Monday, December 12, 2011

Five Years and Counting

Today is the fifth anniversary of the chartering of FrassatiUSA.  It was very special to begin and place this organization under the special patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day in 2006.  Yesterday's second reading ended with this promise from 1 Thessalonians 5:24, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it."  Relying on that promise, we press on in the effort to promote the spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and his cause for sainthood.  Our Lady of Guadalupe and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati...pray for us.  Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

It is a good thing that we are supposed to spend the Advent Season joyfully preparing for the birth of Christ because it is so full of many wonderful feast days to celebrate!  The feast of Saint Nicholas was always one of the most important for my family not only during my childhood but even up to the present day.

My parents had a way of bringing the liturgical year to life for me and my nine brothers and sisters.  Now, every holiday is filled with memories of traditions that were designed to keep our focus on the spiritual meaning of the day.  Saint Nicholas Day has always been a family favorite.  The night before would be capped off with a live puppet show featuring Saint Nicholas and his sidekick Black Peter.  We would hang our stockings and go to bed just a little worried about the possibility of getting a lump of coal and then wake up to that beautiful sight of red stockings bursting with treats.  Among the loot would be some delicious, homemade gingerbread cookies.  As we all got older and were no longer around to hang our stockings, the packages would come in the mail -- always with the gingerbread cookies and a note saying they were from "St. Nick's helper."  

This tradition ended only upon the death of my mother who passed away quite unexpectedly nine years ago.  It gave our family such great consolation that she was laid to rest on Saint Nicholas Day.  As one of my brothers put it, "she was such a good helper on earth for St. Nick that he decided he needed her in heaven." Many of us continue to bake and enjoy the gingerbread cookies today as a way of keeping her memory alive.

A few years before she died, my mother and I were able to make a trip to Italy to meet our Italian side of the family for the first time.  We made our way to the tiny town that my grandparents had left to come to America in the early 1900s.  It was very special to visit their parish church that still had the original baptismal font probably used for both of them.  And the name of that little church?  St. Nicholas!  It was as if my grandparents brought him along as a special patron for our family when they said goodbye to the "old country."

My grandparents would have been contemporaries of Pier Giorgio Frassati.  Unfortunately, they both died long before I knew about him, so I was never able to ask them if they had ever heard of him while they were still in Italy.   But they have heard of him now and I imagine they are all celebrating this feast day together.  Happy Saint Nicholas Day!  Verso l'alto!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Not long ago, I watched the Masterpiece Theatre version of the Charles Dickens' classic, "A Tale of Two Cities" set in the time of the French Revolution - commonly known as the Reign of Terror.  This period would have a connection to Pier Giorgio Frassati toward the end of his life when he and his best friend Marco Beltramo nicknamed themselves, "The Terror."

Pier Giorgio made no secret of the fact that he despised the French, even referring to them as the "Sons of Darkness."  So he was purely being facetious when he began signing letters with the name "Robespierre" -- a bloodthirsty French dictator whose execution in 1794 ended the Reign of Terror.  In jest, Pier Giorgio would send "terroristic greetings" to his close friends in the Tipi Loschi group that he formed.  Today, I suppose his sense of humor would not be considered very politically correct.  Somehow, I doubt he would care.

In any case, you can credit or blame Dickens' well-known opening and closing lines for this lengthy, digressing blog entry which really does have something to do with Thanksgiving if you can bear with me long enough!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way ..."

At various points in my life, I find that certain quotes strike me in completely different ways.  Many moons ago, when I signed up for a three-credit summer seminar on the writings of Charles Dickens to satisfy requirements for my English minor, I'm sure my focus was simply on what it would take to complete the course.  I can say with almost certainty that I spent little time reflecting on the season of Light, the season of Darkness, the spring of hope,  the winter of despair, the best of times, the worst of times.  Now that I am much older and slightly wiser, I reflect on those things with regularity, especially as I find myself immersed in running a non-profit ministry.

At FrassatiUSA, the challenges are almost always in terms of financial constraints.  With no outside funding, no grants, no big donors, the dollars are not easy to come by.  I think we may have brought new meaning to the "low" part of the term "low budget operation."  It has brought me to my knees; it has brought me to the brink of calling it quits; it has brought me to Pier Giorgio, time and time again.  Somehow, miraculously, the non-payroll expenses always get paid.  Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and months turn into years and in less than a month, we will mark our fifth anniversary.  God is good!

Some days, the mail brings such consolation that there can be no doubt that the Lord wants this work to continue.  This month, we mailed out our annual request for financial support to those on the mailing list.  It's not a large list and it never brings in very much money to work with, averaging less than $5,000/year.  But the notes that come provide the spring of hope, the season of Light.

