already been forced to flee; many were rescued through windows. Some died. It happened so fast that we didn't really know what was happening.

I cannot describe the terrible and sad things I have seen over the last few days. You can probably view a lot of it online at our local news channels (such as We are still in a difficult and dangerous situation and rain is in the forecast for this weekend.

FrassatiUSA -- along with homes and businesses throughout the area -- is without phone/internet service. We understand it may be up to two more weeks before service is restored. We appreciate your patience during this time as it may take longer to respond to emails, process orders and bring the latest news to you on the website. Please keep Nashville in your prayers.

Thanks to those of you who have checked in to see if my home is okay. Fortunately, I did not have any water damage whatsoever. I wish I could say the same for all of those around me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A "Miracle" Down Under

Thanks to John in New South Wales, Australia, for sharing this beautiful testimony:

I live in Sydney Australia and was privileged to kneel next to Pier Giorgio's coffin during World Youth Day in 2008. I took an Iranian friend to visit the coffin here and he was amazed that a Christian sain't's body can be incorrupt. He became very interested in Christianity. This friend was on a temporary protection visa. I gave him a prayer card to PGF and we both prayed that he would get permanent residency here in Austrlaia. Two days after the Refugee Tribunal hearing last year (unknown to us), the person in charge ruled in my friend's favour for permanent residence in Australia. As PGF is not so well-known in the Catholic world, I committed my friend's need for permanent residency solely to PGF. A few days ago, due to the intercession of PGF, my friend got his permanent residency here in Australia and can become a citizen in a year.The delay in getting the news was due to the investigation of the case by our equivalent of your CIA. In my eyes PGF's intercession has produced a non-healing miracle. My friend's life would have been in serious danger if sent home. For me, PGF is now a 'saint'. My friend and I have prayed to PGF for this outcome. I hope my friend will now convert to Christianity.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shroud of Turin on Display

You probably have heard that the Shroud of Turin is now on display. An estimated two million people will pass by the Shroud (including Pope Benedict XVI who will visit on May 2nd.) The altar dedicated to Pier Giorgio is located not far from the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin and so this will be a wonderful opportunity for him to be better known. The 20th Anniversary of his beatification will be marked on May 20th of this year. How wonderful that the Holy Shroud will be on display not far from Pier Giorgio's tomb on that day! (On a personal note, I love the purple -- my favorite color! -- awnings outside of the Cathedral in this short video clip.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Good Friend, Pier Giorgio

It is hard for me to put into words how much Pier Giorgio has meant to me since I first met him 15 years ago. As we have just celebrated his 109th birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the gift of his spiritual friendship.

I am often asked how I got to know Pier Giorgio and how I got involved with FrassatiUSA. It started in 1995 when I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend law school at Vanderbilt University. My new parish priest asked me to help form a group for young adults. We were struggling with a name until he came upon a little brochure for Pier Giorgio and decided to make him our patron. Our "Frassati Society" met for the first time in February of 1996. Until then, I had never heard of Pier Giorgio. Since then, he has been the roadmap for my life's journey. Six years later, I started another Frassati Society at Aquinas College in Nashville. In 2006, I met Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda Gawronska in Rome. Later that year, FrassatiUSA was born.

That's the short story.

The story too long to tell is how much of a role Pier Giorgio has played in my life. For starters, there is the gift of friendship. I like to say that Pier Giorgio should be made the patron saint of friendship because he showed us how true Christ-centered friendships should be lived. My best friend to this day is someone I met through that first Frassati Society here in Nashville. That first parish priest is still promoting Pier Giorgio and is a steady support for FrassatiUSA. The Book of Sirach (6:14) tells us that "a faithful friend is a steady shelter. He who finds one finds a treasure." Pier Giorgio loved his friends and treasured his friendships. He constantly shows me how to do the same.

One of my greatest joys was getting to spend time with Pier Giorgio's sister Luciana. You could not be with her without being reminded of Pier Giorgio. It was a powerful experience for me to attend her funeral when she passed away peacefully at the age of 105. I loved being able to sit beside her and look out on the family gardens and I am blessed to have such happy memories of her. Pier Giorgio loved his sister and I am convinced it was a heavenly gift from him that allowed me to get to know her before her death.

