Sunday, November 6, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 45~ Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

In 1901 Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin into a prominent Italian family. His agnostic father, Alfredo,was influential in politics as founder and director of the newspaper, La Stampa.  Like his father, Pier was strongly anti-Fascist and did nothing to hide his political views.

His deep spiritual life was aided by daily communion (he had to obtain permission for this rare privilege) and frequent nocturnal Eucharistic adoration.  St. Paul's Epistles were favorite meditations and St. Catherine of Siena's writings were instrumental in his becoming a Third Order Dominican.

Pier never hesitated to share his faith with his many friends and he did nothing to hide his political views--physically defending the faith and at times involved in fights with anticlerical Communists and Fascists. On one occasion, participating in a Church-organized demonstration in Rome, he withstood police violence and rallied the other young people by grabbing the group's banner which the police had knocked down--holding it even higher while using the pole to ward off their blows.

While yet very pious Pier was described by his friends as "an explosion of joy." This handsome, vibrant fun-loving young man was an avid mountain climber--organizing many outings with his friends; he loved hiking, riding horses, skiing, and as a lover of art and music--he frequented the opera, theater, and museums. He appreciated good humor, laughter, and practical jokes.

Though the Frassati family was of enormous wealth and power, Alfredo's austerities never allowed his children too much spending money. Even so, Pier managed to donate most of his allowance to those more 'needy' than himself---becoming accustomed to giving away his train-fare to the poor and running back home so as not to be late for dinner.

This young man was dedicated to works of social action and charity. Having joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the age of 17, He was also involved with Catholic Student Foundation, the Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Action, and became a very active member of the People's Party, which promoted the Catholic Church's social teaching based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum.

Pier Giorgio was not a passive 'joiner'...records show that he was active and involved in each, fulfilling all the duties of membership.

He put his faith concretely into action through his constant, humble, mostly hidden service to the poorest of Turin. He lived simply and gave away food, money, or anything that anyone asked of him and considered it a privilege to to be the servant of the poor and suffering.

Just before receiving his university degree Pier Giorgio contracted polio....most likely from the very people to whom he was ministering in the slums. Even though he lay dying he would not draw attention to himself as his own grandmother was dying at the same time he was. On the eve of his death he scribbled a message to a friend reminding the friend not to forget the medicine for a poor man he had been assisting. After six days of suffering he died at the age of 24.

Upon their son's death,(July 4, 1925)  his family expected Turin's elite and political figures to come to offer their condolences and attend the funeral. Much to their surprise the streets of the city were lined with thousands of mourners---the poor and needy whom he had unselfishly served.  And many of these folks in turn were surprised to learn that the saintly young man was the heir of the influential Frassati family. The poor of the city petitioned the Archbishop to begin the cause for canonization....and the process was opened in 1932.

Pope John Paul II visiting Frassati's original tomb in 1989 in the family crypt in Pollone said, "I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours.  When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony."

Upon exhumation his mortal remains were found completely intact and incorrupt. They were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to the cathedral in Turin where his body is available for the veneration of the public.

St. Peter's Square was filled with thousands on May 20, 1990 when Pier was beatified--the Pope called him: the "Man of the Eight Beatitudes."

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's time on earth was short, only 24 years and yet his was a life rich in meaning and purpose derived from faith in God and this despite two unreligious parents who misunderstood and disapproved of his piety and intense interest in Catholicism.

This young man is truly a saint for today--not just for young adults but for us all who would rally around the truth of our Catholic Church's teaching.

Sue is a dear friend from homeschooling days. Now she has moved back to her home state and I miss her all the time. I really appreciate her participation in this series, which she has previously written about St. Gertrude the Great.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

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