As my summer at home comes to an end and I get ready to return to New Jersey for another year of ministry I've been reflecting on the summer. One thing that continues to come up in my reflections is this story.
All summer long I have met with friends and family and as I tell them about my year at Seton Hall with the student athletes I always tell them about the baseball team. I tell them about how open the baseball team was to growing in their faith, that 12 men out of 35 on a team were deeply committed to a weekly Bible study. We read scripture, learned about the life of Jesus, the Eucharist and, we talked about the lives of the saints. One saint in particular that has really chose me this last year is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Pier Girogio who lived from 1901-1925:
“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.”
"You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength. We must always be cheerful. Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls. For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all. It is almost always caused by lack of Faith. But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy."
Pier Giorgio lived such a faithful and devout life, an incredible servant to the poor, and an athlete, all for God's kingdom. He has an incredible story and is so encouraging for young men to look up to as few people that have been on earth have immitated Jesus better. Especially interesting about Pier Giorgio is the fact that he lived this way mostly while he was a teenager and in his early twenties. Pier Giorgio climbed mountains as a hobby. On one of his last climbs before his premature death, he signed a picture of him climbing with the phrase "Verso l'alto" (To the top). He died after he contracted a disease from the poor he was serving.
The phrase verso l'alto is a great phrase for anyone in life, as a metaphor, to strive to the top as you pursue Jesus Christ. It was a phrase that we as a Bible study last year adopted as our theme. We talked about what type of person Pier Giorgio was and how we could immitate him as he immitated Christ so well. At Christmas we all got bracelets that were green, red, white, and black with the phrase "Verso l'alto" on it.
This last May when the Seton Hall baseball won the Big East Tournament after being predicted to finish 10th in the conference, they finished 5th and then beat the #1 seed UCONN twice in the tournament and then beat the defending tournament champs St. Johns to win the 2011 tournament I was so proud of the guys. A few days later as I checked the Seton Hall athletics website I saw this picture.
I got goosebumps when I saw the picture, if you look closely you can see one of the hands reaching up to the trophy with the Verso l'alto bracelet on (the red one). I was so proud of those guys in that moment, not only for what they accomplished on the field that day and season but for what they accomplished in their hearts the past year in allowing Jesus in.
I am so excited to be returning to Seton Hall to continue to help and to continue to grow with those men in Jesus Christ.
And please read my blog at the top right under the tab "popular posts" the blog is titled "The Pirate I haven't met yet" about a young man who would have been a Big East Champion this May, but he passed away 2 years ago this week.