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!