In the early 1920s, a certain Pier Giorgio Frassati, of Turin, Italy, inscribed the above photo of him climbing a mountain with the words “Verso L’Alto.” This Pier Giorgio died a few years later of polio, which he likely contracted from the poor he was so fond of ministering to.
Today, we know this man as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a “man of the Beatitudes,” as Saint John Paul II called him. Born to a wealthy, non-practicing Catholic family, he dedicated his short life to helping the poor with all the money, time, and energy he had; sneaking out to daily Mass in the morning and returning to his bed before his parents knew he had left; frequenting all-night Eucharistic Adoration (while his parents thought he must have been out carousing); and working for social reform in Italy, among other things.
I could definitely write a whole blog post just on Frassati alone, but that’s not what I want this post to be about. What I really want to talk about is this well-known inscription of his–Verso L’Alto, which means “Towards The Top.”
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my spiritual growth over the past couple of years. (Probably because it’s Lent; ’tis the season for reflection, right?) At this point, I feel, I dunno, I guess kind of good about my progress. After all, I go to Mass more than just Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation, I generally go for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration per week, I go to Confession every 1 to 2 months, I pray every night, and I fast on the days I’m supposed to fast on.
But let’s get real. Couldn’t I be doing more? Why not go to Eucharistic Adoration 2 hours a week instead of 1? Why not fast on days other than Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? Why not volunteer more? Why not pray the Rosary more? Why not pray longer at night?
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati wasn’t just a “good Catholic.” He was a really good Catholic. We can’t reach sainthood and become whom God meant us to be just by sitting complacently where ever we are in our spiritual life. We always have to go towards to top, upward, as high as we can go.
God wants us to radically orient our lives towards Him. Not just turn to Him in a way that makes us comfortable, but in a way that makes us a little uncomfortable. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said, “The world offers you comfort; but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
I think that when we feel a little too comfortable where we are spiritually, pride can seep in. You can kind of settle down and just be like, “At least I’m a better Catholic than Joe Shmoe down the road. I’m better than most, not a saint, but pretty good. Might as well stop climbing now.” ( <—- BAD! )
Always do more relative to where you are at. The latter half of that sentence is really important: relative to where you are at. You’re in competition with yourself, not others.