For example, the other day, I opened a letter that had enclosed a one dollar contribution.  I think of the widow in Jesus' parable and that dollar bill makes me so grateful because I know it was sent out of the little that person had.  It is a truly humbling experience to be entrusted with that sort of treasure.  A month or two ago, I was in email contact with a guy from Australia about the funding situation here.  He offered to and began praying and fasting for this ministry until Christmas, at which time I suppose he expects Baby Jesus to do the rest!  Imagine a person half way around the world carrying that burden.  Thanks, Steve.

I have received numerous notes from strangers thanking me for the work done here.  Some filled with confetti and kindness.  Some enclosing extra funds for a cup of cappuccino or coffee, like in the note shown above.  I find it so touching when people think of those little temporal joys. That is so very like Pier Giorgio who brought flowers to the poor because he knew they also needed things that made them happy.  Along those same lines, yesterday I received a t-shirt that read, Beati pauperes spiritu quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum.  Such a thoughtful and uplifting gesture that really captures the essence of this ministry.

Occasionally, at my old law practice, a satisfied client would write a note of thanks.  But here, it happens so regularly, that the worst of times never are, the winter of despair never is, the season of Darkness never comes.  And, like Dickens' character Sydney Carton, I am able to say, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done."  Thank you so much for all that you do to help spread the spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Verso l'alto!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Celebrating the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

Although the charism of many religious groups impacted the spirtuality of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, none was more significant than the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul.  Even as he lay dying, Pier Giorgio's thoughts were for the poor whom he served as a devoted confrere of his Conference in Turin. 

The Church remembers St. Vincent de Paul in the Divine Office today with a beautiful reflection by the saint himself.  As I read it this morning, I was impressed with how the life of Pier Giorgio completely embodied the attitude one must have in regard to the poor, as outlined in St. Vincent de Paul's writing.  Although it is lengthy, it is well worth reading:

Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor. Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.
Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathize with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbors’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.
It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.
One of the most compelling writings by Pier Giorgio is contained in his book of Letters to His Friends and Family.  In his notes for a speech on charity to his fellow university students, he expounds the virtues of joining a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul.  Again, though lengthy, it is a wonderful meditation on this feast day: 

I don’t know if you are all aware what these institutions are that were so marvelously conceived by St. Vincent de Paul.
It is a simple institution suitable for students because it does not involve commitment apart from being in a particular place one day a week and then visiting two or three families every week.  You will see, in just a little time, how much good we can do to those we visit and how much good we can do to ourselves.
The members who visit these families are, I would say, unworthy instruments of Divine Providence.   As we grow closer to the poor little by little we gain their confidence and can advise them in the most terrible moments of this earthly pilgrimage.  We can give them the comforting words of faith and we often succeed, not by our own merit, in putting on the right path people who have strayed not out of malice.
I think I can say that the Conference of St. Vincent with its visits to the poor serves to curb our passions, it gives us increasing incentives to get on the right road by which we are all trying to reach the great harbor.
Seeing daily the faith with which families often bear the most atrocious sufferings, the  constant sacrifices that they make and that they do all this for the love of God often makes us ask this question: I, who have had so many things from God, have always been so neglectful, so bad, while they, who have not been privileged like me, are infinitely better than me.  Then we resolve in our conscience to follow the way of the Cross from then onward, the only way that leads us to Eternal Salvation.
Now there are many conferences in the city of Turin and among those there is one for university students, which however is composed primarily of people who are on the verge of ending their student careers and beginning the life of adults. 
Now we direct to you a warm appeal that you might want to swell the ranks of our members which are now very meager and so that each of you can contribute in your own way to relieve those who suffer. 
Come with enthusiasm to this conference, come and every sacrifice of yours will certainly be compensated in Heaven because Jesus Christ has promised that all we do for the poor for Love of Him He will consider it as having been done to Himself.  You don’t want to refuse this Love to Jesus Who, because of infinite love for Humanity, wanted to be in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as our Consoler and as Bread of the Soul.
To be members one is not required to pay membership dues, it is enough to have good will and nothing else.  It is true that at the end of the meeting there is a collection, but everybody is free to put whatever he wants.
St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati...pray for us!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Miraculous healing reported through the intercession of Pier Giorgio

