Thursday, August 22, 2013

Frassati Catholic High School opens its doors!

"When the Lord closes one door, He opens another."  I don't know where this quote originated but I've heard it all of my life.  Until today, though, it has never taken on such a literal meaning as Frassati Catholic High School opens its doors to students in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 

After years of planning and praying, the school officially begins the process of leading students verso l'alto -- to the heights of moral and academic formation under the patronage of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  It is the first Catholic high school in the U.S. to bear his name.  I imagine Pier Giorgio might consider this a "two-cigar day," as he famously characterized the feast of Saints Peter and Paul! 

My direct involvement with the school was minimal consisting only of a presentation to the NHCHS Committee during the naming phase.  It was exciting to read the announcement from Cardinal DiNardo after the decision was finalized.  This school now joins other brick-and-mortar embodiments of the mission of FrassatiUSA, which include Frassati Catholic Academy, a middle school in the Archdiocese of Chicago; the Frassati House, serving the Catholic students at Vanderbilt University; Frassati Hall, the dining hall and commons building for students at Wyoming Catholic College; the Frassati Chapel at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma, possibly the first academic institution to choose Blessed Pier Giorgio for its patron.

In addition to these structures, of course, are the numerous (too many to list!) fellowships, societies, groups, clubs, etc., that have formed, are forming and will form under the patronage of Blessed Pier Giorgio.  And on top of that are the testimonies  -- some quite powerful --received on a regular basis.  All of these physical, social and spiritual manifestations of the steadily spreading spirituality of Blessed Pier Giorgio are, quite frankly, astounding. 

And that's why there is such sweet irony in the timing of the opening of the new school in Texas at a time when the doors of FrassatiUSA are closing.  I can't help but ponder the mysterious ways of God as millions have been raised to open a school while the lack of thousands closes a ministry.  And yet, there is comfort in the knowledge that many seeds planted are bearing fruit in abundance.  So for me, not being a cigar smoker, today is a "two-votive-candle day" -- one for the doors that are opening and one for the doors that are closing.

May Mary Queen of Heaven and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati guide and guard all of the students of Frassati Catholic High School today and always.  Verso l'alto!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Remembering Luciana

Yesterday marked the 111th birthday of Pier Giorgio's sister Luciana.  What is remarkable is that she was alive for 105 of those years, having passed away only six years ago in 2007. 

It was really a leap of faith into the great unknown when I headed off to Italy in 2006 to explore doing something (only God knew what) for Pier Giorgio Frassati.  I arrived at the family home in Pollone on August 16th and one of my earliest memories is being with family and friends of Luciana as we celebrated her 104th birthday two days later!  I don't know if I will ever celebrate anyone else's 104th birthday, let alone that of a sister of a saint. 

Needless to say, it was a rare blessing to be able to spend a considerable amount of time in the house with Luciana there and do the same the following summer.  This picture is a particularly special memory.  I had been to the top of Mount Mucrone for the first time that day and was wearing a shirt with the image of Pier Giorgio on it.  When I got back to the house, Luciana was sitting outside and this picture was snapped.  A very surreal moment for me.  The day of her funeral was also something I will never forget and it has always made me feel even closer to Pier Giorgio himself.

Luciana did many great things over the course of her long life.  Some involved her work on behalf of her brother but many were on behalf of mankind.  Many of the excellent articles about her are not translated into English, unfortunately, like this wonderful tribute from La Stampa -- the newspaper founded by her father.  We have the wikipedia version which falls miserably short but is at least worth a look.  I think the best way to get to know her is through her books about her brother, particularly the book about his death in which she gives a very honest account of herself in comparison to him.  

Those of us with a devotion to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati owe a large debt of gratitude to Luciana for preserving his memory and making so much of his life available to us.  One small way to repay her would be a prayer for her peaceful repose:  L'eterno riposo dona Lei, o Signore, e splenda a Lei la luce perpetua. Riposa in pace. Amen.

Verso l'alto!