Allow me to take you back in time. Back to the 1920s in Tuin, Italy, to be exact. A time of glamour, elegance, and exciting political debate.
With this era as our back drop, we meet this handsome young man, Peir Giorgio Frassati.He was a young man who just loved life, and we are about to enter into his world.
Born in 1901 to a very wealthy family, Peir’s Father was the owner of the influential newspaper La Stampa. He later went on to become a senator and then the Italian Ambassador to Germany. His mother was a well known painter and had much aristocratic grace to her.
Obviously, his family was very influential and Peir Giorgio and his sister Luciana were very much so aware of this.
As a young man, Frassati especially loved mountain climbing and skiing. He loved the view and rush that he felt from reaching the peak of all of those beautiful Turin mountains. Him and his group of friends, ironically self named “the sinister ones” would all make day trips to climb.
He was known to be the humorous one out of the group.
They all bewared his uncanny skill in the art of practical jokes. Although, this was a skill that the entire group practiced on each other. Often ending with a sack put in someone’s bed or scolding letters being sent back and forth. In short, Peir was one who knew how to have a good time, how to have a good laugh.
Although academics did not come easily to him as a child, he excelled in the University. He was a well read young man, and also greatly enjoyed discussing the exciting politics of his era at local cafes which he always filled with Good Company.
There was a joy that emanated from him, something that could not really be put into words.
And this joy did not come from the life he lived or the friends he had. No, quite the opposite. It came from doing something that not many people knew he did. There was a secret side to Frassaiti.
This joy came from his great love of God and caring for the less fortunate. This handsome young man would start each day by going to mass. This was the true source of everything he was.
From there he would spend most of his day visiting the sick and caring for the poor. One time, a friend asked him how he could stand the terrible smell of the slums of Turin. He said to him in reply, “Jesus comes to me every morning in Holy Communion. I repay him in my very small way by visiting the poor. The slums may be sordid, but I am going to Christ.”
In this inspirational love for the poor, this young man found his purpose, which was to love all. He supported many needy families in the area and began to become very well known among those he served. He did all this work because he saw the dignity that these men and women deserved to be treated with. He wanted to treat them like people, to hear their needs, to help in any way he could.
And it was precisely in this inspiring passion of his which he gave his life to. At the age of 24 he contracted a severe acute case of polio, which lasted six days. There was nothing that the doctors could do, since he kept his suffering hidden for so long, and this strong young man did suffer greatly. Most incredibly, even through this suffering, he had a prefund peace. In one of his last writings he said “only in the prayers of my friends do I find a powerful help.” He had a full, strong, manly faith in God, and it was in this knew that He was calling him home. One of his last actions was to sign over a transaction with a nearly paralyzed hand to a needy family who he was taking care.
Peir Giorgio died on July 4th, 1925. And incredibly enough, his funeral is always described using the word “triumphant” .
As his family was driving toward the funeral, there appeared blocks and blocks filled with people also attending the funeral. The blocks were filled with no others than the multitude of Turin’s poor and needy. Imagine the huge surprise and shock of his family, since they barley knew he did any of this work.
It is true, perhaps there is nothing too out of the ordinary in Frassati. But it is exactly because of this that we can find something so extraordinary . He was a normal, totally relatable young adult.
He was rich. Incredibly handsome. Hilarious. The life of his friend group. And just had this attractive manliness to him.
But, I mean, this is all normal and relatable. And plus, his father was agnostic and his mother was not one of particular faith. He had everything set up so that he would turn into a completely different man.
But no, there was something so special in him. He did not ease into the set up of his life. Frassati did not want to conform to the world that he had been born into. He did not want to live by the self seeking lives that society lived. Instead he wanted to live out great faith and love for God. This great faith is what made him the man he was. It is what gave him strength.
Peir Gorgio Frassati was often heard saying “verso l’alto” or “towards the top” in Italian.
If I had to describe him in only a few words this is what I would say. “Towards the top” totally sums up the character of the young man he was. Not only in the sense of his love for mountain climbing, always wanting to see the view from a higher mountain. But especially in the way he all around lived his life. He lived with an aim toward something greater than himself. He lived for something greater than his family’s money or the attention he could have gotten from high class society. What he lived for was the highest thing anyone could have lived for, God. It’s what gave him that spark in his eye.
And this spark in his eye is what everyone saw in him. After his death, his writings where discovered along with the great work he did uncovered. His family learned about his powerful and real prayer life and soon the news about this awesome young man got around. So much so that on May 20 1996 thousands of people gathered outside of St. Peter’s square for Peir Gorgio’s beatification.
Yes, this young man who lived such a short life is on his way to be recognized as a saint. After more than 80 years of having passed away, I am sitting here writing this. Not because of his money, or something outstanding he did in a worldly way, but because of the way he loved God and allowed that joy to shine though his life. He shows us that saints are not these few selective people that have some type of strange yet boring superpower. No, he shows us the truth that we are all no matter, where we come from or how long we lived, called to be saints. To have that joy the saints had. To impact people’s lives the way the saints did and still do. So lets’ go out and go towards the top.
Bl. Peir Gorgio Frassati, Pray for us!
God bless you,