Note: This is the conclusion of a serial fiction series focusing on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, following the life of a fictional character as he encounters the saint. Click here for the previous chapter(s).
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.
Matteo was startled by a loud knocking at the front door. Few people would visit the rectory where he now lived, and he liked it that way. It had been several years since his dear friend Giorgio introduced him to Padre Antonio, giving him a place to stay and a purpose in life.
Over the years had grown fond of Padre Antonio, a quirky, blind, old priest. Matteo did most of the cooking, cleaned up around the house, and even learned how to be an altar server.
At first he was reluctant to begin his journey back into the arms of the Catholic Church, but the slow, humble witness of Padre Antonio eventually won him over.
Matteo rose from the kitchen table and walked to the front door. He opened it and saw a young boy, exhausted and trying to catch his breath. The boy must have ran here to deliver an important message.
“What is it, dear boy? What news do you bring?”
“Giorgio is DEAD!’
The news hit Matteo like a ton of bricks. Giorgio would occasionally stop by the rectory to check up on him, always in a joyful mood, but never showing any signs of sickness. In fact, Matteo had seen him just a few days ago while running errands in the city.
“W-what happened?” sputtered Matteo, still shocked by the news.
“Follow me! Luca sent me to find you. Giorgio’s funeral will be in a few hours and Luca can tell you the rest.”
Matteo told Padre Antonio about the news, and then left the rectory to follow the boy. They walked very quickly into the city, but soon it became difficult as a crowd was forming around the streets.
The curious thing about the crowd was that it wasn’t your typical group of people. It was made up of poor men and women, boys and girls, most of whom were homeless. All of them were wiping their noses and consoling each other, clearly distraught over something.
As they reached the crow, Matteo saw Luca, who signaled to him and invited him over.
“Luca, I heard the news! What is happening?”
Luca was fighting back tears, but at the same time, had a glimmer of joy in his face.
“Look at all these people! These are Giorgio’s people, the poor, the homeless, all of them have come out to see Giorgio’s casket go through the streets of Turin! Hundreds and hundreds of poor are here! Even I didn’t realize how many lives Giorgio touched by his kind and loving presence!”
Matteo was shocked as well. He knew that many people loved Giorgio, as he was one of those homeless individuals whom Giorgio helped.
While they waited with the crowd, Matteo asked Luca about Giorgio.
“How did Giorgio die? I saw him a few days ago and he seemed as joyful as ever?”
“Nobody knew he was sick, he kept his suffering entirely to himself. Even his mother didn’t know!”
“What was it that killed him?”
“It was polio. The doctor said that he contracted the disease after visiting the poor and homeless. We don’t know where exactly, as he visited so many of them on a daily basis. He practically lived with the poor!”
“Did he say anything before he died?”
“You want to know what he said? Giorgio asked his sister to take a small piece of paper from his jacket and with a semi-paralyzed hand he wrote a note to his friend about a few things that needed to be done for the poor! He wasn’t thinking about himself on his deathbed, but only about other people!!”
In a certain sense, Matteo wasn’t surprised at what Luca had related about Giorgio’s final days. Whenever he saw him, Giorgio was joyful and always looking after the poor and homeless. It was this joy that had kept Matteo alive during those dark and lonely days on the streets of Turin. If Giorgio hadn’t arrived and looked after his needs, Matteo would have died years ago. Words could not describe the gratitude that Matteo had for what Giorgio did for him.
“Matteo, look! The casket is coming this way!”
The crowd began to shift as everyone was pushing close to the casket. It was as if they were all trying to touch the relic of a saint that was passing through the streets.
Matteo stepped back and let others go in front of him, not worried about being too close to the casket. He suddenly felt a peace wash over his soul, and he knew that Giorgio was somehow closer now than he had been while alive.
As the casket progressed down the street, the throng of poor people followed it in mourning. During all of this, Matteo thought of a Bible verse that Giorgio had taught him once. It was a fitting verse, one that summarized Giorgio’s life.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
He truly was, a Man of the Beatitudes.
Come back next Sunday as we follow the life of a different saint with the start of a new fiction series!