Bienheureux Piergiorgio Frassati, à 24 ans, en 1925.
Bienheureux Pier Giorgio Frassati
Militant dans des associations de laïcs (+ 1925)
"l'homme des huit béatitudes", site du diocèse de Fréjus-Toulon
Toute la vie de Pier Giorgio est marquée par le don de soi aux plus pauvres qu'il appelle sa famille, par son engagement social très poussé, par un amour de Dieu sans limite.
Il entre dans le laïcat dominicain.
Il contracte la poliomyélite et s'éteint à 24 ans.
Il a été béatifié le 20 mai 1990 par le pape Jean-Paul II.
- Les reliques de Pier Giorgio Frassati ont été exposées lors des JMJ de Cracovie.
À Turin, en 1925, le bienheureux Pierre-Georges Frassati. Jeune militant dans les associations de laïcs catholiques, il se dépensa, de toute son âme et avec joie, à rénover la société et à pratiquer la charité envers les pauvres et les malades, jusqu'à ce qu'il fût terrassé par une paralysie foudroyante.
"Dans la Sainte Communion, Jésus vient me visiter chaque matin, je le Lui rends en visitant mes pauvres"
"Tant que la foi m'en donnera la force, je serai toujours heureux.
Tout catholique ne peut qu'être heureux.
La tristesse doit être bannie des cœurs animés par la foi.
La douleur n'est pas la tristesse, qui est la pire des affections"
Pier Giorgio Frassati
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI : UN MODÈLE POUR TOUS LES JEUNES
Un exemple de sainteté vécue dans la vie quotidienne.
Né dans une famille de la haute-bourgeoisie italienne, fils du directeur du grand journal La Stampa, Pier Giorgio passe son temps à secourir ceux qui sont dans le besoin dans les quartiers pauvres de Turin.
Dans une période marquée par la montée du fascisme en Italie, il s´engage également en politique et s´investit pour plus de justice sociale. Il puise l´énergie nécessaire à ses engagements dans sa relation au Christ, sa vie intense de prière. Très entouré, il partage sa foi et ses passions, à ses amis proches. Sportif, amoureux de la montagne, il n´hésitera pas à emmener ses amis « vers les sommets ».
Pier Giorgio Frassati s´éteint à l´âge de 24 ans, des suites d´une maladie qu´il aurait contractée auprès d´une famille pauvre.
Le 20 mai 1990, il est proclamé bienheureux par le Pape Jean-Paul II qui donne à ce jeune le titre de "l´homme des 8 Béatitudes". Il est donné comme modèle à tous les jeunes.
Il est fêté le 4 juillet.
Bx Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925)
Pier Giorgio Frassati est un étudiant, alpiniste et faisant parti du tiers ordre dominicain. Né à Turin dans une famille bourgeoise, son père agnostique, Alfredo Frassati est le fondateur du journal « La Stampa », Pier Giorgio grandit et poursuit ses études malgré des difficultés scolaires. Il va développer une vie de foi et de charité, secourant les pauvres des taudis de Turin, sans que sa famille ne s'en aperçoive. Il développe avec ses amis un apostolat, mêlant amitié spirituelle et plaisanteries lors d'excursions dans les Alpes au sein d'une compagnie qu'il crée, la « compagnie des types louches ». L'arrivée du fascisme met fin à ses espoirs dans l'émergence d'une démocratie chrétienne qu'il soutient à travers ses engagements associatifs et politiques. Il cherche ainsi à développer l'émergence de la paix en Europe à travers l'association « Pax Romana ». Lors de l'une de ses visites aux pauvres, il attrape la poliomyélite. Il meurt une semaine après le déclenchement de la maladie le 4 juillet 1925, à 24 ans. Lors de son enterrement de nombreux pauvres, qu'il a aidés, sont présents. Ses proches réalisent alors l'activité secrète de Pier Giorgio Frassati et très vite se développe autour de sa personne une réputation de sainteté. De nombreux groupes de jeunes catholiques s'inspirent son modèle. Le procès en béatification est ouvert, et en 1981, on découvre son corps intact.
"Frassati, la jeunesse et l’allégresse": portrait par le cardinal Poupard
CITE DU VATICAN, Vendredi 11 avril 2003 (ZENIT.org) – Le cardinal Paul Poupard, président du conseil pontifical de la Culture achève dimanche prochain ses conférences de carême par une présentation du bienheureux pape Jean XXIII. Dimanche dernier, il présentait un jeune témoin, le bienheureux Pier Giorgio Frassati sous le titre: « Frassati, la jeunesse et l’allégresse ».
Rappelons que les « Presses de la Renaissance » (www.presses-renaissance.fr) publient l’intégralité des conférences de carême du cardinal Paul Poupard à Notre-Dame de Paris sous le titre: « La sainteté au défi de l’histoire »(252 pages – 16 euro).
