SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who lived a life of charity and generosity 100 years ago, will be touching the lives of a new generation, says the World Youth Day coordinator.
Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said this July 4 at St. Benedict’s Church on the feast of Blessed Frassati in the presence of his relics. Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, presided at the Mass.
The body of the blessed, one of the 10 patrons of World Youth Day, was moved from Turin to Sydney for the youth event. The relics had not left Turin since Frassati’s death in 1925.
The body, which was found incorrupt 60 years after it was buried, will be available for veneration at St. Mary’s Cathedral through July 22.
“Pier Giorgio was one who in a short time made extraordinary progress in faith, in hope, and in charity,” said Bishop Fisher.
He recalled that when Pope John Paul II beatified Frassati in 1990, he called him “the man of our century, the modern man, the man who loved much, the man of the beatitudes.”
“The photographs around our church show a handsome, robust youth with piercing eyes and an infectious smile,” continued the bishop. “Full of fun and energy, full of God and a passion for sharing God with others: On the face of it, his death at the age of 24 was a tragic waste.
“Yet here we are, at the other side of the world, celebrating him because of what he still says to us. So far he has lived for 107 years and counting.”
Holy and fun
Bishop Fisher recounted as well how he got to know the blessed. “I first encountered him on posters in university chaplaincies around Australia.
“Young men were attracted to the way he made an apostolate even of horse riding and mountain climbing, party going and playing pool. Young women seemed to be attracted by his dreamy good looks and romantic character.
“Young Catholics of all sorts liked the thought that you could be a saint while still a young adult, and that you could unite a passion for God and serving others, with an ordinary young person’s desire for fun. I knew I must get to know him better.”
The bishop related a brief history of the blessed, who was born in 1901 into a wealthy family in Turin. His father was agnostic, and his mother Catholic, though “not inclined to [her son’s] level of devotion or charity,” said Bishop Fisher.
“It hurt that his parents did not understand his piety and were struggling in their marriage,” said the bishop. “Like many young people today, he had to find within himself those gifts of the Holy Spirit that would bring his faith to maturity.”
“He gave away his bus fares and even his graduation money to the poor,” continued Bishop Fisher. “When asked by friends why he rode third class on the trains he replied with a smile, ‘Because there is no fourth class.’”
This bishop recounted how Father Martin Stanislaus Gillet — eventual master of the Dominican Order — met Frassati when the latter was a university student. The Dominican said the young man impressed him “with his particular charm. He seemed to radiate a force of attraction […] everything in him shone with joy, because it grew from his beautiful nature to bloom in the sunshine of God.”
“Father Gillet thought Pier Giorgio rare among university students in his ‘longing for the supernatural and true temperament of an apostle. [… Ready] to think, to feel, to love, to be generous, with all the impetus and resources of nature and grace,’” said Bishop Fisher.
“Perhaps after World Youth Day, this will not be so rare among our university students,” added the bishop.
Frassati died July 4, 1925, six days after having contracted polio from one of the sick he assisted.
Bishop Fisher said the Church was filled with the most important people of Turin for his funeral, “but to their astonishment, when they came out of the church, the streets were lined not by the elite, but by the poor and needy whom he had served throughout his short life.”
“The crowd of the poor were equally surprised to find out that [he] was from a rich family,” said the bishop. “It was they who petitioned the archbishop of Turin to begin the process for his canonization.”
“Now he speaks to a new generation,” continued the youth day coordinator. “Now he graces our World Youth Day with his patronage and witness.”
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On the Net:
Full text of homily: www.zenit.org/article-23164?l=english