What would Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati do?
I put out the campfire as the crisp Northern Alabama air rustled the fall leaves against our tents. It was a Friday night, and my campus ministry was spending it in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. We shared hot cocoa and hearty laughs while stargazing until midnight. I was lullabied by the serene hymn of a distant stream as my tent oscillated with the wind, rocking me to sleep.
I instinctively sprang up from my sleeping bag and slapped the back of my neck. What I thought was a bug was nothing more than an anxious drop of sweat. I’m not an outdoorsy person; this was my first time camping and as much as I wanted to love it, I was completely grossed out.
Nature should be my strong suit. As a theologian, I believe that you can’t study God without studying His creation. It’s the same principle as studying any other figure: You study a person by studying their works. I just wish some of God’s works didn’t sting, bite, fly, or crawl.
After a few hours of interrupted sleep, I awoke to the boys planning our hike for the day guided by the question, WWBPGFD (What would Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati do)? I listened to them go into immense detail on Frassati’s life while I sipped my instant coffee, watching the sunrise from my tent.
The sun blinded me as it emerged from behind the mountains, but I was blind for many other reasons. I was so caught up longing for the comforts of the world (showers, toilets, phone service, etc.) that I couldn’t enjoy the real beauty around me. Frassati didn’t think this way; he saw the outdoors as a way to grow in humility and fellowship away from the world’s comforts.
“Verso l’alto,” (“To the heights,”) the boys hollered Frassati’s famous phrase at the top of their lungs. As we set out for the six-mile trail, I resolved to change my outlook. We took turns leading decades of the Rosary as we navigated the path with over 1,500 feet of elevation gain. My turn coincided with a narrow, muddy part of the trail. I inevitably slipped, covering my backside in mud and leaves. We giggled nonstop for the rest of the Rosary, and I finally understood — I could finally see.
The rest of the weekend was a pure witness of humility and the joy of friendship. We grew in our relationships with one another and with God. When we returned home in time for Sunday Mass, I had one key takeaway: Life is an uphill mountain, and we must go verso l’alto together toward Heaven. We can’t do it alone, especially when we’re blinded by the world, and when in doubt, WWBPGFD?
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.