Le bienheureux Pier Giorgio Frassati est mort à vingt-quatre ans de la poliomyélite, alors qu’il était élève ingénieur, skieur et alpiniste, ami des pauvres de Turin, et ami de la paix en Europe -« l’homme des huit béatitudes », disait Jean-Paul II en le donnant en modèle aux jeunes, il y a vingt ans, lors de l’inauguration du Centre international de jeunes San Lorenzo, à Rome, à deux pas de la place Saint-Pierre.
Après avoir évoqué la relation du pape et des jeunes, le cardinal Poupard a donné d’emblée la parole à la sœur de Pier Giorgio Frassati, Luciana, aujourd’hui nonagénaire.
« Luciana nous restitue sans complaisance aucune le climat décidément morose – et il en souffre, comme beaucoup de jeunes aujourd’hui – des tristes réunions de famille de leur enfance piémontaise, entre un père conscient de son importance sociale, obstiné et autoritaire – »comme peuvent l’être, écrit-elle, beaucoup de ces Piémontais qu’on taxe de libéralisme »–, dont l’athéisme corrosif l’empêche de comprendre la foi ardente de son fils, et une mère qui n’aspire qu’à une seule chose : se consacrer à la peinture qui la console de ses désillusions conjugales.
La mésentente chronique des parents, une vie faite d’interdits et d’isolement, l’agnosticisme du père et la foi imposée du côté maternel et réduite à l’observation scrupuleuse et formelle de quelques règles : rien vraiment ne prédispose le jeune Pier Giorgio à devenir un garçon pieux et charitable.
« Bien plus, ce jeune garçon est davantage porté à la fantaisie qu’aux études, et il ne cesse d’être rabroué par son père, Alfredo, un notable qui ne voit en lui que le successeur tout désigné à prendre sa suite comme directeur de ce prestigieux journal libéral turinois qu’il a fondé, La Stampa.
« Il le tient pour un enfant incapable de tout, même tout simplement de ranger ses livres et d’écrire avec ordre, coupable par surcroît d’être, avec sa sœur bien- aimée, sans cesse recalé aux examens scolaires.
« Cette enfance austère et cette éducation à la dure trouvent un exutoire dans la montagne où Pier Giorgio se forge une force de caractère exceptionnelle, une volonté ardente de se maîtriser et de se surmonter.
« Et, très tôt, grandissent également en lui son amour de Dieu et l’amour de son prochain. Il n’avait pas 11 ans et déjà son esprit était tourmenté par la misère qu’il rencontrait et contre laquelle il tentait de lutter, brisant sa tirelire pour donner aux pauvres ses maigres étrennes, récupérant du papier argenté et des timbres pour les missionnaires.
« Tout petit, alors qu’un pauvre ouvrier sonne à la porte de l’appartement bourgeois du sénateur piémontais, et que son père le met dehors parce qu’il sent l’alcool, Pier Giorgio, désespéré, se met à crier : »C’est peut-être Jésus qui nous l’envoie ! »À l’école des Jésuites, il vivifie sa foi et fortifie son esprit de charité qu’il nourrit de l’eucharistie quotidienne fréquentée avec ferveur.
« Mon père humiliait souvent Pier Giorgio de ses remarques désobligeantes, proférées sur un ton glacial et agressif, nous confie sa sœur Luciana, et, le taxant d’imbécillité, éprouvait face à lui cette inexplicable sujétion que l’homme qui a vécu ressent devant l’homme pur ». »À 16 ans, raconte-t-elle, il s’endort en priant et se lève tôt pour pouvoir prier ». Prier est comme la respiration naturelle de ses journées.
« Il y trouve l’antidote à l’atmosphère étouffante de sa famille, et le ressort de son action inlassable au service des pauvres, menée avec amour. À l’étape de nuit au refuge montagnard, alors que ses compagnons recrus de fatigue s’allongent pour dormir sur leurs couchettes, Pier Giorgio les secoue avec peine : » Maintenant, récitons-le ! »
« Ses élans spontanés le portent au sacerdoce, mais il perçoit l’hostilité décisive de sa mère et y renonce pour une vie de laïc chrétien engagé en plein monde. En même temps, s’affirme toujours davantage son amour des pauvres qui le conduit à s’inscrire au Parti populaire que vient de fonder Don Sturzo et dont le programme social s’inspire de l’encyclique Rerum novarum du Pape Léon XIII, c’est-à-dire en opposition directe aux idées politiques de sa famille libérale.
« Ce choix délibéré et courageux est celui d’un jeune qui ne craint pas de s’affirmer au rebours de ses parents. Il atteste la profondeur de ses convictions de fervent catholique et la force de son caractère indomptable, alors que catholiques et libéraux au Piémont se trouvaient chacun du côté opposé de la barricade.
