It’s Parents’ Week here at the Kartause! Busloads of parents and siblings arrived a few days ago. Our Kartause community has gotten to share so much of what we love here in Austria as well as our talents in a talent show that included guitars, Irish reels from the Kartause kids (children of our professors) and an unforgettable skit from the PDP filled with impersonations and good humor. What’s more, the first tastes of springtime are filling our cup. Green grass, wildflowers and warm rays have only brightened up our spirits even more — who knew that was possible after such a joyful semester!
While many students are on pilgrimage to Pollone, Italy, home to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, others are taking the long weekend to travel with their parents and families. In light of Parents’ Week, we can reflect on Blessed Pier Giorgio’s personal life, considering that his faith was not something his entire family shared. His father was an agnostic and his mother, though she raised him in the faith, sometimes worried he took his Christianity to the extreme.
It is no wonder he is on his way to sainthood! His devotion to the Holy Eucharist, Mother Mary, daily spiritual readings, prayer, sacrifices and active works of mercy truly were “extreme” to those who witnessed his courageous love.
His lack of his parents’ support, while it pained him, did not stop him from working to change the world for the better. Avid mountain-climber, jokester and student aside, Frassati also took a hugely active role in his Italian hometown. He helped establish a local Catholic newspaper, served regularly with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, became a lay Third-Order Dominican and even used political activism to help promote Church values within his community. While he may not have had a community like Franciscan’s, he served to make his own corner of the world a “city on a hill” one moment at a time.
His radical understanding of Christ’s love gave him breath. It was a supernatural life that he knew every person was literally made to live. So how could he dare grow comfortable in this world? How can we?
As we continue in this semester, we may find ourselves getting comfortable, either in the cozy Steubenville nook or a 14th-century monastery. We must remind each other to be grateful for where we are living and studying and embrace the Giver as he deserves.
Here in Gaming, watching our families discover the Franciscan Kartause community has reminded us not only of everything we have to be grateful for but also that our time in Austria will eventually come to a close. On any Franciscan University campus, it seems, one can either live it as a retreat or a training ground for the “outside world.”
But if temptation to gloom hovers, we must hold fast! There are times for rest and times for work. Our faith is not about making ourselves comfortable, but making others uncomfortable in the best possible way. Like in the case of Frassati, Catholicism may not be something we can celebrate with our friends and families, but it is something we can share with them through courageous and “extreme” love.
So, as we transition into whatever stage of life we have before us, we continue to move, as Frassati said, “Verso L’Alto!” “To the heights” of love that scares us, strengthens us and calls us further. To the heights of our journey back to heaven, regardless of the sacrifice. Franciscan truly can be one of the greatest training grounds if we use its resources well. Let’s do so. Souls depend on it.