Pier Giorgio Frassati inspires Olympian

by Daniel Murphy on February 18, 2006

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I’m not sure how Debra (my wife) learned about Rebecca Dussault. But, the flag of interest was Pier Giorgio Frassati, the “men of the eight Beatitudes” (John Paul II); Rebecca and her family have asked Pier Giorgio (who died of polio at age 24 in 1925) to accompany them on their journey to Turin.

In exquisite balance of faith and love, Rebecca declares through her example that the ultimate race is towards and for heaven and is run to glorify God and serve others.

She has her act together.

Here’s the text of an article by Father William Kuchinsky.

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I have a friend in the Olympics!

Fr. William Kuchinsky
February 4, 2006

“Love God! Live Family! Train Well! Race Fast!” — Rebecca Dussault

I have a friend in the Winter Olympics! Although I’ve never met her, we have a friend in common: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati! And any friend of Pier Giorgio (PG) is a certainly a friend of mine.

Rebecca Dussault, was born in Denver and is now a resident of Gunnison, Colorado in the Diocese of Pueblo. She is Eight Time U.S. National Cross Country Ski Champion and Top Ranked U.S. Women’s Nordic Skier. She will be representing our Nation at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin (a.k.a. Torino), Italy. She has named Pier Giorgio her “patron on the Journey to the Olympics.” When she competes she will have the name of our friend written on her skis, along with the Sign of the Cross with which she always marks them.

I admire Pier Giorgio (1901-1925), and am beginning to admire Rebecca. Not only is she an extraordinarily gifted athlete; she is, first and foremost, a devoted Catholic, wife and mother. Born in 1980, the then Rebecca Quinn racked up major championships in the 1990’s and was seen as one of the most promising Cross Country Skiers. She married her high school sweetheart Sharbel Dussault in 1999, soon went into retirement to focus on her family, and a couple of years later (2001) had a baby boy they named Tabor. She reflects on retiring at the edge of greatness (and her subsequent return): “I felt like the Lord wanted me to give everything to Him. I had no idea He was going to give it back to me. It’s been a hundredfold. It’s been so much better than I ever thought it could be.”

At the end of the Winter season in 2003 Rebecca tried a couple of local races and did well. Of that time she states: “After winning a few races … my husband and I prayed about me getting back into skiing at an elite level. We came to the conclusion that now is the time.”

One might ask, how is it possible that this young lady can fulfill all these roles? Rebecca simply says, “It is all a matter of God’s graces helping me…accomplish all of my goals.” Or, as PG once wrote: “The faith given to me in Baptism suggests to me surely: by yourself you will do nothing, but IF you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal.”

It is also helpful that her husband and child accompany her on tour. One touching example of the joy of having her family with her was recently related by Dussault: “After every race he [her son Tabor] asks me, ‘Momma, did you win?’ Today I could finally tell him, ‘Momma won!’ and he started to cry he was so happy. Having him involved makes such a difference.”

Rebecca may well feel at home in Turin during the Olympics. She and her family traveled there in 2005 before going onto World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. Turin is also the home town of Pier Giorgio! While there they were privileged to meet our hero’s sister Luciana (now 103). As they left the Frassati family to head to Cologne I wouldn’t doubt they sensed Blessed Pier Giorgio traveling with them as he is a Patron Saint of World Youth Day.

Pier Giorgio would have enjoyed having the Olympics in his home town. He was an avid sportsman; a skier himself, PG also enjoyed hiking, rock climbing, soccer, swimming, skating, cycling — you name it!

It is easy to see how his witness became a model of Christian living to Rebecca who enjoys many of the same recreations. Pope John Paul II noted in a homily addressed to young athletes in 1984: “You have models to inspire you. I am thinking, for example, of Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was a modern young man open to the values of sport — he was a skillful mountaineer and able skier — but at the same time he bore a courageous witness of generosity in Christian faith and charity towards others, especially the very poor and the suffering. The Lord called him to Himself … but he is still very much alive among us with his smile and his goodness, inviting his contemporaries to the love of Christ and a virtuous life.”

The connections found in the friendship of Rebecca and Pier Giorgio are many. In summary they include: love for all things Catholic, special devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to His Mother Mary, and a zest for living life to the full in the presence of the Lord. And of course, there are the mountains! Writing to a friend PG once said: “I left my heart on the mountain peaks and I hope to retrieve it this summer … If my studies permitted, I would spend whole days on the mountains admiring in that pure atmosphere the magnificence of God.”

Rebecca’s favorite quote from our heavenly friend is: “To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.” As with PG, so with Rebecca, and all those who’ve come to know and love the Lord God: they have found in Him not only the secret to happiness but also have received freely the energy — that vital force — which empowers us to live life ‘to the max’ and beyond the limits this world imposes. In Our Faith and search for God we find a purpose, and that purpose helps to bring us to the fullness of life! As Jesus said: I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly. [Jn 10:10]

What are Rebecca’s future plans? She recently said, “I know that I would have to compete for a decade or more to really see what I could be. I guess family is just way too important to me. I want to have more kids, and be there for them. Somebody has to be around to teach them how to ski fast.” Knowing Rebecca, she may well be back for the 2010 Olympics and have a bunch of children who ski very fast!

Pier Giorgio formed a society of friends. The main rule of this group was to pray for each other. He once said such prayers “are the best possible sign of friendship.” As we look to Turin this February to cheer for Team U.S.A., please pray for my friend Rebecca. Pray also for your friends, your family, and those in need. You might be surprised by the goodness of the Lord in answer to your requests. You may also realize, to your awesome delight, the happy bond we ALL share with each other in the Lord Jesus!

I am thankful for being introduced to Rebecca Dussault through our friend Blessed Pier Giorgio. It is encouraging to know that we have friends not only on earth, but also in Heaven. The Saints are cheering each of us on to victory amidst the joys and challenges of this life.

John Paul II called Blessed Frassati “a saint for the youth of the Third Millennium!” I invite you to meet him in prayer and learn more from any of the following resources:

WEB: www.piergiorgiofrassati.org; and www.dussaultskis.com (Rebecca’s homepage)

BOOKS: A Man of the Beatitudes by Luciana Frassati
My Brother Pier Giorgio — His Last Days by Luciana Frassati .
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian by Sr. Maria Di Lorenzo

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