« En 1918, il devient membre actif des Conférences Saint-Vincent-de-Paul et prend soin des soldats démunis au sortir de la guerre ». Sa mère le juge d’une intelligence médiocre, d’un esprit confus et distrait. Son père lui reproche de vivre au jour le jour avec l’insouciance d’un écervelé quelconque qui perd son temps.
« L’un et l’autre le considèrent comme un raté et ils se désolent – alors que son père est devenu ambassadeur en Allemagne – qu’il ne s’intéresse pas à la vie mondaine de l’ambassade à Berlin, pas plus qu’au prestigieux quotidien piémontais La Stampa, dont il est naturellement appelé à prendre un jour la direction, après son père.
« »Que pouvait attendre en effet, écrit sa sœur Luciana, le sénateur Frassati , ambassadeur du roi d’Italie et propriétaire de La Stampa, d’un fils qui emportait les fleurs des pièces de réception pour fleurir les cercueils des pauvres gens ? »
« Hôte de la famille du théologien Karl Rahner, Pier Giorgio est en même temps fortement marqué par le P. Sonnenschein, appelé le saint François de Berlin. À la fin de l’année 1921, il s’engage dans un apostolat au service des déshérités dont il se sent de plus en plus proche. Sa sœur, grisée par une vie diplomatique brillante qui la tire comme par enchantement de l’existence grise de Turin, ignorait tout de son action en faveur des déshérités et de son catholicisme militant.
« »Je ne savais rien, nous confie-t-elle, des fréquentes réunions, des visites aux pauvres, et des secours destinés à cette multitude de gens réduits, à cause de la guerre, à la déchéance, ou jetés sur le pavé avec la chute du mark. Tout ce que mon frère réussissait à économiser ou à soustraire à la table de l’ambassade, il le répartissait entre ses protégés.
« Il allait d’un taudis à un autre, revenait en courant, avalait un café et filait dans un hôpital. Le soir, enfin, il rentrait, épuisé, mais satisfait ». L’année 1922 voit la montée de la peste brune, la marche sur Rome de Benito Mussolini et la prise du pouvoir par les fascistes. Pier Giorgio, en fidèle catholique militant, s’oppose de toutes ses forces et avec un courage décidé aux chemises noires qui brocardent les processions religieuses et insultent les fidèles.
« Il chante et prie à voix haute avec les « Fucini », les étudiants membres de la Fédération universitaire catholique italienne. Défendant avec eux la bannière de son cercle d’étudiants de la FUCI (Fédération des universitaires catholiques italiens, ndlr), il est « cueilli » avec eux par la police musclée et jeté dans les prisons d’État, où il récite avec eux le , et proteste avec énergie contre les méthodes inhumaines des policiers.
« Et c’est seulement après avoir été tabassé qu’il révèle son identité de fils de sénateur, pour avoir la possibilité de se justifier lui-même, dans la foi au Christ qu’il professe avec ses compagnons. Il ne craint pas de se manifester comme un étudiant chrétien, catholique, dans l’université qui est alors anticléricale et il participe avec ardeur au congrès de la jeunesse catholique ». La charité ne suffit pas, disait-il. Il faut des réformes sociales ».
« Il met son espoir dans un gouvernement de coalition entre Parti populaire catholique et Parti socialiste pour barrer la route au fascisme, pour mettre enfin un terme, comme il l’écrit à un ami, « à ce scandale intolérable que constitue le mot fasciste ».
« Hors de lui, le 28 octobre 1922, alors que la marche sur Rome marque l’accession au pouvoir du Duce et entraîne la démission de son père de son poste d’ambassadeur à Berlin, il affirme avec force que le christianisme, religion d’amour, ne peut en aucun cas s’allier avec le fascisme, fruit d’une doctrine qui exalte la force et la violence.
« Et il ne cache pas son indignation devant la compromission dont fait preuve alors le parti chrétien qui avait au contraire le grave devoir de s’y opposer : »Qu’est devenue la foi qui anime nos compagnons ? Malheureusement, quand il s’agit de se lancer dans la course aux honneurs, les hommes en arrivent à piétiner leur conscience. Quant à moi, je me dis qu’il vaut mieux être seul, la conscience en paix, si une alliance avec d’autres doit nous inspirer de terribles remords ».
« Pier Giorgio est profondément peiné de voir des hommes qu’il avait respectés s’allier avec les fascistes qu’il appelle tout simplement, sans aucune précaution de langage, « la canaille ». Il revêt le scapulaire du tiers ordre dominicain et prend significativement le nom de Frère Jérôme, en hommage au moine Jérôme Savonarole.
« Admirateur fervent de ce moine florentin, ardent prédicateur contre les mœurs corrompues de son temps, mort saintement sur le bûcher, il écrit à son ami Antonio Villani qui veut suivre son exemple : « J’ai voulu le prendre pour modèle quand je me suis fait tertiaire, mais je suis bien loin de lui ressembler ».
