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Verso l'alto: Finding Touches of Frassati-Inspired Joy

Faith Schaefer - Malpass Fellow, Cohort 6 (Chicago)

Chicago Community | Verso l'alto

Chicago Community | Italian IcesThis summer, I found myself inspired by all things Italian. Our apartment in Chicago was located directly on the outskirts of Little Italy, and from the beginning, I decided I wanted to try as much as I could from what the area offered. After eating Italian ice, Italian sandwiches, and making myself pizzas & pastas several times a week, I knew I wasn’t exactly living like Pier Georgio Frassati would have in his Italian hometown. But, as I explored more of the neighborhood, I felt the influence of a community so totally different, and yet intriguing, than what I had previously experienced. Normally, I’m the type of person who sticks close to home: I find comfort in stability, in what I know, and joining and participating in something new intimidates me. However, after walking down the streets and seeing the history that surrounded me, I knew I had to learn more about the community of people that had built such a special place.

So, I’d visit the cute Italian bakery down the street for fresh biscotti and unique pastries that I wasn’t able to find anywhere at home, and in all of these little adventures, I’d find myself meeting wonderful new people. Some would share the history of the community with me, some would offer a simple smile and an exchange of greetings, and others would offer me advice on what new snack to try. In surrounding myself with this new community, trying to soak in all of the opportunities to explore, I found myself excited to talk, to feel like a part of my surroundings. I’d meet people, hear their stories, and share in the joy that these people experienced in simply living and sharing in life.Verso l'alto Because I approached this new time in my life with more simplicity and spontaneity than the careful approach I’d normally take, I was able to talk and listen for the simple pleasure of a conversation: learning, growing, and leaving the interaction feeling just a little bit better about the day and myself.

I think this is one way of interpreting what Blessed Pier Georgio may have meant by “Verso l’alto.” Even through simple actions, by taking the time to continuously go higher, to move outside of our comfort zones, to seek adventure when stability and certainty are easier, we are pursuing the higher good and the joyful, integrated life that we are called to as a Catholic community. And by seeking that in every little interaction, we are building that community up, illuminating it for the future and that higher purpose that we are constantly striving towards.

Even though Chicago’s Little Italy isn’t actually Italy, and the only mountains to climb were the endless stairs taking us up and down to Metro stops, I still found myself inspired by Blessed Pier Georgio’s message. Remembering the excitement of feeling like a part of a new community, if only for a summer, will remind me to seek out the joy that comes from a life of adventure, community, and trust in God, orienting myself to that higher purpose, and hopefully, leading others to it as well.