Frank and Angelina Rizzo, during a visit to the Shrine on Dec. 7.

A Sign to the World

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Who is this guy with the cool shades and the thick New Yawk accent who frequently visits us here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy? And why is he smiling?

His name is Frank Rizzo. He's a Marian Helper. He's smiling because — well, for a lot of reasons. He's recently retired, for one. He gets to spend more time with the love of his life — his wife, Angelina — for another.

But there's a third reason.

You've probably heard the old joke about how the famous Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked how to get to Carnegie Hall. He replied, "Practice, practice, practice."

Here's a variation. How is it that Frank, a successful Wall Street businessman who could be spending his days practically anyway he pleases, chooses to volunteer at the Shrine, including in the pouring rain and snow on Divine Mercy Sunday?

The answer: Practice, practice, practice. That is to say, he's practicing his faith.

For his second year in a row, there he and Angelina were, helping the Marians of the Immaculate Conception serve the thousands of pilgrims at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. They spent a whole week up at the Shrine. They picked people up from the airport. They made coffee for volunteers. They helped during the filming of the new Cenacle of The Divine Mercy, Series 2, for EWTN. Simple things, but important things.

"Basically, I'm a gopher," says Frank. "And I love it!"

The thing is, Frank and Angelina would probably buck at the notion that their volunteer work at the Shrine is a "deed of mercy." Yet Christ Himself defined deeds of mercy as actions that "arise out of love for Me" (Diary of St. Faustina, 742).

Like all Marian Helpers, Frank and Angelina love God, and they seek to show it.

Originally from Queens where he was active in his parish, Frank has since retired and moved with Angelina, to upstate New York. After a 40-year career on Wall Street, he decided to retire for three reasons.

One: He had enough to live on, "and it was time to turn it over to someone else," he explains. Two: "The company got big, and the barracudas came in, and it was no longer a pleasant, Christian, positive environment," he says. And three: "I felt that God was saying to me, 'I blessed you, and now it's time for you to spend more time on Church-related matters.'"

"It was probably the first time when I really tried to listen to God instead of trying to control my life," says Frank. "And certain things dropped into my life as a result. One of them was the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy."

In the fall of 2004, the Rizzos decided they would go on a pilgrimage to Poland for Divine Mercy Sunday 2005. Before they went, they visited Stockbridge to get a better understanding of what the message of Divine Mercy was all about.

"On that first visit," says Frank, "I went to Confession. I felt for the first time I was really confessing to Jesus. I was in tears when I walked out. It was very powerful."

Basically, the Rizzos were hooked on the Shrine.

Frank recalls the windy, raw weather of this year's Divine Mercy Sunday and the sea of umbrellas that served as meager protection for the thousands of Marian Helpers who attended. He was moved by their dedication.

"Watching these people brave it out — they've helped my own spirituality," says Frank. "What a sign they're giving to the world! Our culture has gotten to the point where everyone wants all the goodies, and they want them now. Most people don't want to struggle for anything. And here, on Divine Mercy Sunday, people were struggling through the mud. They were putting their heart and soul into their faith. What a message! Maybe if we can get more people into Divine Mercy, we'll really start affecting our country and our culture for the better."

"Hope springs eternal," says Frank.

What is a Marian Helper, and how do you become one? Learn all about the spiritual benefits of membership.

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Lois/Catholic Communications - Aug 24, 2009

Very nice story about two great people. We're glad to have you in our Diocese now! It was wonderful to be on pilgrimage at Lourdes with both of you. Wishing you God's blessings.

Fr. Joe - Dec 14, 2007

Frank and Angie are the best! Keep up the good work. Greetings from Rome!