« Le choix de Pier Giorgio révèle son idéal de purification sociale et de renouveau politique, en même temps que son inscription aux Conférences Saint-Vincent-de-Paul du cercle Cesare Balbo atteste son souci de servir les pauvres. Après ses études au collège des jésuites, où il s’inscrit à la Congrégation mariale et à l’apostolat de la prière, il entre à l’École polytechnique de Turin : »Je veux être un ingénieur des mines, écrit-il à un ami, pour pouvoir mieux servir le Christ parmi les pauvres ».
« Ce fils de grand bourgeois considère comme absolument étrangère la fortune paternelle et il ne cesse de distribuer, dans les quartiers de la banlieue turinoise, comme naguère à Berlin, les quelques lires que sa mère lui offre de temps en temps ». Je vois briller autour de ces êtres misérables et défavorisés une lumière que nous n’avons pas », confie-t-il à un compagnon.
Les malades du Cottolengo et les vieillards qu’il visite dans les hospices trouvent en lui cette lumière qu’il voit en eux et cette joie de croire qu’il irradie, fruit lumineux d’une foi intensément vécue dans l’incompréhension totale de l’athéisme de son père libéral et de la religion typiquement formaliste de sa lignée maternelle.
« Ne croyez pas que pour Pier Giorgio cet engagement résolu au service des pauvres va de soi, comme par enchantement, bien au contraire. Il vit, comme l’apôtre Paul, de sa foi dans le Seigneur. C’est la puissance de la foi qui, dans sa faiblesse, tire tout de la force de Dieu.
Écoutons cette admirable confidence de Pier Giorgio, qui nous éclaire sur le secret de sa vie intime : »Vivre chrétiennement est un renoncement et un sacrifice continuel, qui, pourtant, ne pèse pas, si on pense que ces quelques années passées dans la douleur comptent bien peu au regard de l’éternité, où la joie n’aura ni limite ni fin et où nous jouirons d’une paix impossible à imaginer.
« Il faut s’agripper fortement à la foi. Sans elle, que vaudrait toute notre vie ? Rien, nous aurions vécu inutilement. La foi qui m’a été donnée au baptême me suggère d’une voix douce : »Par toi-même, tu ne feras rien. Mais si tu prends Dieu pour centre de toutes tes actions, alors, tu arriveras au but ». « Ce qui caractérisait sa foi, témoigne sa sœur Luciana, c’était sa complète et absolue confiance dans la prière. Il ne cessait, dans ses lettres, de promettre à ses correspondants de prier pour eux et de leur demander en retour de prier pour lui ».
« C’est le témoignage remarquable de Pier Giorgio qui frappe tous ceux qui l’entourent, en particulier le réseau d’amis qu’il entraîne avec lui dans ses équipées vers les cimes alpines. Pier Giorgio rayonne la joie d’un cœur pur: « Un saint triste est un triste saint », a-t-on coutume de dire.
« Ce n’est pas le cas du jeune Piémontais, facétieux à souhait, infatigable animateur de chahuts d’étudiants, et fondateur d’une compagnie au nom vraiment peu conventionnel et bien significatif : la « Compagnie des types louches », dont l’activité essentielle, nous dit sa sœur, consistait à jouer des tours, à mettre les lits en portefeuille, à envoyer un bonnet d’âne à une étudiante peu studieuse, à écrire des lettres débordantes de joyeuses plaisanteries, le tout au service de l’apostolat.
« Pour la réussite de cette entreprise, souligne Luciana, il se servit d’un instrument de prédilection, l’allégresse. Elle régnait en maîtresse dans le groupe qui ne connaissait aucune règle, aucun cycle de réunion, mais rassemblait les membres sous le signe magique du rire, en particulier les joyeuses excursions en montagne, dans une complicité fraternelle qui réunit filles et garçons, sans souci du qu’en dira-t-on ».
« Nous pouvons l’imaginer, en effet, dans le milieu collet monté de la haute société turinoise de l’époque. Lumière qui ensoleille nos vies, comme le soleil de Chanteclerc, sans qui les choses ne seraient que ce qu’elles sont, l’amitié incomparable, inestimable.
« Don précieux qui nous préserve de l’égoïsme, tentation tapie au cœur de nos vies, sans cesse renaissante et sans cesse renouvelée, Pier Giorgio Frassati le détient et suscite l’amitié naturellement, car elle découle chez lui d’un sentiment profond, le respect de l’autre qui lui fait considérer en lui le meilleur.
« La jeunesse est l’âge privilégié de l’amitié, qui partage sans compter dans la gratuité du don et sans retour. Ce fut un grand malheur, naguère, chez nous, de voir encensé par la culture dominante un philosophe qui professait : « L’enfer, c’est les autres ».
