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).
Three weeks had passed and no one had seen Giorgio.
The last time Matteo saw him, Giorgio promised to return in a few days to find him a place to stay, off of the cold streets. Now Matteo was beginning to doubt that he would ever come back.
His lungs burned as he had another coughing fit.
Matteo’s health was getting worse every day. Thankfully, his new homeless friends were able to help him find food. The food wasn’t great, often pieces of stale bread or rotten meat, but it was enough to survive. All he could do now was take each moment as it came, wondering if today was to be his last.
At the same time, Matteo wished it was his last.
He had very little to live for and no hopes that he would ever find a job.
Yet, for some reason he still had a faint desire to stay alive, and each morning he looked to see if Giorgio would come to save him.
It was nearing the end of November and the temperature continued to drop. Matteo was able to find a coat someone threw in the alleyway, as well as a few extra blankets. He kept them in a secure hiding place during the day, as he wandered about the city of Turin, begging for food and looking for Giorgio.
Then one day something strange happened.
On his way back to La Crocetta he saw a familiar sight. It was Giorgio! Matteo’s heart warmed and his spirits were lifted when he saw this friend of the poor.
However, Giorgio had a large bruise on his head and a dark black eye. He was still joyful, but it was subdued and everyone was asking him what had happened.
“Tell us, Giorgio! What took you so long? You look like you were beat up!”
Matteo was nearing the group surrounding Giorgio, but wasn’t sure if he should approach him. It had been weeks since Matteo saw him, and he doubted Giorgio would remember his promise.
“Matteo! Come over here! I am so sorry I wasn’t here! Let me explain!”
Giorgio did remember. Every time Matteo saw him, he was astonished by the care and attention Giorgio had for the poor and homeless. It still didn’t make any sense, but he was glad to have such a friend.
“A few weeks ago we had a glorious procession through the streets of Turin on the feast of All Saints! It was beautiful! You should have been there! Anyway, I was leading the parade when we ran into an angry group of fascists. They started to throw rocks and yell obscene insults at us.
“I tried to keep the peace, but then they cursed the Blessed Virgin Mary! Can you believe it? How dare they bring dishonor upon our Mother!”
Giorigo was clearly getting worked up over this retelling of the events, and his joyful demeanor was giving way to feelings of outrage.
“What did you do next?” asked one of the homeless men in the circle.
“I admit, it was difficult to keep calm any longer. I ran to the group and punched the person who spewed such horrid words! I caught him off-guard, but then we fought for a few minutes before the police came. Both of us were carried away and arrested.”
Matteo was shocked! Giorgio, this kind, loving young man who cared so much for the poor, was arrested for defending the honor of the Virgin Mary?
“I know,” said Giorgio calmly, “I probably shouldn’t have hit him, but he went too far. You can insult me or my family, but never my heavenly Mother!”
The group of homeless surrounding Giorgio started to break up, and Giorgio began to attend to the needs of each individual person. He was checking-up on them, seeing what they needed, and writing it down in a notebook. After a few minutes he finally reached Matteo.
“Matteo! Please forgive me for not coming when I promised! As you now know, I wasn’t able to come and even when I was released from jail, I needed to some time to heal and catch up on my studies.”
Matteo didn’t know how to respond. He just stood there in silence, mulling over Giorgio’s words.
“I do have some good news, however! While I was gone I talked to a friend of mine. He has an open bed, but it comes with a catch.”
Matteo was excited to hear those words, but braced himself for the “catch.”
“My friend is a priest.”
To be continued …
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!