When a 24-year-old has many worldly opportunities because of a family’s social status, quality of education, excellent health, but instead, is motivated entirely by Christian principles, and resists sin by living a life of virtue, such a person we call a “saint.”
Pier Giorgio Frassati’s upper middle-class family, his father a Senator and founder of an Italian newspaper, his mother a professional artist, along with Pier Giorgio’s success in Mining Engineering, his circle of friends and athletic pursuits, he could have pursued a reckless life of self-focussed pleasure. But he did not.
Pier Giorgio led his friends to deepened awareness of their Catholic faith by ensuring their social activities provided an experience of friendship, joy, and Catholic values. And Mass was always included if social activities occurred on a Sunday or solemnity of obligation. Pier Giorgio was also actively engaged in reaching out to the poor which extended to helping disadvantaged students both in Turin and Berlin. Pier Giorgio wanted his friends along with Catholic youth groups to be properly catechised so they developed a love for the Church inspired by the truth of the Gospel.
Pier Giorgio consistently put others before himself and this also meant his own family. He bid a painful farewell to his closest friend, Marco Beltramo, who left for the Air Force, to his sister who left Turin once she was married, and to a young woman knowing their relationship “was not approved.”
His phrase, Verso l'Alto, "To the Summit," expresses Pier Giorgio's journey with his friends ascending towards God, the source of love, and the focus that is need on such an ascent. Pier Giorgio lived a life of virtue. For this reason, St. John Paul II referred to Blessed Pier Giorgio as the “man of the eight beatitudes.”
In the last days of his life Pier Giorgio experienced increasing paralysis. The family could not have known that such a healthy and athletic young man could be dying. With his last attempts at moving his arms Pier Giorgio managed to scribble a note on the Friday when he normally went to visit the poor and sick but could not. And so, Pier Giorgio’s last message was directed to his friend, Giuseppe Grimaldi written on the Friday, July 3rd; his very last note among his letters. Not even when dying was Pier Giorgio thinking of his discomfort and pain but rather those who were expecting his visit.
On Saturday, July 4th, 1925, Pier Giorgio passed away having just written his note to ensure those who relied on him were not forgotten. Pier Giorgio was led by love; he was anchored in truth. Pier Giorgio died at 24 years old.
For complete biography see, David C. Bellusci, Pier Giorgio Frassati: Truth, Love, and Sacrifice, Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2020.
Fr. David Bellusci,
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