Non. Bien au contraire, l’enfer, c’est l’enfermement dans le cercle carré de la
poursuite effrénée de l’intérêt débridé, du plaisir égoïste, de l’avoir
possessif, du savoir prétentieux et du pouvoir dominateur.
« Les autres, ce sont au contraire les étoiles du firmament, les gouttes d’eau de l’océan, dont seule la complémentarité fait la beauté du ciel étoilé et la grandeur de l’immensité océanique. Son amie, Clementina Luotto, en témoigne: « Il était la bonté qui nous tenait unis ». Elle évoque la lumière de ses yeux si doux : » C’étaient des yeux qui conservaient l’innocence de l’enfance et avaient la profondeur d’un regard visionnaire.
« Qui pourra effacer l’image de son sourire ? Dans le train, près de moi, je croyais qu’il dormait, mais je m’aperçus qu’il disait son chapelet. Il avait des attentions si fraîches, si délicieuses que son visage viril prenait, à certains moments, des expressions d’enfant délicat et rêveur. Il cultivait au plus haut point l’amitié, l’amour fraternel.
« Quelle merveilleuse jeunesse irradiait de lui et autour de lui ! Elle nous rendait si légers, nous faisait escalader les montagnes avec une telle facilité et nous libérait de toute entrave corporelle ! Comme elle nous rapprochait de Dieu qu’il portait en lui ! Qui désormais nous donnera cette joie purificatrice ?
« Qui pourra renouveler devant nos yeux, mais aussi dans nos cœurs, le miracle de la sainteté heureuse, insouciante, fraîche et aussi désaltérante que l’eau d’une source de montagne ? »Comme il le confie dans une lettre à un ami, alors qu’il traverse une période doublement douloureuse : il a dû renoncer à un amour pur et merveilleux pour Laura Hidalgo, une jeune fille toute simple, d’un milieu peu fortuné, que ni sa mère ni son père ne pouvaient comprendre et accepter.
« Et Luciana, sa sœur et confidente privilégiée, va se marier ». Ma vie, écrit-il, traverse la période la plus triste d’une grave crise. Cette fois, nous serons séparés, non pour quelques jours, mais pour toute la vie, si bien que je resterai seul. Être seul à la maison, je sais ce que c’est. Gai en apparence, je le serai toujours, fût-ce pour démontrer à mes camarades qui ne partagent pas notre foi, qu’être catholique veut dire être toujours jeune et joyeux.
Mais, quand je serai seul, je laisserai libre cours à ma tristesse ». »Seul, commente sa sœur, il supporta sur ses épaules l’édifice croulant de la famille ». À sa sœur Luciana, il écrit, le 14 février 1925, quelques mois seulement avant qu’il ne soit emporté par la maladie des innocents, la poliomyélite des enfants: « Tu me demandes si je suis heureux, et comment pourrait-il en être autrement ?
Tant que la foi m’en donnera la force, je serai toujours heureux. Tout catholique ne peut qu’être heureux. La tristesse doit être bannie des cœurs animés par la foi. La douleur n’est pas la tristesse, qui est la pire des affections ». »Ne sois pas en peine, la vie des hommes de bien est très courte, dit-il à un ami brisé par la mort de sa sœur. La foi nous donne la force de supporter les épines qui poussent sur le chemin de notre vie ».
« À Italo, le chauffeur de son père, il confie : »Je voudrais être vieux pour aller plus vite au Paradis ». Et, le dimanche précédent : »Mieux vaut aller au Paradis que vivre ici-bas, on y est trop mal. Faisons le bien quand il est encore temps ». »Jésus me rend visite chaque jour pour la communion, et moi, je la lui rends bien modestement en visitant les pauvres ».
« C’est bien le même programme de vie que celui de Mère Teresa, nourri, comme elle, de l’Eucharistie quotidienne et de la méditation de la parole de Dieu, source intarissable de joie partagée. Saint Paul est en effet sa première nourriture spirituelle, il le lit constamment, aussi bien dans le tramway que dans la rue. Il y puise la force de ses convictions.
« Comme la petite Bakhita, le jeune Pier Giorgio Frassati a beaucoup aimé le monde créé par Dieu, les merveilles de la nature, les montagnes en particulier qui l’attirent vers le sommet. Sachons, nous aussi, retrouver cet émerveillement pour la création, et cette perle, ce chef-d’œuvre de la création qu’est l’homme, créé à son image et à sa ressemblance.
« Pier Giorgio Frassati est l’homme intérieur aimé du Père qu’il a beaucoup aimé, et il est l’homme de notre siècle, l’homme « moderne », l’homme qui a tant aimé. L’amour n’est-il pas le bien le plus nécessaire à l’aube du IIIe millénaire ? Cet amour au cœur de toutes les cultures qui les conduit de leur irrémédiable finitude à leur plénitude révélée en Jésus-Christ, source inépuisable d’amour pour tous les hommes ».
