Last Monday, our Young Adult Frassati Society got together to think how they might make this Lent different. Rebecca led the lesson, calling to mind a practice that our Patron, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati would have with his friends.
What does it means to make a pact? As Lent approaches it is important for us to prepare ourselves for the joy of Easter. Most of the time people chose something that they are going to give up for Lent as a sacrifice. Although abstinence and sacrifice are important, too often people become preoccupied with giving up rather than giving up for god or giving for God. When Pier Giorgio Frassati died in 1925, he left behind a legacy of charity. His family did not know during his lifetime all of the sacrifices that he made to help those in need around him.
One of the ways that Pier Giorgio did this was through the use of his pact. Blessed Pier Giorgio had a great desire to be forever united to his friends through prayer and action. On January 15, 1925, he wrote to his friend Isidoro Bonini, “I would like for us to pledge a pact that knows no earthly boundaries or temporal limits: union in prayer.” This is where the name, the pact, comes from. THE PACT is a simple commitment to radically change the world – one act of charity at a time. All it requires is your willingness to pray each day the Prayer for the Courage to be Great and to do each day one small act of charity (see the end of this post).
How could making this pact help strengthen friendships both in this group and outside of this group? Blessed Pier Giorgio also spoke often about what he called “the apostolate of charity.” On July 29, 1923, he gave a speech to the youth of Pollone urging them to charity “by going among those who suffer and comforting them, among the unfortunate and saying a comforting word to them, because the Catholic religion is based on charity which is nothing other than the most perfect Love.”
In notes for another speech on charity made to the Federation of Italian Catholic Students, Blessed Pier Giorgio wrote, “Every one of you knows that the foundation of our religion is charity. Without it all our religion would crumble, because we would not truly be Catholics as long as we did not carry out or rather shape our whole life by the two commandment s in which the essence of the Catholic Faith lies: to love God with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
It can often be overwhelming to love our neighbors as ourselves. We get caught up in other things and sometimes not loving our neighbor is simply out of lack of convenience rather than a conscious choice. Do you find this in your own life? Can this pact make this goal more achievable?
According to his sister Luciana, Blessed Pier Giorgio copied by hand Saint Paul’s Hymn of Charity (1 Corinthians 13) in order to always have it with him. Take a moment and read the hymn. This is one of the most quoted chapters in all of scripture. Why? (note: the linked scripture passage from the King James Version uses the word ‘charity’ in the place we normally hear the word ‘love’. Does it make a difference in your ears? Let us know!)
After his death, the countless acts of charity he performed became known. Sometimes it was simply giving away his bus money and walking home. Sometimes it was helping someone find a job. Sometimes it was bringing others to Mass. Sometimes it was writing a note of sympathy upon the death of a friend’s relative. Sometimes it was taking a break on a long mountain hike when he was not tired but knew that others were. Sometimes it was giving away his coat or shoes to someone who had none. Sometimes it was the smile that was always on this face or his willingness to sing even though he was always out of tune.
Blessed Per Giorgio had no formula for charity other than putting the needs of his neighbor first. He asked, “What would life be without acts of charity?”
Blessed Pier Giorgio’s life of charity challenges us to aspire to that same level of greatness. He already showed us how easy it can be. So, say the prayer, do the act. For Lent I thought it would be good to add something to our lives rather than just taking something away. So …
Let us make the pact that Blessed Frassati and his friends did:
- Every day, commit to praying the below Prayer for the Courage to be Great, asking Pier Giorgio to help you.
- Write by hand St Paul’s Hymn of Charity (1 Corinthians 13), perhaps in a small notebook or page that you will record step 3. We made our own
- Commit to do one small act of charity each day of Lent, beginning today, through Holy Saturday (April 5th), and keep a small journal/notebook to reflect on how God is calling you to act in His name, for the good of another.
And, let us pray for one another!