I have also been blessed to get to know all of Luciana's six children, most especially her daughter Wanda. Through Wanda, Pier Giorgio has really come to life for me. One of my most treasured experiences is the time that I spent with Wanda over the course of three years completing the translation and editing of Pier Giorgio's book of letters. During that time in Rome and Pollone, Wanda opened up Pier Giorgio for me in a such a way that I can truly empathize with the disciples who met Christ on the way to Emmaus. "Didn't our hearts burn within us..." they asked after Christ had opened up the Scriptures for them on that journey. (Luke 24:32) Ever since that project, Pier Giorgio has been alive for me in ways I cannot really explain. His presence burns within me in a way that gives me comfort and consolation and courage for the journey. His portrait hangs in my stairwell and I like to talk to him in Italian each morning and evening. Even my friends comment on how he seems to be smiling so broadly at times. It may sound odd but I do sense his presence.

Since founding FrassatiUSA in 2006, I have heard from so many of you. I am not always the best at responding to email but love hearing the many ways Pier Giorgio is working in your lives. It is fascinating to be in my position and see so many "Pier Giorgio seeds" taking root and bearing fruit. Over the years, I have traveled a bit to share his message that "holiness is for everyone" with people of all ages. In every city I visit, I receive more than I give. It is exhausting and yet exhilarating to see how people respond to Pier Giorgio. It never fails that when I grumble the most, he hands out the biggest blessings. That, I think, is to remind me how undeserving I am and how grateful I should be at all times.

Last summer, I was able to lead a group of pilgrims from Rome to Turin in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio. What struck me the most about the group was how diverse we were. It was so clear to see how broad Pier Giorgio's appeal is in our culture -- he has something to offer everyone. We had so many wonderful things happen that could only be attributed to his intercession. Climbing Mount Mucrone on his feast day was the height of going "to the top!" He had to have just loved it.

Life is so daily. And it is too easy to get caught up in the demands and busy-ness of the day and lose sight of what really matters the most. On this occasion of Pier Giorgio's 109th birthday, I have been thinking a lot about how my life is on a course set back in 1901 when Pier Giorgio came into this world. Because of him, I am doing what I am doing today. What an enormous ripple effect. What a mystery. What grace. What a friend.

Verso l'alto!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pray the Pier Giorgio Birthday Novena!

Just a little reminder -- if you want to start a novena in time for Pier Giorgio's birthday on April 6th, you should begin today! Here is a link to the novena online. (It is also printed in the little Book of Prayers in Honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pope Benedict and Pier Giorgio

I always find it thrilling when the Pope mentions Blessed Pier Giorgio in one of his talks. He did it again just recently in his message to the youth for World Youth Day -- on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the institution of World Youth Day by Pope John Paul II.

Even more exciting is that Pier Giorgio is not mentioned among a list of other saints and blesseds but stands alone in the Holy Father's reflection on our focus on eternal life. You can read the whole message by clicking on the following link: Pope's World Youth Day Message.

Paragraph 5 is excerpted below:

5. Oriented to Eternal Life

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question of the young man of the Gospel seems far from the concerns of many contemporary young people, because, as my predecessor observed, "are we not the generation, whose horizon of existence the world and temporal progress fill completely? (Letter to Young People, No. 5). But the question on "eternal life" flowers in particularly painful moments of existence, when we suffer the loss of a close person or when we live the experience of failure.

But what is the "eternal life" to which the young man refers? It is illustrated by Jesus when, turning to his disciples, he affirms: "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). They are words that indicate an exalted proposal of endless happiness, of joy of being filled with divine love forever.

To ask oneself about the definitive future that awaits each one of us gives full meaning to existence, because it orients the plan of life toward horizons that are not limited and passing, but ample and profound, which lead to loving the world, so loved by God himself, to dedicate oneself to its development, but always with the liberty and joy born from faith and hope. They are horizons that help not to absolutize earthly realities, seeing that God prepares a greater prospect for us, and to repeat with St. Augustine: "We desire together the heavenly homeland, we sigh for the heavenly homeland, we feel ourselves pilgrims down here" (Commentary on St. John's Gospel, Homily 35, 9). Keeping his gaze fixed on eternal life, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in 1925 at the age of 24, said: "I want to live and not just get along!" and on the photo of an ascent sent to a friend, he wrote: "Toward on high," alluding to Christian perfection, but also to eternal life.