Le cardinal Poupard a déjà tenu cinq de ces conférences, sur Robert Schuman, une âme pour l’Europe (9 mars), Mère Teresa , le Christ pour les pauvres (16 mars), Maurice Blondel, l’intelligence de la foi (23 mars); sainte Bakhita, »de l’esclavage à la liberté »(30 mars); Pier Giorgio Frassati (6 avril).
Le bienheureux pape Jean XXIII, ancien nonce apostolique à Paris au temps d’Edouard Herriot, conclura cette brillante série de témoins dimanche prochain.
Les conférences sont retransmises à la radio, en direct par France Culture à 16 h 30, en différé, à 20 h sur Radio Notre-Dame (100.7, suivies d’un débat), à la télévision sur Kto (en léger différé à 19 h 10). Kto propose aussi une série de rencontres autour des thèmes des conférences (cf. http://www.ktotv.com).
BIENHEUREUX PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI : L’ASCENSION INTÉRIEURE D’UN JEUNE ÉTUDIANT
Pier Giorgio avait tout pour être un blessé de l’amour, un triste gars, un éternel complexé. Pourtant, il traversa le début du XXe siècle comme une avalanche de joie et de charité. Jean-Paul II, lui-même, qui le béatifiera en 1990, avouait avoir été bouleversé par le témoignage et la vie intérieure de cet étudiant que la maladie a fauché à 24 ans.
Un héritier "imbécile"
Turin (1901) Italie. Pier Giorgio naît un 6 avril. Il est l’aîné de deux enfants. Très tôt ses parents jugent que seule Luciana, d’un an sa cadette, est dotée de toute l’intelligence requise pour succéder un jour à la direction du journal libéral La Stampa. Pas lui.
Son père le taxe d’imbécile et l’humilie fréquemment.
L’enfant, l’adolescent puis le jeune homme ne s’en effarouchera jamais.
Simplement, il redoublera d’efforts. Tout en respectant toujours ses parents, même lorsque, au fil des ans, le ménage manifeste une mésentente conjugale de plus en plus grande.
Un intrépide généreux
Les qualités intérieures de Pier Giorgio passent inaperçues aux yeux de toute sa famille, excepté sans doute de sa grand-mère maternelle. A posteriori, sa sœur se souviendra avec émotion combien il a manifesté, pourtant, dès la petite enfance, une générosité intrépide. Comme ce jour où, pour sauver une fillette tombée dans un trou d’eau gelée, alors qu’ils font du patin à glace, Pier Giorgio y chute aussi pour la repêcher. Ce bain glacé aurait pu lui coûter la vie. Il a sauvé celle d’une enfant.
Le garçon est aussi étonnamment concerné par la souffrance d’autrui. Un jour, encore tout petit, il est seul à la maison lorsqu’une pauvre dame vient réclamer quelques sous. Que faire ? L’idée surgit, désarçonnantede bonté. Pier Giorgio ôte ses chaussures et ses bas, les tend à la mendiante : "Pour vos enfants", lui dit-il.
Son cœur éveillé à la misère grandit durant la première guerre mondiale. Lorsqu’elle éclate, il ne sait comment clamer son refus ; il voudrait s’engager pour la paix, venir en aide aux blessés, aux familles des soldats. Que faire pour que la guerre cesse ? "Je donnerai ma vie !", soutient l’adolescent.
Les études, un vrai combat
"Les difficultés rencontrées dans l’étude, raconte le Père Robert Claude, un de ses biographes, furent pour Frassati une occasion d’ascension morale." Pier Giorgio a une haute idée de son devoir et demande qu’on prie pour que sa volonté se consolide. Il formera effectivement le vœu de servir l’Église auprès des mineurs. Or pour concrétiser ce rêve, il doit devenir ingénieur.
Un de ses professeurs confie l’avoir averti que "ce n’était pas gagné d’avance"… "J’ai vu pourtant son intelligence s’épanouir comme une fleur, s’affiner et devenir peu à peu si prompte et si souple, qu’elle lui a permis de résoudre, à force d’étude et de ténacité, n’importe quelle difficulté".
Dès 1918 - il a alors 17 ans -, Pier Giorgio s’investit dans les mouvements catholiques : les équipes Saint-Vincent-de-Paul puis la FUCI (Fédération des Universitaires de l’Action Catholique Italienne). Il y trouve "un réel terrain d’entraînement à la formation chrétienne et des secteurs propices à son apostolat", soulignera Jean-Paul II.
