Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today is a special day in many ways.  The rare numerical alignment of the day, month and year to produce 12-12-12 is something we will not see again until the next century (which makes it unlikely that any of us will ever see it again!)  It is also the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn and of the Americas.  More than ever, we need her protection and intercession.

Not known to many, it happens to also be the sixth anniversary of the founding of FrassatiUSA.  I could not have imagined the challenges and changes that would come as I filed the paperwork with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office six years ago.  I was accompanied that day by a very kind and generous man named Jere Griggs who served the role of incorporator so that FrassatiUSA could become an official non-profit organization.  He also paid the registration fees. 

Jere is a great pro-life friend.  For years, we prayed together every Saturday morning at a local Memorial for the Unborn.  He had two sons, James and Lee.  In 1996, when I helped start a Frassati Society at our parish, Jere approached me about finding a way to invite his sons.  He thought such a group would be good for them.  It was.  In 2006, James was actually the one who reserved our internet domain and first used the name “FrassatiUSA.”  In the past six years, both James and Lee have gone on to their eternal reward.  James was in a terrible accident caused by a negligent hotel shuttle driver.  After two years of surgeries and suffering, his body gave out.  He was buried in 2010.  Two weeks ago, Lee was watching cartoons with his four-year-old daughter and suffered a massive heart attack.  He was buried beside his brother.  As you can imagine, this has been a very sorrowful time for those of us who know and love this family. 

The untimely and unexpected deaths of James and Lee Griggs bring to my mind the early death of Pier Giorgio Frassati at the age of 24.  Life is one of those things where quality must always take preeminence over quantity or it will be lived in vain.  When Pier Giorgio said, “the day of my death will be the most beautiful day of my life,” he was referring to the heavenly beatitude he knew he would enjoy – as promised by his deeply held Catholic faith.  And when he determined to make every day a small preparation for the day of his death, it was because of his recognition of the brevity of life and the futility of worldly pursuits.  What we do here on earth matters.  We can choose to build up God’s Kingdom or our own. 

Six years ago, when I made the decision to work to promote the spirituality of Pier Giorgio Frassati, I had no idea what sacrifices would be required.   My friends know I still struggle with the decision on an ongoing basis.  As a licensed attorney, the prospect of a far more profitable livelihood is a constant temptation.  The most common question I have been asked over the years is how I survive doing this.  The trite but true answer is that God provides.  At first, I relied on my personal savings; then I drained retirement accounts; then I went into debt and tried to burn the candle at both ends to make it work.  This solution was not practical and only led to an insidious case of burnout from which I am still trying to recover.  And yet, in all of this, God always found a way to provide.  In some ways, He blessed me far more than I could ever ask or imagine. 

The financial crossroad has reached its most critical point this year.  Determined to not ever become a ministry that focuses more on the money side than the ministry side, I decided at the outset to make one financial appeal per year.  Last month, I made it known that FrassatiUSA was forced to discontinue supplying resources around the world this past summer.  This decision was made with a heavy heart because the demand from so many English-speaking countries continues to grow.  But the past six years have made me more realistic about my own limitations.  I also shared that it is necessary to raise $49,000 in order for the work of FrassatiUSA to continue in 2013.  So far, donations of $7,461 have been received.  We have no grant money, no funding by the Church or any other organization to assist with the lease obligation, monthly office expenses, nominal payroll expense, printing costs and so on.

To make matters even more challenging, the lone office computer decided to give up the ghost yesterday.  So, today, on the sixth anniversary of FrassatiUSA, no work can be done while I wait to find out if the data can be obtained and transferred to another computer. 

Those of you who have read this far will now discover a little known fact:  FrassatiUSA is operated by one person.  There is no marketing department or technology support or mail staff or graphics design department or accounting support or inventory clerk or janitorial crew or any other department!  A friend and Harvard-trained business consultant generously donated his services this summer to help me discern how to continue the ministry.  After reviewing everything, he asked me basically two things: how are you possibly doing this by yourself? And, why are you doing this with such inadequate compensation?  There are simple answers to these questions.  God gives the grace and somehow always provides. 

Over the course of these six years, I have heard from so many people about the impact of Pier Giorgio Frassati in their lives.  These testimonies are awesome and uplifting and always come at just the right time.  I have been thanked for the website presence and for making resources available.  I have been encouraged to press on.  I have been advised to quit.  I have been energetic.  I have been exhausted.  In the end, I have to say that I have been blessed. 

