Pier Giorgio Frassati was born on April 6th, 1901 in Turin to a family of the upper Italian bourgeoisie. His father, Alfredo Frassati, editor of the major newspaper La Stampa, was an agnostic. His mother, Adelaide, was a painter. His parents were not very complimentary of him, always blaming him for his mediocrity.
In 1913, Pier Giorgio failed his exams and was sent to a Jesuit school. The young boy, then 13 years old, already had a personal spiritual life that he shared with his friends, and he testified to his love for the Blessed Virgin and for the Blessed Sacrament. He became involved in the group “Apostleship of Prayer”, and in the Society of the Most Holy Sacrament. His days were punctuated by prayer, especially in the morning and in the evening. Pier Giorgio drew all his energy and the joy that drove him constantly from it. His parents, indifferent to this rich spiritual life, discouraged him when he spoke of his desire to become a priest.
In 1918, he passed his exams and entered the Royal Polytechnic School to become an engineer. At the same time, he committed himself to the Saint Vincent de Paul conference to help poor soldiers after the war. He also joined the Militias of Mary and became a member of the Dominican Third Order. Passionate about mountaineering, he enjoyed hiking and climbing with his friends. During his years of study, the young man did not cease to help the poor and needy, and he did not miss any appointment, even during the Spanish flu epidemic. It was during one of his visits to the poor that he contracted polio.
On Tuesday, June 30, 1925, during a walk with two friends, Pier Giorgio experienced severe pain in his back muscles. Back home, he felt a violent headache. The doctor called two days later found that his reflexes no longer worked, and he diagnosed acute infectious polio. Pier Giorgio then went through great suffering that he offered to Jesus. On July 4, after a very serious crisis, he received his last rites. Then, paralysis gradually spread to his respiratory organs, and after much pain, Pier Giorgio died surrounded by his family in prayer, saying “Let me die in peace, in your holy company”. He entered Heaven. Shortly before his lightning-fast sickness, he had said to his father’s driver: “I would like to be old, so that I can go to Heaven faster”.
In 1981, as part of the Beatification process, his body was exhumed and found intact. He was transferred to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin. Declared venerable in 1987, he was beatified on 20 May 1990 by John Paul II, who named him “the man of the eight beatitudes.” He is proclaimed the patron of young people and mountaineers.
The miracle that opened the cause of Pier Giorgio Frassati’s beatification was the healing of Domenico Sellan in 1933. He had terminal bone tuberculosis. A priest brought him a picture of the young Pier Giorgio, with a prayer that he recited with faith. Soon after, the doctors noticed his complete and definitive recovery. Domenico lived 35 years after the miracle.
In 2011, a second miracle took place. It is currently being examined in the Vatican for the opening of the canonization process. It is about the healing of Kevin Becker, then 21 years old. This young boy, an excellent soccer player, fell off the roof of the school and had an extremely serious head trauma. His brain was heavily affected, and he was placed in an artificial coma. The chances of survival were very low and of recovering without the absolutely impossible consequences. Yet after the family began praying to Pier Giorgio, on the advice of a friend, the young boy began to show signs of waking up. Two weeks later, he was back at home. Today, he has resumed his normal life, and he continues to play soccer.
Pier Giorgio’s writings consist of his letters, which were translated into French in 1951. 350 letters written to his friends and family exist, they let us discover the heart of Pier Giorgio. They let us see a young man full of joie de vivre, testifying to his profound joy of being Catholic: “As long as faith gives me strength, I will always be happy. Every Catholic can only be happy. Sadness must be banished from faith-motivated hearts. Pain is not sadness, which is the worst ailment. ” He positively encouraged his friends and the poor whom he visited to put God first in their lives. He said: “Remember, when you give alms, to impart words of Christian faith, to dispense courage and trust and to put in every act of charity, with which you pay to the poor the warmth and brotherhood”.
Here are some beautiful quotes from Pier Giorgio Frassati reported by his sister Luciana in her book The Days of Her Life:
“By yourself you will do nothing, but if you take God as your center of all your actions, then you will come to the end.”
“Eat the bread of the angels and you will find the strength to lead inner struggles, struggles against passions and trials. When you are fully consumed by this Eucharistic fire, then you will be able in full conscience to thank God, and you will taste a peace that people have never known, for true happiness does not lie in the pleasures of this world, it is given only to those who have a pure heart and spirit. ”
“To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without supporting the truth in a continuous struggle, is not to live but to vegetate. We must never vegetate but live. ”
Here are some other words of the blessed when he was a child:
While his father had closed the door to a beggar: “There is a poor man who is hungry and Dad did not give him food, perhaps it is Jesus who sends him to us.”
One day he asked the maid: “Wouldn’t you give your life to stop the war? Well, I’d be willing to give my life today.”
You, who gave Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati the joy of meeting Christ in faith and charity, through his intercession grant us the power to spread among the people of our time the spirit of the evangelical beatitudes. Through Christ our Lord.
Give us the courage to fly high, to escape the temptation of mediocrity and banality, make us able, like Pier Giorgio, to aspire to greater things with his tenacity and constancy and to welcome with joy your invitation to holiness.
Free us from the fear of not succeeding or the false modesty of not being called to it.
Give us the grace, which we ask of You through the intercession of Pier Giorgio and the strength to continue with fidelity on the path that leads “upwards”.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. Amen.