Avec quelques amis, il fonde aussi la société des "Types Louches", dont le mot d’ordre est la convivialité. Fous rires et canulars téléphoniques émaillent les relations de cette joyeuse bande d’amis, bien décidée en outre à venir en aide aux personnes démunies du Turin ouvrier. Le jeune homme s’y déplace muni d’un carnet dans lequel il consigne le nom de ses "conquêtes" : des personnes dans le besoin, rencontrées ici ou là. Avec mention de ce en quoi il peut leur venir en aide.
Il se démène alors pour obtenir un lit d’hôpital, une place à l’école ou un logement… Une cascade de démarches à insérer dans l’emploi du temps du jeune étudiant ! Autant de pourparlers avec les autres membres des équipes pour bénéficier de l’argent nécessaire. Le moindre de ses revenus personnels servant illico ses œuvres. Jusqu’au prix des transports en commun qu’il économise pour récolter quelques sous. Il conserve également livres et vieux journaux, fait de multiples quêtes, allant de porte en porte. Le très pragmatique et très enjoué Pier Giorgio parvient ainsi à sortir une foultitude de familles et de personnes seules de leur embarras financiers. Il devient au passage le compagnon de jeux des enfants, le confident des parents, offrant sa présence sympathique et ses paroles réconfortantes.
Paroles d’encouragements, paroles de confiance. Le jeune bienfaiteur incite encore et toujours à prier.
Soif de Dieu
C’est une véritable victoire pour Pier Giorgio lorsqu’il obtient, à 17 ans, la possibilité de communier chaque jour. Jusque là, sa mère y a opposé son veto, méfiante face à de ce qu’elle prend pour de la bigoterie.
Tôt le matin, Pier Giorgio emprunte désormais l’escalier de service pour se rendre à la messe.
Il la vit intensément, sachant que "tous les jeunes gens de cran, ceux d’hier et ceux d’aujourd’hui, nourrissent de ce pain leur volonté d’ascension", expliquera Mgr Pinardi, évêque auxiliaire de Turin.
L’eucharistie est le centre de sa journée. Même lorsqu’il est en excursion, il y reste fidèle, se levant aux aurores. Fidélité, recueillement fervent.
Entre 19 et 24 ans, il découvre et participe aussi à l’adoration nocturne. On le croise un chapelet en main. Ou déclamant Dante. Ou méditant les paroles de saint Paul.
Amitiés et rayonnement
Les étudiants qui l’entourent respectent cet être entier pour "sa foi ardente, simple, entière, inébranlable", comme l’explique un ami. "Il mettait toujours le Seigneur entre lui et nous", dira une jeune fille qu’il aima en secret ; un amour auquel il renonce, sachant que ce sujet risque de devenir une occasion supplémentaire de discorde entre ses parents.
On admire la droiture de Pier Giorgio. Sa sœur témoignera que la grande pureté de son frère était manifeste aux yeux de tous. Lorsqu’une une conversation dérape par exemple, il ne se gêne pas pour siffler ostensiblement. Son attitude tranche avec celle des autres jeunes et leur inspire respect et sympathie. "Son secret pour gagner les esprits et les cœurs, c’était sa charité sans alliage", assure un ami. Pier Giorgio remplit gaiement mille services anodins : rangement de la salle après une réunion, préparation d’une fête. "Je suis à votre entière disposition", aime-t-il répéter.
Sa charité exceptionnelle restera son secret intérieur. Un jour, en montagne, alors qu’il est parvenu à embarquer quelques compagnons pour une excursion, l’un d’eux paraît très fatigué. Pier Giorgio feint alors de se plaindre de tous les maux : de ses souliers trop neufs à la courroie de son sac qui lui fait "vraiment" mal… Jusqu’à ce que la troupe accepte de faire une pause. Pour lui. Ainsi a-t-il évité à cet ami l’humiliation de réclamer la halte.
Ce n’est rien. C’est une délicatesse. A la Pier Giorgio.
"Le vrai bien se fait comme par inadvertance, petit à petit, quotidiennement, familièrement", déclare-t-il un jour. Mais une inadvertance pétrie de vigilance ; pétrie d’un esprit silencieusement contemplatif ; en attendant l’occasion de se mettre au service. Discrètement.
Vers le sommet
Soudainement, Pier Giorgio contracte, auprès d’une famille pauvre, une poliomyélite foudroyante qui l’emportera en six jours. On ne décèle pas immédiatement la cause de son mal. Et, tandis que sa grand-mère agonise dans la chambre à côté, on lui reproche son flegme. Traîner au lit alors que son aïeule est mourante ! A 24 ans (en 1925), son témoignage de vie prend toute sa mesure dans ces jours d’épreuve.
Tandis qu’il souffre terriblement, il pense encore à la promesse faite à une personne dans le besoin. Péniblement, il écrit un mot pour que l’argent nécessaire lui parvienne.
Alors, le jour de son enterrement, une foule innombrable de pauvres, d’inconnus en larmes, ceux pour lesquels il s’était tant démené, manifeste la grandeur de Pier Giorgio.
