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!