The prayer for the canonisation of Bl Pier Giorgio acknowledges that God preserved Pier Giorgio “pure of heart and ardent of charity”. This reminds us that these two qualities, above all his other virtues and endearing qualities, capture the quality of his holiness.
We know it was St John Paul II who gave to Pier Giorgio the title of Man of the Beatitudes. But it was much earlier than we usually think.
The future Pope, as Cardinal Wojtyla, attended an exhibit of photographs about Pier Giorgio in Krakow, Poland in 1977. He said, “Go and look at these photographs. Behold the man of the eight beatitudes who bears in himself the grace of the Gospel, the Good News, the joy of salvation offered to us by Christ…”
The grace of the Gospel and the joy of salvation…if nothing else Pier Giorgio’s person and life was marked by grace and joy.
I’ve found myself pondering the heart recently. We’ve just under a week past celebrated the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. All of us would have no difficulty understanding that when we speak of the heart we are also speaking of the whole person – Jesus and Mary.
I also just watched the movie Braveheart for the umpteenth time. It’s one of my favourite movies and has many compelling moments and dialogue.
In one scene Robert the Bruce, the younger, having just betrayed William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk, has a fiery interaction with his father. The senior Bruce has played politics, with no morals, for the benefit of his son’s claim to the crown of Scotland. The younger man is full of compunction and remorse at his own duplicity. His father, in a true moral relative way, says that “all men betray; all men lose heart.” But with a cry of anguish and tears in his eyes the younger Bruce exclaims, “I don’t want to lose heart.”
The heart…how often it comes into our expressions as we seek to express what is interior to our humanity!
There is a person of brave heart, of loving heart, of hard heart, of cold heart, of warm heart, generous of heart and someone doesn’t have the heart for something…And there is someone who loses heart.
The heart symbolically, poetically and, even in reality, encompasses all that is interior to the person. But this is never separated from what is perceivable on the exterior because what is invisible is made visible through the body.
So, what of Pier Giorgio’s heart? We say he is pure of heart and rightly so. But we mustn’t think of that as just referring to his exceptional chastity.
His purity of heart includes his determined and ardent charity to the poor of Turin; his love of his friends and his great delight in spending time with them; whether in parties, games or on adventures into the mountains. It also means his love for his parents, his sister and grandparents. We recall his great act of sacrifice for his parents in not pursuing his relationship with Laura Hidalgo, to whom he was attracted, so as not to cause his own parent’s marriage to break apart. His heart reflected the divine charity within the Blessed Trinity.
His purity of heart also means his love of adventure; being in nature especially mountain climbing and reaching for that higher goal – verso l’alto. It also means his striving for perfection and holiness. None other than a saint would wonder after such a holy life, whether God would forgive his sins and accept him into heaven!
His purity of heart also includes his love of nature – of flowers, of the clear air of the hills, of the majesty of the mountains. I would suggest he had a heightened comprehension of the sacramental quality of nature, that only a pure heart can begin to know.
As we honour this remarkable young man of the Beatitudes, what about our own purity of heart, in imitation of him? What might it look like in our lives?
It must find expression in charity of action. Do not live just for yourself. Join or assist the St Vincent De Paul society, as Pier Giorgio did himself.
It must be expressed in purity of vision. View others as of astounding value in God’s eyes and cultivate chastity of the eyes. Become more susceptible to the beauty of nature and get involved in healthy outdoor activities and adventures.
It must be expressed in deep love for your spouse, your parents and your brothers and sisters, especially in sacrifice for them.
The more I come to know Pier Giorgio, the more I am in admiration of him and the more I fall in love with him.
This is why God raises up saints for us and the Church proclaims them to us.
Keep Pier Giorgio as a constant companion and a heavenly intercessor and you will grow in purity of heart. Then the second half of that Beatitude will come …you will see God!
Let me conclude with some of the words of Karl Rahner, one of the notable theologians of the 20th century. While Alfredo Frassati was Ambassador for Italy to Germany, Pier Giorgio spent holiday time in Germany and stayed with the Rahner family in Freiburg. Karl and Pier Giorgio were similar in age.
Frassati represented the pure, happy, handsome Christian youth, devoted to prayer, enthusiastic about everything that is free and beautiful, interested in social problems, who had the Church, and its future at heart, and a serene and manly spontaneity…Here we have someone who lived his Christianity with a naturalness that is almost awe-inspiring, surprisingly unproblematic and inviting. In fact, his problems, often bathed in silent tears, were immersed in the grace of his faith; in prayer, Holy Communion, and in loving his neighbour.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati…pray for us.