Happy Fourth of July! Today, we also remember a Blessed in our Church: Pier Giorgio Frassati. I wanted to share a bit about this soon to be Saint. The following appeared in Summons Issue #4.
As men, I think we sometimes struggle identifying with certain Saints. Even someone like St. Teresa of Calcutta who’s an amazing Saint. She was a little Albanian sister who lived in India caring for the sick. I’m a married, American man wearing jeans and polo working on a computer all day. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty I can learn from following St. Teresa, but you also can’t deny the differences in our lives.
And while Pier Giorgio lived in Italy in the early 1900s, he’s still very much a saint for our times – a man’s man.
Pier Giorgio loved to play jokes on his friends, always laughing, always smiling. He loved sports, art, music, poetry.
He was a tremendous athlete, hiking and climbing mountains with friends. For each trip, he would convince a priest to join them so they could have Mass. There’s an iconic picture of Frassati after he reached the peak of a mountain. He wrote on the back, “Verso L’alto,” which means ‘toward the top.’ It’s become a mantra for those with an affinity for Pier Giorgio.
He was also a pool shark. He’d make wagers that if his opponent won, Pier Giorgio would pay them money, and if Frassati won, they’d come to Mass with him. He’d often show up with droves of people to attend Mass.
His family was wealthy and influential, but didn’t always support him in his faith. Pier Giorgio would sneak off in the mornings to attend Mass, give his bus money to the poor, and minister to the sick. The sacraments and caring for others defined his life.
At the age of 24, he contracted polio from one of his frequent visits to families in need. At his funeral, his family was baffled that so many people showed up. They didn’t know he was supporting all of these families. And, the families in need had no idea who Pier Giorgio was until he died. He never told them his real name.
And today, this 24 year old is on his way to Sainthood and has already been dubbed, the Man of the Beatitudes.