Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

I've always enjoyed the story about when Pier Giorgio's university club hired a guy to repair their billiard table and do a few other things and then got cheated by him. Pier Giorgio was in Berlin at the time and was so upset upon hearing it that he wrote to his friends back in Italy and asked them to hold off paying the guy until he returned. He wanted to "go and find Mr. DeAgostini and tell him off." His other suggestion was that he would "write a fiery letter to him personally." (Excerpts are from his letter to Antonio Severi on November 23, 1922.)

This seemingly insignificant event exemplifies why Pier Giorgio is so easy to love: he was human to the core. There are many other stories of when he got angry -- but when I consider them carefully, I can see that in almost every case his was righteous anger.

[On a visit to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, I heard an excellent homily on the topic of anger given by Father Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA. He thoroughly examined the difference between sinful and righteous anger which I had not given much thought to previously and, unfortunately, cannot do justice to in a blog nutshell.  But understanding the difference between the two types is something we should bear in mind as we respond to the various injustices inflicted on ourselves and others.] 

Like Americans today, Pier Giorgio lived in a very challenging time when the Church was being openly persecuted. It's hard to believe he wrote the following sentence more than 90 years -- and not 90 minutes -- ago:  "Today, after a terrible war that has deluged the whole world bringing material and moral ruin, we have a strict duty to cooperate generously in the moral regeneration of society worldwide so that a radiant dawn may break in which all nations recognize Jesus Christ as King not only in words but in all their people’s lives."*

Rather than respond with anger and violence to the chaos around him, he chose a life of charity as a means of rebuilding the corrupt society. He acknowledged that the other way might seem easier and more satisfying but said, "if we could plunge the depths of those who unfortunately follow the perverse ways of the world, we would see that there is never in them the serenity had by those who have faced thousands of difficulties and have renounced material pleasures in order to follow the laws of God."* What wisdom and restraint at such a young age!

He suggested to his friends that they could "sow peace among men"* by joining one of the many conferences of St. Vincent de Paul. "You will see," he said, "in just a little time, how much good we can do to those we visit and how much good we can do to ourselves. ... 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."*

Pier Giorgio was by no means a stranger to confrontation. He took to the streets when necessary to defend the Faith and was arrested on more than one occasion. He used his fists to defend the family home from a violent group of attackers. He probably gave Mr. DeAgostini a piece of his mind about the billiard table. But the substance of his daily life was defined by Charity -- what he considered "explicit proof that the Catholic Faith is based on real Love and not, as so many would like, in order to quiet their conscience, to base the religion of Christ on violence."*  Charity, he believed, would lead to true peace, and true peace would lead to brotherly love.  In that kind of world, violence would have no place and anger would not be necessary.  Verso l'alto!

(*Excerpts taken from Pier Giorgio's notes on a speech about charity to the FUCI students. The entire speech is found in the book, Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family.)



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