Praying with Savonarola in Lent

Praying with Savonarola in Lent

People are often quite surprised to discover that when Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati became a Dominican tertiary he took the name Girolamo Savonarola. On the face of it, their personalities and character are quite different, and while Bl Pier Giorgio could certainly be boisterous, he certainly does not seem to have the kind of temperament that one would associate with Savonarola.

Most of this is probably because of our view of Savonarola the firebrand preacher, standing in the pulpit of the Duomo in Florence preaching his famous homilies for Advent and Lent, full of predictions on the destruction of the world at the coming end of the age. Indeed, much of Savonarola’s preaching chimes with the life and work of the young Bl Pier Giorgio – a genuine care for the poor and a desire to make Christ the centre of one’s life.

But when we read some of his letters and guides to life, we do not hear the cold words of a firebrand preacher, but one who speaks with tender love for those who seek his care and advice. In his Guide to Righteous Living we hear words that might help us as we reach the second week of Lent, where our original Lenten intentions may have lost some of their original zeal. Savonarola reminds us his interlocutor that ‘He should never let himself be conquered by negligence or sloth so that he fails to do the good he started doing with a steadfast spirit. But since perseverance in grace is the greatest gift from God, one must always in one’s prayers ask God for it, and constantly reaffirm one’s good intentions in front of Him. In so doing, one will have grace in this world, and in the other world glory, which God may grant to all of us, for He is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Br Albert Robertson was recently ordained Deacon, and is completing his theological studies at Blackfriars, Oxford.