Celebrating Freedom the Pier Giorgio Way

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Pier Giorgio pulling a keg

Happy 4th of July!  We celebrate freedom this day, but at a time where our freedoms have slowly eroded over the past 2 decades, and more severely in the past 4 years.  Pier Giorgio Frassati stood up to the rise of Facism in his day, during the time that Mussolini was on the rise to power.  As defined by Merriam-Webster, Facism is a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government.

While we can be grateful that our founders sought to prevent this kind of government, we have witnessed legislation and recent Supreme Court Decisions that, while not preventing us from disagreeing with the government, comes with a hefty price-tag when we do.  Our country has required nuns asked to compromise their conscience. It has demanded business owners cater events contrary to their beliefs (by labeling it discrimination), or pay for certain “health” coverage that has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with forcing a secular belief system.

Now is the time for the New Evangelization.  A time for young Christians to embrace the model of Pier Giorgio Frassati.  It is time to show we are Christian through the love of Christ.  This means a willingness to love no matter what the cost.  What is Christian love in a society that has forgotten Christ?

  • Talk to the homeless on the side of a street, and break bread with them.  Seek to know, listen and discover ways to help them.
  • Invest time with your families, and repair broken relationships.
  • Forgive those whom have hurt you, remembering Christ forgave us while nailed to a cross.
  • Visit those in prison, and be a sign of love and hope for them.
  • Embrace those who are homosexual and fight for their dignity and freedom, while standing up for His truth that homosexual behaviors can never bring about true life and true freedom… but relationships founded in chastity can.
  • Love the single mother seeking an abortion, and give them hope that the child in her womb is hope for our future.  Help her to see that abortion will bind her, not free her, and there are many who are willing to help.
  • Give to all who ask, without judging what they might do with your gift.
  • Be willing to stand up for Truth with love.  Don’t judge and don’t presume anyone’s intentions.

This is what Christ taught, and repeatedly, lives lived this way draw others to them.  They bring about true freedom, but true freedom does not mean freedom from suffering. Rather true love expressed unconditionally will require suffering.  This is the mystery of the cross.

May we all truly treasure what we have been given, for it can all be taken away in but a moment.  Happy Independence Day!


Living and Dying in the Lord

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My aunt, Samantha Stein, was taken to our Lord this past Saturday, April 23rd.  Originally from Michigan, she spent most of her life in upstate New York, living in East Ridge, a rural community alongside the Delaware river that divides New York & Pennsylvania.  The community started out as a 1960’s commune, but later evolved into a Christian Community that served as a rehabilitation center for all types of addicts, integrating the 12-step program into the rhythm of their lives.

Coming from an upscale suburban community, this lifestyle was completely foreign to me, but the simplicity of it always called to my soul.  I only have had a handful of brief opportunities during the 47 years God has kept me in this world to know this part of my family, and to experience their chosen way of life.  It wasn’t one without its problems, brokenness, drama, and heartaches.  In fact, the families, lives and stories of East Ridge might have rich material for a potential best-selling novel.

While my interaction with Sammy and her family occurred maybe once a decade, each brief experience was deeply sublime, and much of that was due to my aunt.  Most recently she came to Michigan as my father was dying.  She didn’t have to, but she made the trip and poured herself out to help my mother (her half-sister) and our family in any way she could.  Always gentle, always smiling, always willing to help.  Despite many challenges and heartaches, Sammy always found a way to smile.  I saw her as a tireless servantSammy Stein to her children and this community that sought to help others.  She gave until she had no more to give.  She loved even when the love was not returned.  It was only in the past few months that she discovered she had stage four cancer, in part because she made little effort to acknowledge the pain in her own body.   Despite her own suffering she had been caring for another friend, when the cancer quickly turned the tables on her.

Her sister, Michelle, took on Sammy’s example and sacrificed a month of her life to care for her as the cancer slowly broke down the rest of her body.  Sammy continued to suffer much like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, expressing more concern for her caregivers than her own needs.

Having referred many addicts to East Ridge, the Missionaries of Charity (Blessed Mother Theresa’s order) in the Bronx, made a special 2 hr trip to console Sammy in her final hours.  This video of the sister’s angelic voices, in this great act of mercy, resonated deeply within my soul.  How much these dear nuns live out the true mission of the Church. Sammy died a day later with 4 of her 5 children at her side.  The one who couldn’t be there was restrained by a prison cell due to bad choices, and a justice system that shows no mercy to those who confess their sins (only through Christ does one receive that mercy!).  I know Sammy kept this sorrow close to her heart like the Blessed Mother, and that she has taken this petition with her to our Lord in heaven.

Her suffering is over, yet her example discipleship continues in the hearts of those she touched.  I pray that God will give us all the grace to be more like her… more selfless, more giving, more loving and more joyful.