Note: This is part of a new serial fiction series focusing on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, following the life of a fictional character as he encounters the saint. New chapters are released every Sunday! Click here for the previous chapter(s).
Matteo had to stop again to catch his breath. He never hiked this long before and the trail they were on wasn’t easy. Giorgio and his friend were not affected by it at all, often forgetting that Matteo was a novice at hiking in the mountains.
“Sorry Matteo!” shouted back Giorgio. “We can stop here beside the trail for lunch. These rocks will make the perfect table!”
Today’s adventure was meant to help Matteo’s lungs, giving him a chance to breathe some fresh, mountain air. It was near the end of October and the smoke in the city of Turin was exacerbating his condition. Every building had a fireplace and the smoke collected in the streets, a place that Matteo now called home. After six months of mining asbestos and losing his job, Matteo needed extra help to breathe more freely.
Matteo was grateful to stop. The sun’s soothing rays warmed his weary body and started to replenish his energy. It took a few minutes for his lungs to catch up.
It was a difficult hike, but Matteo could sense the difference in the air and how his body responded in a positive way. The air truly was cleaner and the wind made it easier to breathe.
The speed which Giorgio and his friend ascended the mountain made Matteo curious. It seemed like hiking was more of a way of life for them.
“How often do you go hiking, Giorgio?”
“The question should be, when do I NOT go hiking!? Every day, my love for the mountains grows more and more. If my studies permitted, I’d spend whole days in the mountains contemplating the Creator’s greatness in this pure air!”
This was the first time Matteo heard about Giorgio’s studies. He briefly met him yesterday outside the church and still didn’t know much about him. All he knew was that Giorgio lived joyfully, not afraid of a sick, homeless man.
“What are you studying?” Matteo was curious to know what this young man was pursuing. He wasn’t much older than Giorgio and wished he could attend university. His family could have never afforded it and is one of the reasons why he found a job in the mines.
“I am studying at the School of Industrial Mechanical Engineering. I want to become a mining engineer!”
This shocked Matteo. Why would this young man, so full of life, want to work in the mines?
“I wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about the mines!” responded Matteo. He paused to cough for a few moments. “Have you ever been to a mine?”
“Yes, I have visited a few of them, though have never worked in a mine. I hope that changes soon! I am not too far from getting my degree!”
So strange. Matteo still didn’t understand why he would choose a mining career.
“Giorgio, there are many other jobs you could do. The options are endless for you. You wouldn’t want to end up like me, a homeless man that has only a few years left to live!”
Giorgio paused and looked out from the mountain on the city below. Matteo could see that he was thinking, or was he praying? His eyes closed for a moment and he saw a remarkable peace come over him.
“Matteo, I want to become a mining engineer so that I could serve Christ better among the miners. I believe this is the mission that God is calling me to embrace. Besides that, miners need better working conditions and better wages. I want to be an advocate for them. If God is calling, who am I to refuse?”
Talking about Jesus again. Matteo had given-up on his Catholic faith when he witnessed his entire family die from the Spanish flu. How could God let a virus kill so many people? There was so much death in the world that God seemed distant to Matteo. Darkness reigned. God did not exist.
For a few minutes the three of them ate their packed lunch in silence. Matteo didn’t know how to respond to this strange person who joyfully wanted to follow Jesus into the mines. The mines and Jesus were two topics Matteo never wanted to talk about. Too much pain.
Giorgio sprung to his feet.
“Matteo! I have one more surprise for you! There is a beautiful view up around that boulder. Let’s walk there and then we can make our way down.”
To be continued …
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!