My Year with Therese and Pier Giorgio

A month or so before my 24th birthday last May, I considered how the Church designates a theme for certain years (i.e. the “year of St. Paul” or the “year for priests“). I thought that was a great idea and decided to do something similar in my own life.

So I set out searching for a good theme. After considering many options, I settled on this: for an entire year, beginning on my birthday, I would focus on one particular saint. I researched different options, and found many of them compelling. I considered Lawrence of Rome, my patron saint, whose boldness and compassion I envy. I looked at Pope John Paul II, envisioning immersing myself in his encyclicals and “theology of the body” for an entire year.

But during my search, I came across not just one saint, but two who stood out among the others. I just couldn’t get them out of my head.

Each of the two had eerie similarities. Both were widely popular among Catholics, yet unfamiliar to me. Both were laypeople who encouraged ‘ordinary’ holiness: sanctity in your family, in your work, in your daily comings and goings. Most intriguing, however, was that both died of crippling diseases when they were just 24 years old–precisely my age during the entire following year.

So, after a long search I ended up with two year-long patrons: St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Beginning on my birthday, I leaped into their lives and spirituality. My friend Bert Ghezzi, who has volumes on almost every saint, gave me a couple of biographies to get started. I picked up some more through Amazon, and then spent the rest of the year with them.

 This past Monday, I turned 25, which ended my year-long exploration. A year later, I count Therese and Pier-Giorgio not just as heroes, but as friends. I’m sure I could write a whole book describing the lessons they’ve taught me. There are many concrete ways that I live differently now because of their example and prayers.

However, instead of trying to fit their influence into a single blog post, I’ll simply let it season future writings (yet I do plan to post short reviews of the books I read on each saint.)

Because the year was so rich, though, I decided to do another.

Last Monday, May 23, kicked off my year with C.S. Lewis, a man who has been instrumental in my entire Christian life. As an Evangelical, he baptized my imagination and strengthened my mind. As I explored Catholicism, he acted as my Moses, walking me slowly to the promised land of the Catholic Church despite never entering himself.

I’m pretty familiar with Lewis already: I’ve read many of his works, I’ve shaken hands with his closest living relative, and I’ve even attended a conference celebrating his influence. But for the entire upcoming year, I’m planning to read everything afresh.

I’ll be reading through every single one of his works chronologically, which I began doing on my birthday with Spirits In Bondage, a collection of poetry. The book, what Lewis calls a “cycle of lyrics,” was his first published work. Lewis completed it as a 20-year old agnostic.

I also have the first massive volume of Lewis’ personal letters on my bedside, which I’ve already dipped into into each night.

So as Therese and Pier-Giorgio pass the torch to Lewis, I hope to learn as much from this next mentor as I did from the first two. And I’m sure you’ll hear more from all three of this motley bunch over the coming months.