Dear young people, I exhort you not to forget this prospect of your plan of life: We are called to eternity. God has created us to be with Him, forever. This will help you to give full meaning to your choices and to give quality to your existence.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Which Pier Giorgio book is the best?

I promised to give my two cents on the books available about Pier Giorgio, so I will attempt it here. First, I should say that my favorite books have not yet been published in English. As for those that have, it would be hard for me to not recommend any of them because I have enjoyed them all for different reasons. So, I suppose a better approach would be to answer the question often asked me -- "Which one would you read first?" I usually respond by asking how much you already know about Pier Giorgio and how much you enjoy reading.

Without a doubt, the quickest read and one that will bring tears to your eyes is the book by Luciana Frassati called "My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days." It is a recounting of the last week of Pier Giorgio's short life. It is such a compelling story that it is hard to not feel some connection to Pier Giorgio when you are finished. Even if you are not an avid reader or if you are a slow reader, I think you will be surprised at how much you like this book and how fast you get through it. You will then want to know his whole story which brings us to the biographies.

There are two biographies that are easily obtained here in the U.S. The one that is written by his sister Luciana is "A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati." This is a much longer and detailed account of Pier Giorgio's life by the person who grew up with him and was devoted to him her entire life. I appreciate Luciana's honesty in her books. She never presents herself in the same light as Pier Giorgio. In fact, she is very candid about how much she was not like him from a spiritual standpoint. Because the book was written in the 1950s and geared toward the Italian audience, it has an historical feel to it. A later biography was written by Maria Di Lorenzo. This book, "Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian," although a bit more contemporary in its writing style, draws largely on the books by Luciana Frassati. The final chapter contains interesting information about the beatification process (which obviously was not available at the time that Luciana Frassati wrote her books.)

Two excellent biographies that are now out of print can occasionally be found online and are well worth purchasing: "The Soul of Pier Giorgio Frassati" by Robert Claude, S.J., and "Pier Giorgio Frassati" by H.L. Hughes. (I bought both of them through Each one adds a little more to the complete story of Pier Giorgio. As is the case in many of the books, there is a particular tendency in these two books to make Pier Giorgio too perfect and his life too easy. His sister tried to address that over-simplification of his spirituality when she wrote her biography discussed above, "Man of the Beatitudes."

Perhaps it would not be the best book to begin learning about Pier Giorgio, but after you know his story, it is compelling and necessary to read his own words. "Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family," provides an opportunity to see Pier Giorgio through his own eyes. I suppose, for that reason, it is one of my favorites. Also, it was my privilege to edit this book -- letter by letter, word by word -- with Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda Gawronska. During that process, Wanda would provide me with background stories and anecdotes that really brought those letters to life. Ironically, it disappoints some readers, I think, to learn that Pier Giorgio really was a normal guy. This is what you find in his letters. And yet, for me, that is the appeal. He will probably never be declared a Doctor of the Church. But he is the most exemplary model for those striving to live out the lay vocation in these extremely challenging times.

For young people around middle-school age, there is a shorter biography called "Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: Journey to the Summit" by Ana Maria Vazquez and Jennings Dean. There is also a very well done comic book called "Pier Giorgio Frassati." It was created by the current superior of the Bridgittine Monks who happens to be a big Pier Giorgio fan. The comic book has a typo on the date of Pier Giorgio's beatification but does a great job of conveying what the bigger biographies take hundreds of pages to relate. It is not easy to get your hands on, but you can contact their gift shop for details. They support their Order by selling delicious fudge, so you might satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time!

Lastly, there are two small booklets that are great evangelization tools. "Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: From Prayer to the Apostolate" is the life of Pier Giorgio in a 42-page nutshell. It is a great introduction to his spirituality. I think every friend of Pier Giorgio should have a copy of "A Book of Prayers in honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati." This booklet contains the novena, among other prayers, and is a good companion on the journey verso l'alto!

Many of you have read several of the above and would probably be able to provide more interesting reviews and feedback than me. I will look forward to reading your responses to this post.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Which Pier Giorgio DVD or book is the best?

I am often asked which book or DVD I would recommend. Just today, I emailed a reply to a seminarian with this very question but his server would not accept the email. (As an aside, many of you do not receive the occasional emails from FrassatiUSA because your servers block our domain.)

