Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Pier Giorgio Frassati was a young a member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He died at the age of 24 having contracted a serious illness while serving poor persons.

1901, 6 April Born Turin
1918 joined the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
1922 relinquished idea of becoming a priest
1925 mining engineer
1925, 29 June contracted polio
1925, 4 July death
1990, 20 May beatified by Pope John Paul II, as “a man of the Beatitudes”
July 4 Feast day

Born in Turin on April 6, 1901 to a privileged family, he was raised in a rather severe manner by his parents, Alfredo Frassati et Adélaïde Ametis. From a young age Pier Giorgio showed great kindness to poor persons.  In 1918 his father was named the Italian Ambassador to Germany.  At that time Pier Giorgio wanted to become a priest, but his mother, who had other ambitions, refused.  So, Pier Giorgio lived his faith with the general indifference of his family.  He enrolled in the polytechnique school in Turin to become a mining engineer.  He wished to work alongside miners and he was active in the Federation of Italian Catholic Universities.

In 1918 he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded by Frederic Ozanam.  After a discussion with Karl Rahner he decided not to be a priest.  “I can help the people of my country better, with all means possible, and I can reach them better as a layman than as a priest.  An engineer of mining, in giving good example, can have a better effect.”  His group of friends called themselves “The Sinister Ones” and often went mountain climbing.  He characterized the thinking of the group, “It is not permitted for us to just get by; we must live.”  He led his friends to live their faith with joy.  He told one of his friends that, “Charity alone is the goal of all of life, its fulfillment.  With God’s grace, I hold on to charity.”  He looked for ways to overcome his faults:  “I struggle to suppress all my past and all that is objectionable in order to reach a better life.”  In 1925, at age 24, he gave up all other activities except for participation in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

On June 29, 1925 he contracted polio while making one of his home visits.  Thus, while his grandmother was in her last agony, Pier Giorgio, very sick, did not know that he was suffering from a sickness that would take his life in just a few days… he didn’t complain.  On July 3 a diagnosis was made: advanced poliomyelitis.  Being that Friday was the day he made his visits to the poor, Pier Giorgio asked his sister to take a note which he painfully wrote.  He asked for someone to replace him in visiting the poor persons he was supposed to see.  On July 4, 1925 he died, paralyzed from polio.  It wasn’t until after his death that his family knew of his charitable work; even his friends outside those of Saint Vincent de Paul were not aware of the important work he did for poor people.  During his funeral thousands of people, among whom were numerous poor persons of Turin, were present during the procession to the church.

In 1983 at the creation of World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II cited Pier Giorgio Frassati as a model of holiness for youth.