Reports of favors granted through the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati continue to be received and are forwarded to the official postulator in Italy.  The following two emails regard the healing of a comatose patient.  Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us...
Favors Received:  My cousin miraculously recovered from a severe head injury on day 6 of my novena to Blessed Pier Giorgio (day 1 for my sister). Opened his eyes (came out of his coma) and his medical condition(had infections and fevers) stabilized (he was life and death prior) a little more than 12 hours after my mother brought his picture to my cousin's bedside! The doctors and the entire medical staff were amazed at his recovery. He was in a coma for 10 days and in grave condition...he woke up on a Sunday (September the 4th) and not only was discharged from the hospital today (9/13) but WALKED OUT!! He was playing football in the parking lot with his brother. This was TRULY a miracle (I am an RN and have NEVER seen anything like this!) Thank you Blessed Pier Giorgio!! I know it was him!
Date: 09/04/2011
Favors Received: I posted a miracle that occurred in my family last night but I found out today that my cousin Kevin (the one in the coma) started talking yesterday about an angel that was with him the whole time. It was a man...he took care of him. When showed a picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio today by his mother (not seeing a picture of him yet--there was one picture in his ICU room but it was not in his transitional room and that's when he really started to come to) he exclaimed, "That is him!" That's the angel that was with him. We are all amazed. Praise Jesus! Thank you Blessed Pier Frassati!
Date: 09/13/2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sponsor a Student at Frassati Catholic Academy

This is the second academic year for middle school students at Frassati Catholic Academy in the Chicago area.  Dr. Diane Vida, principal of the Academy, has 20 returning students whose families are experiencing extreme financial hardship. "Since we are a regional Archdiocese school," she writes, "we do not have one parish to assist us with a special collection."

If you are in the position to sponsor a Catholic education for students ages 10-14 based upon the virtues and Beatitudes of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, please visit the school's website or contact Dr. Vida.  Verso l'alto! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Across the Pond, Down Under and In Between!

"Love Best site there is about Bl Pier Giorgio on the net. Truly."

This was the opening line of an email I recently received from Steve Smyth down in New South Wales, Australia.   It was never the vision of FrassatiUSA to be the primary source of info about Pier Giorgio for people all around the English-speaking world, but that seems to be what has slowly taken place since we began this ministry five years ago.  What a blessing it is to hear from people from all corners of the world and all walks of life as they share what Pier Giorgio means to them!

Another exciting development is the movement to launch "FrassatiUK" as a way to unite the growing number of Frassati groups in that part of the world.  "FrassatiUSA is really our inspiration," wrote Shaun Bailham, as he shared his desire to serve young people in the British isles.  I was able to have a long conversation with Shaun earlier this week and was in turn inspired by his enthusiasm.  He has just recently created a Facebook page for FrassatiUK where you can lend him your support. 

And here in the U.S., yet another Frassati Fellowship is up and running.  If you are in the Albany, New York area, be sure to check out the Capital Region Frassati Chapter.  Nithin Mathew, writing on behalf of the group, shared the following:  "We are a group for young adults interested in learning about Catholic faith. Our group had humble beginnings (like any other) with a handful meeting in a coffee-shop. With grace of our Lord and intercession of our Blessed Mother we have now grown into a fellowship of over 100 faithful Catholics in and around the capital region of New York state. Our weekly meetings are every Wednesday and we have an average attendance of 20-25 young adults (age 18-35) every week."

Needless to say, it is awesome to see Frassati Fever sweeping the globe!   Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to school with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati!

Just two days after we celebrated the feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio, an exciting announcement was made by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston:  Frassati Catholic High School is the official name of the new school planned for that diocese.  This will be the first high school in the United States to bear Pier Giorgio's name.  With plans to open in 2013, the fundraising effort is underway.  More information is available at

Less than two years ago, we celebrated the YouTube announcement by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, naming the newest middle school in the diocese Frassati Catholic Academy.  The school opened in August 2010 with a spiritual charter inspired by the life and witness of Blessed Pier Giorgio.

Pier Giorgio is definitely no stranger at the college level.  At Vanderbilt University, Catholic students pray and fellowship together at the Frassati House.  At Wyoming Catholic College, they enjoy meals in Frassati Hall.  At the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a movement called Frassati Franciscan is connecting students and alumni.  An outreach called Frassati has been launced to unite grad students, alumni and young professionals from the University of Arkansas.  Students hike the trails of Maine with the Saint Joseph's College Frassati Society.  The list really does go on and on.

The mission of FrassatiUSA is to further the apostolate of Blessed Pier Giorgio and, in doing so, promote his cause for canonization.  Although we can take no credit for the wonderful initiatives happening almost weekly now around the country by people who are inspired by Pier Giorgio, it is a cause of great joy to see so much activity taking place, especially in the academic environment.  As students of all ages prepare to head back to school next month, may Blessed Pier Giorgio accompany them in every aspect of their lives. Verso l'alto!