In any case, the seminarian's question is one I receive often, so it seemed worthy blog material. Let's start with the DVDs. There are only a few programs that I am aware of. A short children's version is available through EWTN in the "My Catholic Family" series. This DVD has several inaccuracies in it when it comes to Pier Giorgio. So, it may be a good starting point for introducing him to your small children but it needs some fact clarification.

The DVDs available on the FrassatiUSA website are all from appearances on EWTN. The earliest one is from a June 2008 episode of "Life on the Rock." The first 15 minutes or so is about other material. The remaining time includes a good discussion about Pier Giorgio.

Last year, Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda Gawronska came to the U.S. to join me for a mini-series on Pier Giorgio. That series is titled "Sanctity Within Reach" and is packed with good info about Pier Giorgio from the person who is the most knowledgeable person alive. I suggest watching it with subtitles.

Wanda and I also appeared together on "EWTN Live" with Fr. Mitch Pacwa in June 2009. That program was lively and informative and includes about a 20-minute Q&A session following the general discussion. I will leave the question of which DVD is the best up to those of you who have seen them. Feel free to post your honest assessment as comments to this blog.

I am also often asked if there is a Pier Giorgio movie available. Some of you have even found the clips on YouTube of an Italian movie. Click here to view one of the several clips posted. In this brief scene, Pier Giorgio recites (in Italian) the quote many people most associate with him: "... to live without a Faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for the Truth, is not living but existing. We must never exist but live..."

The movie this clip comes from is called, "Se Non Avessi L'Amore" and was produced in Italy by RAI Television following the beatification of Pier Giorgio. It aired on Italian television and is not available for purchase. (I have a personal copy that was taped when it aired back in 1991 but am not able to reproduce it.) The film does not have English subtitles, so you need to understand Italian to follow the story. Many people have asked if subtitles could be added and the movie aired in the U.S. If anybody out there has the power, knowledge, influence, connections, time, etc., to make that happen, go for it!

People have also asked why we don't film a new movie about Pier Giorgio. In a word: money! That would be quite an expensive undertaking. I would love to see it happen, of course, along with many other efforts that we have on the backburner but resources are not there for many projects. In any case, I hope this brings you up to date on the DVD situation. Next time, I will give you my two centesimi on the books! Verso l'alto!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Years and Counting!

Today is a special day here at FrassatiUSA. It was just three years ago on this day that the website was launched and Pier Giorgio's message was sent forth into cyber world! Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the United States and more than 120 countries have been to the site. I didn't even know there were that many countries with English-speaking people and internet access!

What a privilege it is to hear from people all over the world who have found Pier Giorgio through the site. It's a simple website with not many bells and whistles but it is a thrill to see how it is making a difference. A big thank you to our donors who keep us going and help us bring Pier Giorgio to the world. Verso l'alto!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Today's feast is one that always inspires me. Paul, a great persecutor of the followers of Christ, becomes, in a moment of blindness, the greatest evangelist for Christ. The conversion of Paul is so dramatic and life-changing. It is a story that gives hope to those of us who need conversion in various areas of our lives. How fitting that the Church celebrates this feast in January -- the month for making (and often quickly breaking) resolutions.

I'm no theologian and have no profound thoughts to offer. I just love that the method Christ uses to permeate Paul's life is to strike him blind. To fully see, in other words, has little to do with our physical eyesight. And when Paul asks the Lord what he should do, the answer is a simple step: "Get up and go into Damascus." Paul, being blinded, can't find his way alone and so, Scripture tells us, he is led by hand by his companions. (Acts 22:10-11) How gentle the Lord works with Paul and uses his friends and even his former enemies to bring him to the understanding of how he would become a great instrument for the Lord.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati did not have a conversion experience like Paul. From his childhood, he was disposed to love God and that love grew until the moment of his death. And yet, Saint Paul was his favorite saint and model for charity. Despite their different paths, these holy men had a common denominator underlying their spirituality; that is, the understanding that God is love and the love of God compels us to love one another.

On January 15, 1925, Pier Giorgio wrote to his best friend Marco Beltramo, "In the world which has distanced itself from God, there is a lack of Peace, but there is also a lack of Charity that is true and perfect Love. Maybe if all of listened more to St. Paul, human miseries would be slightly diminished."

Today, as we mark the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, it would be an excellent day to listen more to him, to sharpen our resolve to perform acts of charity, to remind ourselves that we can break free from our sinful ways and live for Christ, to seek the blindness that enlightens us.