February 25, 2016
Pier Giorgio Frassati is the perfect foil the rich man in today’s Gospel. The two had material riches, and while the rich man kept Lazarus shut out of his life, Pier Giorgio stepped outside what could have been a sheltered and comfortable life to provide for the poor of Turin. He left no Lazarus unattended and remembered their needs even on his deathbed. He saw how God had blessed him and his family, and he distributed those gifts to the least of God’s Kingdom.
Two nights ago, I finished reading Luciana Frassati’s account of the last few days of her brother’s life. She recounts all the details she and those close to the Frassati’s could remember about his illness and death and the family events surrounding it. It is a very different look at Pier Giorgio, who we know for his vivacity, athleticism, and generosity. In this account, he is wasting away, helplessly trapped inside his body that polio completely paralyzed. Reading this, I saw just how Christ-like our dear patron was. Not only did he serve Christ in the proverbial Lazarus he encountered in his life, he became the Lazarus in his own home the way Jesus became human to show his love for us. Pier Giorgio was ignored and scorned at home until someone realized he was dying. He tasted in his dying the sufferings of those he spent his life caring for. While I felt sad at his suffering, I also couldn’t help but think what a gift his illness was to his soul. Through the paralysis of the polio, Jesus gave a soul that longed to be one with Him a taste of His pain and sorrow and weakness. He was invited to imitate Jesus even in this loneliest and most excruciating trial. Pier Giorgio was given his own passion that held in it the promise of eternal joy with the Father.
We may not be called to die like Pier Giorgio, but we are called to love like him. This Lent, let us make a special effort to share our riches with those who lack them. Let us see the “special light” that Pier Giorgio saw in the poor. Let us learn how to really love our most unsavory neighbors, and let us suffer because of it. This is how the Lord will purify us of all those things holding us back from true holiness so that we can share more fully in His Kingdom.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, true friend of Lazarus, pray for us!