Okay, this is part dos, so if you didn’t see the first part it’s here.
Also, I stumbled across this interesting little bit of information about his name.
Now, to the great secret of Pier Giorgio Frassati: how in the world did such an incredibly normal, red-blooded young man end up beautified?
Two words: Heroic. Virtue.
See, my theory is this: if it’s not a struggle, how can it be heroic? Pier Giorgio was normal in his interests, in his likes and dislikes, in his appearance. It was his approach to living that led to sanctity.
The testimonies from acquintances after his death described his unfailing good example, his unswerving readiness to defend the faith, his conviction that all things must be ordered to God, his dedication to bringing society and his country back to the morals God had written on the human heart.
He was high-spirited without being crude, exuberant without overindulging, in love with Catholicism without being hypocritical, passionate and patriotic without being excessively violent.
He might have been rambunctious, but the magnestism others found so irresistible in him came from the soul of a mystic, filled to the brim with the joy of knowing Christ and spilling over with the purest love imaginable.
He was a proud card-carrying member of a nocturnal Adoration society, and was known to spend entire nights kneeling in profound adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The meager allowance his wealthy father gave him was passed on to the poor, and he made countless visits on behalf of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He’d even give away his bus allowance to beggars, and end up running home. It’s almost guaranteed that in at least most, if not all, of the pictures above he has somewhere on his person the pocket-size Epistles of St. Paul he was notorious for carrying and referencing with great affection.
He had special permission to be a daily communicant, which was rare in those days, His family didn’t understand his devotion, and his parents almost didn’t approve the original request from his spiritual director to allow a then-teenaged boy to receive the Eucharist daily. His mother was concerned it would make him overly-pious. Many of us take it for granted now, but it was more difficult then: remember, the fast began at midnight. If he couldn’t get to Mass until the evening he simply wouldn’t eat all day. But he never let himself miss. He would skip his beloved skiing trips if his friends’ schedule called for a departure so early he couldn’t make morning Mass.
And if you’re still looking for somebody “normal,” he even had a disappointed heart. He was very, very much in love with a young woman named Laura. His sister Luciana described it to her fiance in a letter:
“Yesterday he came to me with his great black eyes and told me he loved a girl…”
But he never pursued her, because he discovered his mother disapproved of Laura’s lower class in society. His parents’ marriage was on shaky ground, and for the sake of preserving some of the peace his family still had, and for the sake of guarding the young woman’s heart, Pier Giorgio never let Laura know he felt anything more than friendship for her. He wrote to a close friend:
“I am reading the novel by Italo Mario Angeloni, Ho Amato Cosi, in which he writes in the first part about his love for an Andalusian woman, and, believe me, I feel a lot because it is like the story of my love. I too have loved like that, only in the novel it is the Andalusian girl who makes the sacrifice, whereas in my case I am the sacrificed, because that is what God wills.”
But on June 30th, 1925, the athletic, passionate young man started feeling terribly ill. And five days later, on July 4th, he was dead, stricken by polio.
It has since been surmised that he contracted the disease while visiting his beloved poor for the St. Vincent de Paul society. His famous last action was to beg his sister Luciana to retrieve some vials of medicine and pawn tickets from his coat pocket. The pawn tickets he instructed her to redeem on behalf of some poor people who had been forced to sell their belongings, and for the vials of medicine he painfully scrawled directions with his half-paralyzed hand. They were for a poor man he had been assisting, and in agony on his own deathbed he was anxious that they be delivered, and the poor man not disappointed.
As the son of a famous political figure, it was expected that Turin’s upper class would turn out for Pier Giorgio’s funeral. But his family was shocked when over a thousand of Turin’s poorest turned out as well.
The poor themselves had been surprised – they hadn’t realized who their young friend was. Pier Giorgio always called himself Girolamo to them, the name he took when he became a Third Order Dominican a few years before his death.
It was the poor of Turin who petitioned the Archbishop to open a cause for his sanctification, and his family went along with it, stunned to discover this hidden side of the young man they thought they knew.
When Pope John Paul II presided over Pier Giorgio’s beautification in 1990, he said the following:
“Faith and charity, the true driving forces of his existence, made him active and diligent…in his family and school, in the university and society; they transformed him into a joyful, enthusiastic apostle of Christ, a passionate follower of his message and charity. In his life, faith was fused with charity: firm in faith and active in charity, because without works, faith is dead. In him faith and daily events are harmoniously fused, so that adherence to the Gospel is translated into loving care for the poor and the needy in a continual crescendo until the very last days of the sickness which led to his death.
He fulfilled his vocation as a lay Christian in many…political involvements in a society in ferment, a society which was indifferent and sometimes even hostile to the Church.
Receive the message which Pier Giorgio Frassati is sending to the men and women of our day, but especially to you young people, who want to make a concrete contribution to the spiritual renewal of our world, which sometimes seems to be falling apart and wasting away because of a lack of ideals…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.
Is love not possibly what is most needed in our twentieth century, at its beginning, as well as at its end? Is it perhaps not true that the only thing that lasts, without ever losing its validity, is the fact that a person “has loved”?
He left this world rather young, but he made a mark upon our entire century, and not only on our century.”
“And you, what have you done?”