Be a Contemplative in Action

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
April 29, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM

Focus:              Without Me, You Can Do Nothing
Function:         Be a Contemplative in Action

frassati 1.jpgPier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901 in Turin, Italy. He was born in an affluent family.  His father owned a national newspaper, was first a senator and later the ambassador to Berlin.

The family was not a religious one, but Pier Giorgio was homeschooled, and a priest was brought in to teach him Latin. Pier Giorgio asked this priest to tell him the story of Jesus, and his love for the Lord grew.  Soon, he was sneaking out of the house in the early hours of the morning to run to the Church, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, attend daily Mass, and then run home again and be in bed before his family awoke.

frassatiAs he grew, he had many friends. He loved to go mountain climbing and play sports.  He was competitive in playing games with his friends.  He’d say: “If you win, I’ll give you money, but if I win, you come to a holy hour with me.”  He’d win and they’d head to the church, laughing and pushing each other on the way.  Then they’d enter the Church.  Pier Giorgio would go up front, near the altar, and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, fixing his gaze on the Lord, lost in prayer.  His friends would fall asleep in the back of the church.  After an hour, Pier Giorgio would rise, wake his friends, and they’d head for home.

His love for Jesus soon led to a love for the poor. He was often late for dinner because he would give the money that his parents had given him for the train to a poor person.  He would run all the way home, head upstairs, change out of his sweaty shirt, and then slide down the banister, stopping just outside of the dining room to pray his meal grace so as to not embarrass his family, and then enter the dining room to join his family for dinner.

He would take food from his family’s table and bring it into the homes of the poor. When he was 18, his father bought him a car.  He sold the car and gave half of the money to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the other half he used over time to buy day-old bread from the bakery which he personally delivered to the homes of the poor that he had met.

He would take flowers from the drawing room of his family’s home and put them on the coffins of the poor.

Fridays were to be a day of penance, so on Fridays he visited not only the poor but also the sick. One day a friend asked him, “Pier Giorgio, how can you stand going into those houses?  They are so gross and they smell bad.”

Pier Giorgio responded by saying, “Jesus visits me every day in Holy Communion, and I repay him in my own small way by visiting him in the poor.”

Eventually, he contacted polio from one of the sick people that he visited. It would claim his life at age 24.  His last dying act, hours before he died, was to scribble out a note to a friend, stating that the medications in his coat pocket were for a poor man named Converso.  He asked his friend to deliver the medication and to renew the prescription and charge it to his account.

Jesus said to his disciples,
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

Pier Giorgio’s long nights before the tabernacle led to long days serving the poor.

In receiving Holy Communion, he received the energy to face the day…

Pier Giorgio was a contemplative in action, as we are called to be. By remaining in Jesus, by contemplating the life of Jesus, by spending time in prayer and by doing penance to stir up his zeal, Pier Giorgio found the strength and love to accomplish much in his short life.

A life of contemplation leads to a life of meaning.
A life of contemplation leads to a life lived to the full.
A life of contemplation leads to a life of action.

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to be contemplatives in action. We must cultivate the interior life.  Contemplation is the soul of our action.  It gives meaning to our action.

There are two extremes to be avoided. Contemplation without action leads to a quietism, a timidity that does not bear fruit.  On the other hand, action without contemplation leads to workaholism and a frenzy for the exterior life – the love of action for action’s sake.

When contemplation is strangled by activity, we lose our sense of direction, our sense of purpose. We lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.

The supernatural life offered to each of us, the interior life which we are called to have, is nothing other than the life of Jesus Christ himself in my soul. By this life, Jesus imparts to me His very Spirit.  Then my outward acts become the manifestations of the life of Jesus in me.[i]

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

How are you cultivating your interior life throughout the week? Are you cultivating it?

We cultivate the interior life by spending time in contemplation,
by spending time in prayer, in silence and solitude so that we can hear Jesus’ voice speaking to us,
by receiving the sacraments through which Jesus gives us His grace in our souls.

We remain in him by spending time in prayer, by performing acts of penance for the sake of others and by partaking of the sacraments, and then we go out and perform our daily duties with the mind of Christ who remains in us as we remain in him.

When we remain in him, he remains in us, and the works that we perform are not our own but the works of Jesus himself…works that will bear abundant fruit.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Remain in him.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will bear much fruit.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will be a life full of meaning and joy.
Be a contemplative in action, and you will reap a harvest worthy of Heaven.

man of the beatitudes
Pier Giorgio’s sister, Luciana, wrote a biography of him, entitled “A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati“.  It’s a great read.




[i] Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O, The Soul of the Apostolate (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2012), p. 13.

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