Bishop's Column

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Young Catholics

Pier Giorgio Frassati had a lot in common with other young men. He enjoyed the outdoors, he was an avid mountain climber and soccer player; he was interested in friendships and in politics. Frassati was also a serious and devout Catholic. He went to Mass daily, and he was active in the Saint Vincent DePaul Society.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was, in many respects, like the young people I’ve met in the Diocese of Lincoln: he lived life fully, engaging his faith, his intellect, and his community, as he discovered the plan God had for him.

But Pier Giorgio Frassati died unexpectedly in 1925, at the age of 24. At his funeral, his family discovered something extraordinary. The streets along his funeral procession were lined with mourners. They were people Pier Giorgio had helped during his short life. Thousands of people, most of them poor, had come to pray for Pier Giorgio’s soul.

Quietly, without making a spectacle, Pier Giorgio Frassati had given his entire life to helping the poor, to reaching out to those on margins and peripheries of life.

Frassati lived and loved the good life. His charity sprang from his formation: he strove for excellence in all dimensions of his life, including the spiritual. His life exemplified the Church’s call to universal holiness: by becoming more fully himself, he became more like Christ.

One of his favorite expressions was verso l’alto – "to the summit!" He applied this hiking expression to the spiritual life – "to the heights of perfection."

In 1990, Blessed Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati. He was, said the Holy Father, "a man of the Beatitudes."

In the Diocese of Lincoln, a small group of young adults has recently formed a fellowship in Frassati’s honor. The Frassati Society of Lincoln was established to imitate the heroic virtues of Pier Giorgio, and his commitment to human and spiritual formation for the Kingdom of God.

I have been very impressed with the young men and young women I have met who make up the Frassati Society. They inspire me with their love of Christ and his Church. It is my hope that this fellowship will go a long way to help form young men and young women whose hearts are given to Christ, to his Church, and to the poor. I pray it will be a force for evangelization: for radical witness to a life of prayer, fraternity, and charity. I pray it will form the next generation of our Church’s leaders.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said recently that young adults "are not merely one constituency among many in the Church. They’re the future of Catholic life in flesh and blood, the key to triggering a chain reaction of conversion and zeal." Archbishop Chaput is right. He has a long track record of reaching out to the Catholic young adult community wherever he has served. He knows, and so do I, how much young people can animate the Church’s life.

Last week, I appointed two young priests, Father Michael Zimmer and Father Craig Clinch, to serve as chaplains to the Frassati Society. Their ministry is important. But the Frassati Society is an initiative of faithful lay Catholics, to form lay Catholics in the faith. In 2004, Blessed John Paul II said that, "evangelical animation of the temporal order is the duty of every baptized person, in particular the lay faithful." The Frassati Society is an effort to animate the world with the presence of Jesus Christ.

When Pier Giorgio Frassati died, thousands of people came to his funeral. They came because in him, they saw Jesus Christ. May our lives reflect the life of Jesus Christ. May we, like the Frassati Society, bring the transforming power of Christ, to the world.

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