Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July - Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati, Man of the Beatitudes - Sainte Élisabeth de Portugal


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Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati has inspired youth, especially Catholic young men around the world.  In Canada, including Ottawa, we have several Frassati houses. 

Happy Feast Day, Guys!

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Feast: July 4
[Born April 6, 1901, Turin, Italy; died July 4, 1925, Turin, Italy; beatified May 20, 1990 by Pope John Paul II]

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a saint for the modern world, and especially for the young people of our time. Born in 1901 in Turin, Italy, his time on earth was short-only 24 years-but he filled it passionately with holy living. Pier Giorgio was a model of virtue, a "man of the beatitudes," as Pope John Paul II called him at the saint's beatification ceremony in Rome on May 20, 1990. He was described by friends as "an explosion of joy." As Pier Giorgio's sister, Luciana, says of her brother in her biography of him, "He represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful."

To our modern world which is often burdened by cynicism and angst, Pier Giorgio's life offers a brilliant contrast, a life rich in meaning, purpose, and peace derived from faith in God. From the earliest age, and despite two unreligious parents who misunderstood and disapproved of his piety and intense interest in Catholicism, Pier Giorgio placed Christ first in all that he did. These parental misunderstandings, which were very painful to him, persisted until the day of his sudden death of polio. However, he bore this treatment patiently, silently, and with great love.

Pier Giorgio prayed daily, offering, among other prayers, a daily rosary on his knees by his bedside. Often his agnostic father would find him asleep in this position. "He gave his whole self, both in prayer and in action, in service to Christ," Luciana Frassati writes. After Pier Giorgio began to attend Jesuit school as a boy, he received a rare permission in those days to take communion daily. "Sometimes he passed whole nights in Eucharistic adoration." For Pier Giorgio, Christ was the answer. Therefore, all of his action was oriented toward Christ and began first in contemplation of Him. With this interest in the balance of contemplation and action, it is no wonder why Pier Giorgio was drawn in 1922 at the age of 21 to the Fraternities of St. Dominic. In becoming a tertiary, Pier Giorgio chose the name "Girolamo" (Jerome) after his personal hero, Girolamo Savonarola, the fiery Dominican preacher and reformer during the Renaissance in Florence. Pier Giorgio once wrote to a friend, "I am a fervent admirer of this friar (Savonarola), who died as a saint at the stake."

Pier Giorgio was handsome, vibrant, and natural. These attractive characteristics drew people to him. He had many good friends and he shared his faith with them with ease and openness. He engaged himself in many different apostolates. Pier Giorgio also loved sports. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved hiking, riding horses, skiing, and mountain climbing. He was never one to pass on playing a practical joke, either. He relished laughter and good humor.

As Luciana points out, "Catholic social teaching could never remain simply a theory with [Pier Giorgio]." He set his faith concretely into action through spirited political activism during the Fascist period in World War I Italy. He lived his faith, too, through discipline with his school work, which was a tremendous cross for him as he was a poor student. Most notably, however, Pier Giorgio (like the Dominican St. Martin de Porres) lived his faith through his constant, humble, mostly hidden service to the poorest of Turin. Although Pier Giorgio grew up in a privileged environment, he never lorded over anyone the wealth and prestige of his family. Instead, he lived simply and gave away food, money, or anything that anyone asked of him. It is suspected that he contracted from the very people to whom he was ministering in the slums the polio that would kill him.

Even as Pier Giorgio lay dying, his final week of rapid physical deterioration was an exercise in heroic virtue. His attention was turned outward toward the needs of others and he never drew attention to his anguish, especially since his own grandmother was dying at the same time he was. Pier Giorgio's heart was surrendered completely to God's will for him. His last concern was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand, he scribbled a message to a friend, reminding the friend not to forget the injections for Converso, a poor man Pier Giorgio had been assisting.

When news of Pier Giorgio's death on July 4, 1925 reached the neighborhood and city, the Frassati parents, who had no idea about the generous self-donation of their young son, were astonished by the sight of thousands of people crowded outside their mansion on the day of their son's funeral Mass and burial. The poor, the lonely, and those who had been touched by Pier Giorgio's love and faithful example had come to pay homage to this luminous model of Christian living.

Pier Giorgio's mortal remains were found incorrupt in 1981 and were transferred from the family tomb in the cemetery of Pollone to the Cathedral of Turin.

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St. Elisabeth de Portugal

Sainte Élisabeth reçut ce nom à son Baptême, en souvenir de sainte Élisabeth de Hongrie, sa tante. A l'âge de huit ans, elle récitait chaque jour l'office divin et conserva cette pratique jusqu'à sa mort; elle méprisait le luxe, fuyait les divertissements, soulageait les pauvres, multipliait ses jeûnes et menait une vie vraiment céleste. Toutes les oeuvres de piété d'Élisabeth étaient accompagnées de larmes que l'amour faisait monter de son coeur à ses yeux. Le temps que ses exercices religieux lui laissaient libre, elle aimait à l'employer à l'ornementation des autels ou aux vêtements des pauvres.

Élevée sur le trône de Portugal par son mariage avec Denys, roi de ce pays, elle fut d'une patience remarquable dans les épreuves qu'elle eut souvent à subir de la part de son mari, et ne lui montra jamais, en échange de ses procédés injustes, qu'une amabilité croissante, une douceur toute affectueuse et un dévouement sans bornes, qui finirent par triompher de ce coeur rebelle. Élisabeth est célèbre par le don que lui fit le Ciel de rétablir la paix entre les princes et les peuples.

Peu de Saintes ont montré tant de charité pour les membres souffrants de Jésus-Christ; jamais aucun pauvre ne partait du palais sans avoir rien reçu; les monastères qu'elle savait dans le besoin recevaient abondamment le secours de ses aumônes; elle prenait les orphelins sous sa protection, dotait les jeunes filles indigentes, servait elle-même les malades.

Tous les vendredis de Carême, elle lavait les pieds à treize pauvres, et après les leur avoir baisés humblement, elle les faisait revêtir d'habits neufs. Le Jeudi saint, elle remplissait le même office près de treize femmes pauvres. Or, un jour qu'elle lavait les pieds à ces pauvres, il se trouva dans le nombre une femme qui avait au pied une plaie dont la mauvaise odeur était insupportable: la reine, malgré toutes les répugnances de la nature, prit ce pied infect, en pansa l'ulcère, le lava, l'essuya, le baisa et le guérit. Même miracle arriva en faveur d'un pauvre lépreux.

Un jour qu'elle portait dans les pans de sa robe de l'argent pour les pauvres, son mari lui demanda à voir ce qu'elle portait, et il fut émerveillé d'y voir des roses hors de saison. Après la mort du roi, elle voulait se retirer chez les Clarisses, mais on lui fit observer qu'elle ferait une meilleure oeuvre en continuant ses libéralités. Enfin, après une vie toute d'oeuvres héroïques, elle mourut en saluant la Très Sainte Vierge, qui lui apparut, accompagnée de sainte Claire et de quelques autres Saintes. [Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.]

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