Two years ago, one of my nephews decided to take the confirmation name “Pier Giorgio” and asked me to be his sponsor.  My best friend’s 10-yr-old daughter loves to volunteer in the office and wears one of The Pact bands on her wrist to school each day.  A niece graduating from college wrote to thank me for demonstrating that a non-traditional career is worth pursuing and that there are things more important than financial rewards.  Although I appreciate the notes of encouragement and testimonies from others, these types of more personal glimpses into the fruit of this ministry are what inspire me to continue.  They say charity begins at home.  If I can impact the lives of my 32 nieces and nephews with the example of Pier Giorgio Frassati, that will be worth every sacrifice. 

I have walked with Pier Giorgio for 17 years now – six in the context of FrassatiUSA.  His portrait hangs in my stairwell and I "talk" to him in Italian each day.  I know that, above everyone else, he is grateful for the effort FrassatiUSA is making to promote his spirituality.  His message is one that challenges us each day of our lives:  Holiness IS possible for everyone. Pursue it!

So, today, on the occasion of FrassatiUSA's sixth anniversary, I have no idea what will happen.  Admittedly, the financial picture does not look good; but I have learned and continue to learn to live in the present moment.  Anything is possible.  One of my favorite quotes of Pier Giorgio sums it up for me, “The future is in the hands of God and better than that it could not be.”

Verso l’alto!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good News/Bad News for Our International Friends

One of the inspiring aspects of sharing the message of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati has been to hear from so many people around the world who are mutually devoted to him.  The FrassatiUSA website has been viewed by people in 160 countries!  Pier Giorgio's simple message -- that holiness is possible for everyone -- resonates around the world and that is awesome!  That's the good news.

Over the last several years, so many of you have written to request various resources about Pier Giorgio that you are unable to obtain anywhere else.  FrassatiUSA tried to fill the void and make materials accessible, despite the fact that our mission territory is really just the United States.   Unfortunately, because of a severe lack of funding, we are no longer able to provide resources to our international friends.  That's the bad news.  

There are, however, two organizations in Italy that you can contact whether you are inside or outside of the United States.  Both are under the direction of Wanda Gawronska, niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom many of you may know.  Here is the contact information:

Associazione Pier Giorgio Frassati (Rome)

Associazione Pier Giorgio Frassati (Torino)
Facebook:  Associazione Pier Giorgio Frassati Torino  

Wherever you are, may Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati intercede for you always.  Verso l'alto!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prayers for Peter Frates

Peter Frates
Two summers ago, Peter Frates was opening up a championship season with the Lexington Blue Sox of the Inter-City Baseball League. Spectacular plays in center-field coupled with his powerful presence at the plate made him the consensus choice for Most Valuable Player for the league that summer. Last summer, things were different. Pete lost a step in the outfield and couldn’t get his bat on the ball the way he used to do so naturally. He was struggling and he couldn’t figure out why. The answer to the that question finally came in March with the devastating prognosis that A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was behind his decline on the baseball field and the progressive difficulty that confronted him in the performance of his everyday activities. His family and friends were plunged into shock and disbelief. No one could believe this was happening! Peter is 28 years old and has kept himself in perfect physical condition during a stellar high school career in football, hockey and baseball at Saint John’s Prep, followed by four years of baseball at Boston College that was capped by his designation as Captain during his senior year. He even managed to prolong his baseball career by traveling to Germany for a season of professional baseball. His decision to get his professional career in business on track was buoyed by the opportunity that he had when he left the office to still head to the baseball field to play three or four nights a weeks with collegiate and former minor players in the Inter-City Baseball League.

 Some of you remember that I spoke about Peter during  my Easter Homily this year. I shared my 
frustration that our faith doesn’t always give us the answers we need to handle all the challenges that 
come our way over the course of our life journey. To be honest, the prognosis that Peter received in 
March really shattered personally me and severely tested my faith. It is only Peter’s amazing attitude 
of hope that has lifted me from the darkness I experienced during the weeks following his diagnosis. 
There is no cure for A.L.S. and Peter knows this, but he is determined to live every day that God gives 
him meaningfully and trusts that some good will come from all of this. I invited Peter to come to 
Saint Patrick Parish a year ago to speak to our 10th grade students right before their Confirmation. 
Peter is a man of faith and his witness to his faith exerted a powerful impact on our young people just 
as his witness to his faith at this time is inspiring others to faith. I am confident God will work some 
good from Peter’s courageous witness to faith and hope.