"...[w]e Catholics and especially we students have a serious responsibility to fulfill:  our own formation.
   We, who by the grace of God are Catholics, should not waste the most wonderful years of our life, as unfortunately  do so many unhappy young people, who are preoccupied with enjoying the good life, which does not result in good, but which brings the fruit of immorality into our modern society.  We should steel ourselves to be ready to carry on the battles we shall certainly have to fight in order to fulfill our program and thus to give to our country, in a not-too-distant future, happier days and a morally healthy society.  But for all this is needed:  continual prayer to obtain from God that grace without which our efforts are in vain; organization and discipline so that we can be ready for action at the opportune moment and finally, sacrifice of our passions and of ourselves, because without this it is impossible to reach the goal." -- excerpt from a letter by PGF to members of an association of Catholic youth, October 1922

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"It's a double feast today!"

Today's great feast of the holy apostles and martyrs Saints Peter and Paul was a special one in the life of Pier Giorgio.  It was the day he celebrated as his name day, what we would call our feast day.

From Luciana Frassati's very moving book, "My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days," we know that the last gift he received from his sister was a cigar case that he chose for himself that day while they shopped together.  Later, he joked with a maid, "Two cigars.  Today you have to give me two cigars: one for St. Peter and one for St. Paul; it's a double feast today!"  And when he went out in the evening to share a toast with his friends to celebrate his feast day, his Aunt Elena thought it strange.   Like many others in his family, she did not understand his spirituality. 

That fateful Monday in 1925 would mark the beginning of the end of his short life.  When his friends noticed that he did not seem well, he passed it off as a case of "muscular poisoning.  Too much activity these last few months."  But his aches and pains did not deter him from spending time with his friends and family and visiting the sick and the poor. He was then and is now the model of how to live holiness in our ordinary lives. 

"I also saw him serving for the bishop during the distribution of Communion in La Consolata Church on his feast day, as always with the seriousness and attention to detail that he gave to anything pertaining to the Church.  But in his life outside church, he was always rowdy and in high spirits."  -- (Testimony of Fernanda Casali Marini in the book, "Mio Fratello Pier Giorgio - La Fede,")

With those same high spirits, let us celebrate this double feast today.  Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Have You Frassati Fellowshipped Lately?!

With Pier Giorgio's feast day right around the corner, there is much to celebrate and many new places to do so!

This month, the Frassati Fellowship of Winston-Salem kicked off at the parish of St. Leo the Great. I had a wonderful time visiting Fr. Lucas Rossi and all the fine folks involved in this effort. If you are in that area and are in your 20s or 30s, this is a great opportunity to grow in your faith, have fun and fellowship with other people who are seeking to do the same.

La Salette Frassati Fellowship
The Baltimore Frassati Fellowship is also underway with a slate of monthly events at Saints Philip and James Parish. If you're anywhere near Attleboro, MA, check out the newly formed La Salette-Frassati Fellowship at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.

Feel like a roadtrip to Indiana? Join the Frassati Society of Young Adults for their "Live Out Loud" conference on July 30th and 31st!

Heading to Fargo, ND? Tap into the Frassati Fellowship for a monthly spiritual boost!

Cruising through the Motor City? Check out the calendar for the Frassati Society of Detroit!

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple? Make plans to spend time with the New York Frassati Fellowship!

The list goes on. From the Frassati Society in Marquette, Michigan to Kokomo, Indiana to Tallahassee, Florida to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. And if you are putting on your cowboy boots and heading to Nashville, Tennessee, why not attend Mass at the Frassati House with the Vanderbilt Catholic Community of Blessed Pier Giorgio?
LinkIt's fun to Frassati! So check out a group in your area or start one of your own! Be sure to share your website or Facebook page with us, so we can let others know where to find you. Verso l'alto!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Prayer Answered Through the Intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio

"I prayed to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati asking for his intercession in helping my youngest son get a good paying job that he would do well at. I promised our Blessed that if he interceded for me, I would see my answered prayer published and that I would have our Priest offer nine (9) Masses in thanksgiving. He interceded for me before the Throne of God and I have now kept my promise to him. I teach High School Confirmation class in my Church. We have a huge framed picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio hanging on the wall at the front of the classroom. We pray his Litany at the end of every class and I pass his holy cards out to the students and their parents on a regular basis. Thank you and God Bless You. -- Shirley J. Schultz "

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pray the Pier Giorgio Birthday Novena!

I hope everyone is having a good Lenten season so far. With Easter coming pretty late this year, Pier Giorgio's birthday falls in the middle of Lent. What convenient timing for praying the novena! It begins on March 29th and will end on his 110th birthday on April 6th. You can download a copy of the prayers on the FrassatiUSA website. Just click here to go to that page and look in the Forms section on the bottom right.

I know everyone has a lot of personal intentions. But, if you could add to your prayers the healing of Bill Barry, it would be greatly appreciated.

There is so much news and I hope to get back to blogging regularly again soon. In the meantime, Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us!