by Margo Borders
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901 in Turin, Italy. From a young age, Frassati showed great piety and was very involved with his faith, including Catholic student groups, the Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Action, and St. Vincent de Paul Society; he was even a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic.
Frassati spent much of his life helping the poor. As a boy, he gave his spending money and the clothes off his own back to the poor people he saw on the street. Through his membership in numerous societies, he was able to serve the poor and address social injustices at the time. He would forgo family vacations in the summer in order to continue serving the poor of his city. Frassati saw Jesus in the poor, and said that he saw “a special light that we do not have around the sick, the poor, the unfortunate.”
Frassati was devoted to the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. He gave himself to prayer, including a daily rosary on his knees. He was devoted to the sacraments, and as a boy, he was given special permission to take communion daily. Not only did he participate in Eucharistic processions, but he also loved adoration. He would spend many nights in adoration and urged young people to take frequent communion in order to further their spiritual lives.
In a letter to the Catholic Youth of Pollone in 1923, Frassati writes: “When you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.”
Frassati was youthful and was known as a joyful and friendly person. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved hiking, riding horses, skiing, and mountain climbing. The motto “Verso l’Alto” has become associated with Frassati, which means “towards the top.” It represents his earthly life, as he loved to climb mountains, and also his constant climb towards God and eternal life. Frassati emphasized joy in his life. He said, “sadness should be banished from all Christian souls…The purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering, it is one of joy.”
Frassati died in 1925 at the age of 24. He suffered from poliomyelitis, and even in the midst of his suffering, he remained vigilant about caring for the poor. Upon the event of his death, thousands of mourners lined the streets as the cortege passed by.
The poor of the city of Turin helped to open the process for Frassati’s canonization in 1932. Pope John Paul II visited his tomb in 1989, and later beatified him on May 20, 1990. Frassati’s feast day is celebrated on July 4 by the Dominican Order. He has become a special patron to millions of young people during the World Youth Days.