What Peter needs now is a miracle. Miracles do happen! I have encouraged Peter’s family and friends 
to join me in praying for a miracle through the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who was 
beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1990 as he proclaimed him ‘The Man of the Eight Beatitudes.’ 
Pier Giorgio lived an extraordinary life of holiness and service to the poor at the beginning of the 
20th century in the City of Turn.  He died in 1924 at the age of twenty-four from Polio that he had 
contracted while caring for the needs of a poor man who was afflicted with Polio. You can read the 
whole story of Pier Giorgio’s life by googling his name and checking out a number of sites that relate 
his amazing story. Peter needs a miracle to beat A.L.S. and Pier Giorgio needs a miracle to make the 
final step to canonization as a saint of the Church. The young people of the Church need a saint like 
Pier Giorgio Frassati. We have begun a crusade of prayer that Peter Frates might experience a 
miraculous cure through the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The prayer for his 
canonization is printed in the bulletin for your convenience. Please clip and pray this prayer for the
 intention of Peter’s miracle.

If you would like to know more about Peter Frates, you can google his name or go to his website:  
Pete Frates #3 Fund. The site includes newspaper accounts of his heroic struggle and the video of an 
interview with Kelly Tuttle on Channel Five a month ago.

 Pier Giorgio and Peter Frates share the same patron saint in Saint Peter. They share the same rock solid
faith as young adults Catholics. They even share a remarkable physical resemblance to each other. What
a great gift of God it would be if Peter Frates with the help of our prayers assists Pier Giorgio in the 
final step to the proclamation of his sainthood. The feast day of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is July 4th 
and the Novena of Prayer for his feast day begins on June 24. We will try to have prayer cards with the 
picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio available next weekend for those to join in this novena of prayer, until 
then please clip and pray the prayer in this week’s bulletin.  

Peter Frates today would readily echo the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio: “You ask me I am in good 
spirits. How could I not be so? As long as Faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.”  

-- Submitted by Fr. Bill Schmidt, Pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Stoneham, MA

Friday, March 23, 2012

Celebrating Blessed Pier Giorgio's Birthday

This is the second time in the last five years that Pier Giorgio's birthday falls on one of the most profoundly holy days in the Church year -- Good Friday.   A special Way of the Cross was prepared in 2007 for this occasion.  This year, the international celebration of Pier Giorgio's birthday will again incorporate these prayers.  The invitation to pray and information about how to add your name to the list of those around the world joining in this celebration can all be found on the FrassatiUSA website in our Prayers/Meditations section.  You can also download a .pdf version of the Way of the Cross with Blessed Pier Giorgio from that section and share it with your friends.  Click here to get started by reading a short note from Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda Gawronska.  I will be having lunch with Wanda on Tuesday and will hope to have an update on the two miracles from the U.S. that are currently being investigated.  Whenever I travel to Italy, I bring all of the intentions of the friends of Pier Giorgio -- that is, all of you! -- with me to all of the holy places that I visit.  This trip will be no exception.  May Blessed Pier Giorgio intercede for you during these final weeks of Lent.  Verso l'alto!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Journey through Lent with Blessed Pier Giorgio!

In less than two weeks, the holy season of Lent will be upon us.  There are numerous testimonies of how disciplined Pier Giorgio was during Lent, especially when it came to fasting.  He regularly ate smaller portions at meals, gave up sweets, went on spiritual retreats, all in an effort to be able to, as he explained to his sister Luciana, "better celebrate a Holy Easter."

This year, Pier Giorgio's birthday will fall on Good Friday.  The timing seems ideal to propose a different sort of birthday celebration that will last throughout the season of Lent, rather than just one day.  If you are contemplating a Lenten sacrifice or practice, why not join The PactMore than 10,000 people have already signed on.

The Pact was really an inspiration of Pier Giorgio as a way for his friends to be "spiritually united in God."  Information is available on the FrassatiUSA website but the requirements are very simple:  one act of charity a day and one daily prayer. It would be tremendous if we could together offer our prayers and good works this Lent for the canonization of Pier Giorgio as a spiritual bouquet on his birthday.  A miracle from the United States is currently under investigation.  Wouldn't it be awesome for that to be the one that leads to sainthood?!

The Pact is something everyone can do and is perfect for individuals and groups, people of any age.  It doesn't cost you anything but time.  You can still give up chocolate or TV or Facebook or the internet.  You can still make an effort to attend Mass more, pray the rosary more, etc.  But with The Pact, you can go one step further and imitate the example of Pier Giorgio by living out your Faith in works of charity.  

"I would like for us to pledge a pact that knows no earthly boundaries or temporal limits: union in prayer," wrote Pier Giorgio in 1925.  How beautiful that his desire for spiritual unity truly has no limits of time or space and that, all these years later, we can still fulfill it.  Verso l'alto!