Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (you should have an Italian friend pronounce this for you. His first names are fun to say.) was an Italian young man, born at the beginning of the twentieth century. He came from a wealthy, politically connected family. His father published La Stampa--one of the more famous newspapers in Italy. Though his family were secularists, Pier Giorgio fell in love with Jesus and pursued Christ throughout his short life.
Pier Giorgio was a prankster, who earned the nickname "the Terror." He was an incredible athlete, loving mountain climbing. An average student, he led an ordinary life--full of friends who would go on climbing expeditions with him and plan practical jokes with him. The mountains were for him a teacher, calling him ever higher--physically and spiritually. He was a rugged, handsome young man, but his heart was tender.
His eyes were not closed to the less fortunate around him. He did not avoid the poor sections of town on his way home from school or the university. Rather, Pier Giorgio sought relationships with the poor to find needs and learn ways that he could help. He actually kept a log of things people needed, and when he got the funds or access to the help they needed, he went back and fulfilled the need. Often giving away his own coat or lunch, he tangibly loved the people of Turin, Italy--no matter if or what they had to offer him.
In the end, they offered him polio. When his family learned that he had contracted this poor man's disease, they were embarrassed. Five days later, when Pier Giorgio passed away from the disease, they had a small private funeral, keeping the details of his death quiet, ashamed of how he died. After the ceremony, his family were shocked to be greeted by thousands in the streets who came to pay their respects to the young man who had meant so much to them. You see, Pier Giorgio didn't flaunt his family's social status or even mention how he was able to help so much. The poor didn't realize his family connection, they recognized the compassion and charity of Christ.
This is our hope for our little Frassati: that he grows tall and strong in virtue. And, like his namesake, values people and loves them more than money or fame or connections. All the while, keeping a sense of humor about life, finding something to be passionate about on this earth, and facing death with faith in our only Hope.
Certainly, at a superficial glance, Frassati's lifestyle, that of a modern young man who was full of life, does not present anything out of the ordinary. This, however, is the originality of his virtue, which invites us to reflect upon it and impels us to imitate it. In him faith and daily events are harmoniously fused, so that adherence to the Gospel is translated into loving care for the poor and the needy in a continual crescendo until the very last days of the sickness which led to his death. His love for beauty and art, his passion for sports and mountains, his attention to society's problems did not inhibit his constant relationship with the Absolute. Entirely immersed in the mystery of God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor: thus we can sum up his earthly life!
Within the first month of meeting Mr. F, his grandfather passed away. I felt compelled to attend the funeral to honor the man who had been so influential in my new beau's life. I drove to North Carolina from Florida, met over 50 of Mr. F's aunts, uncles, cousins when I arrived after midnight, and was amazed at Mr. F's papa, Hugo.
After a person passes away, you'll never hear tales of his life the way you will in the days around his funeral. That weekend, I listened for hours as people talked of how Papa was such a family man, always prizing his family, showing off the latest pictures of his grandchildren. The walls of his house were literally covered with school pictures of 28 grandchildren and his 9 children. Every grandchild loved how he played guitar and sang with them. Mr. F showed off the tools that taught him how to be so handy, and cherished how his Papa prayed for him and made everyone he met pray for him while he was at war. Everyone in the house took a turn sitting in Papa's chair as soon as it was vacant.
Papa was a deacon in the church for over thirty years, not wasting his retirement collecting shells on a beach somewhere or accumulating miles in and RV but investing in people. Whether he met you at the coffee shop this morning or had known you since you were born, he treated you like the invaluable jewel that you are. He didn't know acquaintances. He made friends and cherished the people around him.
Papa named one of his sons Hugo. We call him Uncle B. Uncle B. doesn't fall far from that Hugo tree. Generous and loving. Slow to anger. Courageously walking in his calling to be a good father and husband. Patient. Free with his time to mentor and train people younger in their faith.
This. All of this and more is why we have a son named Frassati Hugo. Blessed John Paul II referred to Pier Giorgio as the man of the beatitudes. All three of these men are.
And we pray that Frassati Hugo is too.
A man of virtue.
A man of strength.
A man of humor.
A man of courage.
A man of honor.
A man of Christ.