Bl. Pier Giorgio was known for his joy and jokes, his athleticism, his care for the poor, his political activism, his selflessness, and for challenging his friends to virtue. His life illustrates that the words faithful, virtuous, joyful, zealous, athletic, studious, and servant can all be used to describe a person who is animated by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Born to a wealthy family, Frassati lived frugally and gave his money—and several times even the shoes or coat he was wearing—to the poor. His father was an agnostic, an Italian senator and the founder of a liberal newspaper. Neither he nor his wife were very affectionate with their children. Frassati’s parents disapproved of his faith, but this did not keep him from his daily Mass and rosary, and sometimes whole nights of Eucharistic adoration. He was often scolded for being late for meals, but he never revealed that his tardiness was due to feeding the poor, running errands to buy them medicine, or finding widows and their children a place to stay for the night. The few times that his parents caught Pier Giorgio giving his things away, they punished him.
"By his example, he proclaims that a life lived in Christ's Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is 'blessed,' and that only the person who becomes a 'man or woman of the Beatitudes' can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. He repeats that it is really worth giving up everything to serve the Lord. He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people."
- Saint John Paul II
Always cheerful in spite of his sad life at home, Frassati attracted a group of friends that jokingly called themselves “The Sinister Ones”. They often played practical jokes or enjoyed fun trips, and wrote coded letters to anyone who had been missing. They especially enjoyed trips into the mountains. Pier Giorgio was a leader in the group, and made sure that no matter where they went, Mass was included. In spite of having many friends, Frassati found school tedious and difficult, but pushed himself to do well out of a sense of family honor. He found greater joy in sports, including hiking, riding, horses, skiing, and mountain climbing. His took as a personal motto the phrase “verso l’alto!”—in English, “to the highest!” which for him meant not only the summit of a mountain, but heaven.
At age 21 Frassati became a Lay Dominican and took the name “Fra Girolamo” after Savonarola, a famous, fiery preacher of social reform during the Renaissance. Many of the poor only ever knew Frassati by this religious name. When he died at age 24 from polio, his parents received a double shock: first that he died! They had not noticed that he was seriously ill, and had been upset with him for not showing greater concern for his grandmother, who they did know was dying. Second, at the news of his death, literally thousands of poor people surprised Frassati’s parents by surrounding their mansion on the day of his funeral. His parents had no idea that their son had cared for so many people. His last act could have been one of self-pity, but instead, he took care, in his final moments, to write a note about a sick man who had no one else to care for him, to make sure someone brought him his medicine.
The life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati provides an excellent model for young people. Blessed John Paul II said of him, “Pier Giorgio shows us in real life what it really means, for a young layman, to give a concrete answer to the, ‘Come, follow me’”. At the beatification of Frassati, Pope John Paul II said, “He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people”.
In his short life he accomplished much good by living out a life rooted in virtue and the beatitudes. Frassati Catholic High School will be a place where students will be challenged to live this same kind of life – rooted in virtue and the beatitudes.
April 6, 1901:
A brief chronology of Pier Giorgio’s life:
born of Alfred and Adelaide Frassati in Turin, Italy
Luciana, the sister of Pier Giorgio was born
made his First Holy Communion
received permission to receive Holy Communion daily
enrolled in the Faculty of Industrial Mechanical Engineering at the Royal Polytechnic of Turin declaring a specialization in mining engineering
enrolled in the Italian Catholic Students Federation and in the St. Vincent de Paul Society
attended the Young Catholic Workers Congress in Rome and is arrested during a demonstration;
enrolls in the Popular Party (the newly founded Catholic Party).
became a Dominican Tertiary taking for his patron the Dominican priest Girolamo Savanarola
July 4, 1925:
birth into eternal life; he had contracted poliomyelitis while serving the sick and poor in Turin
May 20, 1990:
Beatified by Blessed John Paul II