At CYM Perth, this month we celebrate on July 4th the feast day of one our patron saints: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He is also a focal point of our World Youth Day 2016 journey as we will be travelling through Turin (where he lived) and his relics are being brought to Krakow in Poland, as he is also a patron of young people. Below are just a few main points of his life:
Bl Pier Giorgio was born into a wealthy, famous and influential family but not particularly religious. His father was an atheist and his mother did attend Mass but never received Holy Communion. The family never said prayers together nor were there any religious pictures in the home etc. However, Blessed Pier Giorgio and his younger sister had a tutor who was a religious sister and, from her, he learnt from a very young age about the Eucharist and developed a great love for the Eucharist. He would go to Mass every day and even sometimes sneak out of the house while it was still dark and walk 45 minutes just to get to Mass and even spend whole nights in Adoration.
So much so that a number of his friends reported that, in life, they did not realise they were in the presence of a saint but, in death, they recognised that he had lived a saintly life. He hung out a group of friends who called themselves The Tipi Loschi (The Shady Types) and Bl Pier Giorgio had the nickname of “The Terror” because of his many pranks. Bl Pier Giorgio was also into outdoor sports such as skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, swimming, horse riding and also pool. He was also in love with a girl but he was heartbroken when he wasn’t able to pursue the relationship because his family thought she was too lower class for him.
When Bl Pier Giorgio was old enough to take to the tram or bus to school, he would instead ride his bike instead and save the tram or bus money to buy bread and distribute it in the poorer sections of Turin. As Bl Pier Giorgio got older, he was helping more and more people and, by the age of 21, he was supporting and looking after over 100 families; not only looking after their bills and healthcare and food and clothing but also making sure the children were going to school and encouraging them all to go to Mass and the Sacraments. When he was at university, he chose to study mining engineering so that he could improve the lives of miners. In the end, Bl Pier Giorgio died from contracting polio from a sick person he had visited.
Bl Pier Giorgio became a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society at 17 but, by then, he was already a member of the Apostleship of Prayer and a Marian group (called a Sodality) in his teenage years and also became a member of a dozen other groups. He was also a lay member of the Dominican Order where he lived the life of a Dominican adapted for lay people. Bl Pier Giorgio was also very active politically being a leader in demonstrations of tens of thousands of young people against Mussolini and Fascism not only in Turin but in other major cities all around Italy.
The miracle that was documented for Bl Pier Giorgio’s beatification process was the cure of a man who was paralysed and on the verge of dying from tuberculosis. The man had stopped practising his Catholic faith but a priest had visited in the morning with a picture of Bl Pier Giorgio and asked him to ask for Bl Pier Giorgio’s prayers. Later that evening, the priest came back and was surprised to find the man asking to have Reconciliation and receive Holy Communion and, on receiving Communion, the feeling in his legs returned and he lived for another 35 years.
Bl Pier Giorgio’s life is a great example of how Faith does not diminish life but enriches it and others’ lives as well. Even now, from the eternal life of heaven, he still continues to be of help through his intercession.