Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 03/07/2013

Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati – a generous heart

The following reflection first appeared in Sparks of Light (WRCDT, 2012) and is reproduced here in honour of his feast day – 4 July.

Bl Pier Giorgio FrassatiHow often do we hear that we are living in uncertain times and how particularly challenging it is for young people today. The late Blessed Pope John Paul II did not live to see the crisis in the Eurozone, the widespread political unrest in the Middle East or to read about the massive numbers of young people struggling to find employment throughout the world. Yet, he chose to beatify a young man who experienced similarly trying times. As a teenager living in Italy during the years of the Great War (1914-18), Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati saw first hand its devastating impact on families, in particular the poor. When he entered university, it was expected that he become politically active and there he chose to join the Cesare Balbo, the Catholic Club. Given his strength and enthusiasm, he was soon waving their flag at demonstrations and speaking out against the growing threat of Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Rarely do we hear of a young person of such profound and fervent faith coming from a family where it was not at all encouraged. Perhaps this was another reason why our late Holy Father brought this young man to our attention. Although Pier Giorgio had been given every advantage: social status, financial security and material comforts, he refused to use them for his own gain. On the contrary, his faith, initially fostered by the Jesuits in high school, became the lens through which he viewed the world. While prayer and the Eucharist anchored each day, an unselfish kindness permeated his daily activities. Growing up, he was continually striving to share not only his worldly possessions but also his presence. From a young age he reached out, befriending those in need, seeking those little ways in which he could share their plight and to alleviate their suffering. Seeing the face of Christ in those that he met, Pier Giorgio sought out the places they lived, where they worked. It was while working with the poor that he contracted polio which quickly took his life.

Doing without so that others may have was second nature to Pier Giorgio. Living a frugal life, a life of temperance and moderation, is often considered joyless; associated with the ‘Victorian era’ and not contemporary living. The life of Blessed Pier Giorgio, however, shows temperance as something radical – a source of great joy. Instead of accepting the clear path of wealth and advantage offered by his family he moderated his own needs and was thereby able to relieve the suffering of many. Indeed when he died, his family were surprised at the number of poor and homeless who turned out to pay their respects to Pier Giorgio. Temperance freed him to be what God had called him to be, who he wanted to be and not what others would have had him be.

Pier Giorgio was born into wealth but lived charity. What could I do without, so that others may have a little? Much of what Pier Giorgio did was in quiet and unseen. Am I capable of doing good without acknowledgement?

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