Jeremiah 7: 1-11
Matthew 13: 24-30
Today it is appropriate to commemorate Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1825). On July 26, the Church honored Saint Anne, the patron of miners, the Mother of Mary and the Grandmother of Jesus. Pier Giorgio is a patron of mining engineers. He studied the subject at the University of Turin as well as in Germany. His feast is universally celebrated on July 4. However, in the US Independence Day takes precedence.
The Passionist Postulation for the Causes of Saints ( in Rome) has participated consistently in his Cause. He is especially near and dear to the North Italian Passionist Province, Cor Mariae. He grew up near churches and shrines very often associated with the early life of Saint Paul of the Cross. Despite his personal disposition to piety, his parents were thoroughly secular. While they saw to it that he received a Jesuit education, in no way did they encourage his participation in religious services and pious devotions. Sig. Alfredo Frassati was a popular senator in the Kingdom of Italy, serving an anti-clerical government. He also established Italy’s most important newspaper of the time – La Stampa. Later he was appointed ambassador to Germany, where he also brought his family. Quite coincidentally, the young Pier Giorgio entered a German language immersion program and lived in the household of the young Karl Rahner, S.J. (This theologian was destined to be an important voice in the Second Vatican Council.)
The young student managed to live his Catholic life zealously and actively participated in a great number of religious confraternities and sodalities. He disguised his religious life to his family with his athletic prowess and his extrovert personality which attracted many. Yet he was an active member of the Confraternity of the Rosary and spent his midnights in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He drew many companions who assisted him in his devotion and in his work with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. He joined the Third Order of the Dominicans in 1922. Doing so, he took the religious name Jerome, to honor Savanarola, the Florentine political reformer, also a Dominican.
In 1925 he suddenly contracted polio. He was dead in a day. His parents were shocked at the thousands who attended his funeral. The congregation and the procession were made up of the poor and the majority of students in Turin. Today, his tomb rests at the Shrine of the Holy Shroud in Turin’s Cathedral.
The simplicity of Pier Giorgio’s heart is consistent with the readings for today’s liturgy. The passage from Jeremiah depicts the prophet, shy and reluctant as he is, standing at the gates of the Temple warning the people forcefully to reform their ways and their deeds. It is not enough that they join in public prayers and participate in public liturgies. It is not enough that they call down as protection: “The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!” The people of God are not to commit abominations privately or publicly then claim safety under the title “the Temple of the Lord.” Morality is a necessary part of the Hebrew faith. Love of God and love of neighbor must remain in their hearts.
Jesus’ parable in Saint Matthew’s Gospel regarding the sowing of wheat and weeds in the same field is a call to observe spiritual maturity as well as to live a life of prudence. Sometimes evil has its roles to play in the ways of Providence. Therefore, since we could not look to him earlier in the month, Pier Giorgio Frassati provides us with an example. While he lived a life of piety, this young university student discerned the heinous plans of Mussolini. Although the son of a public figure, compelled to act with discretion, he became an avid anti-Fascist and pointed out the hypocritical promises offered by the Black Shirts of Milan.
Young Pier Frassati probably never knew the effect he had on the countless people he encountered, but they knew his heart. Within ten years his Cause had begun. By then his first biography was published in nearly thirty languages, including Japanese and Chinese.
The Gospel of Saint Matthew reminds us all that we are to be patient and, at the same time, discerning. Quite possibly, Blessed Frassati helped students in the next generation, as they had to grapple with issues in the pre-war and war-time eras.
Almighty God, You raised up your servant Pier Giorgio to lead the students and tend to the poor. May his virtuous life keep us alert and observant to that which you want most from us – a pure, simple and generous heart. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
- Father Jerome Vereb, C.P.