"Il mourut jeune, au terme d’une existence brève, met en avant Jean-Paul II lors de la béatification de Pier Giorgio en 1990, mais extraordinairement riche en fruits spirituels, s’acheminant vers la vraie patrie pour chanter les louanges de Dieu".
CLAUDE Robert (s.j.), Pier Giorgio Frassati, jeune témoin pour aujourd’hui, Éd. Anne Sigier, Québec, 2002.
FRASSATI Luciana, Pier Giorgio Frassati, les jours de sa vie, Éd. Le sarment Fayard, 1975.
RONDEAU A-S, DE GUIBERT F-X, Pier Giorgio Frassati, l’homme aux huit béatitudes, Paris, 2004.
Bienheureux Piergiorgio Frassati, membre du Tiers Ordre dominicain (ou Fraternités laïques dominicaines)
Man of the Eight Beatitudes
Born to a wealthy and politically influential family; his mother was the painter Adelaide Ametis; his father was an agnostic, the founder and editor of the liberal newspaper La Stampa, and became the Italian ambassador to Germany. A pious youth, average student, outstanding athlete and mountain climber, he was extremely popular with his peers, known by the nickname “Terror” due to his practical jokes. He was tutored at home for years with his younger sister Luciana. He studied minerology in an engineering program after graduating high school. He worked often with Catholic groups like Apostleship of Prayer and the Company of the Most Blessed Sacrament that ministered to the poor and promoted Eucharistic adoration, Marian devotion, and personal chastity. He became involved in political groups like the Young Catholic Workers Congress, the Popular Party, the Catholic Student Federation, Catholic Action and Milites Mariae that supported the poor, opposed Fascism and worked for the Church‘s social teachings. Enrolled as a Dominican tertiary on 28 May 1922, taking the name Girolamo (Jerome). Especially devoted to the teachings of Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Thomas Aquinas. He spent his fortune on the needy and visited the sick; during this ministry he contracted the disease that killed him.
Letters to His Friends and Family, by Pier Giogio Frassati
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: An Ordinary Christian, by Maria di Lorenzo
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: Journey to the Summit, by Ana Maria Vazquez
A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati, by Luciana Frassati
To the Heights: A Novel Based on the Life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, by Brian Kennelly
My Brother Pier Giorgio : His Last Days, by Luceiana Frassati
Brandon Vogt: Interview with Archbishop Peter Sartain
Catholic Exchange: Pier Giorgio’s Love for Our Lady
The Wild One, by John Zmirak
Ritratti di Santi by Antonio Sicari
By his example he proclaims that a life lived in Christ’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is “blessed”, and that only the person who becomes a “man or woman of the Beatitudes” can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. 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. – Pope John Paul II during the beatification of Blessed Pier
At an age in which the passions bubble in the hearts of young people and threaten to break all bounds, Pier Giorgio concentrated his vital forces and kept them in balance. Day by day, in front of God and men, he learned to conquer himself and to master himself. It would have to be said that, without realising it, he was preparing for leadership; for it is true that, in order to know how to lead the others, first of all one must know how to lead oneself. The designs of God are incomprehensible, because He sees things from so much higher and so much further than we: both in general and in particular. But it is permissible to think that, by calling to Himself Pier Giorgio, in the moment in which so many had placed their hopes in him, God intends that his unexpected death, which has caught us unawares, may put in relief the beauty of his life, and that it may attract the attention of you, the young people who will be able to take of inspiration from it. – Father Martin Stanislaus Gillet, O.P., Master-General of the Order of the Friars Preachers, and the man who enrolled Pier Giorgio into the Dominicans
“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 May 2022. Web. 3 July 2022. <https://catholicsaints.info/blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati/>
Beato Piergiorgio Frassati durante una scalata
1. “I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16). During the Easter season, as we progressively draw near to Pentecost, these words become more and more timely. They were spoken by Jesus in the Upper Room the day before his Passion, as he took leave of his Apostles. His departure – the departure of the Beloved Master through his death and resurrection – prepares the way for another Advocate (Jn 16:7). The Paraclete will come; he will come precisely because of Christ’s redemptive departure which makes possible and inaugurates God’s new merciful presence among people. The Spirit of Truth, whom the world neither sees nor knows, however, makes itself known by the Apostles, because “it remains with them and will be in them” (cf. Jn 14:17). And everyone will become witnesses to this on the day of Pentecost.
2. Pentecost, however, is only the beginning, because the Spirit of Truth comes to remain with the Church for ever (cf. Jn 14:16), endlessly renewing itself in future generations. Therefore the words of the Apostle Peter are addressed not only to the people of his day, but also to all of us and our contemporaries. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). In our century, Pier Giorgio Frassati incarnated these words of Saint Peter in his own life. The power of the Spirit of Truth, united to Christ, made him a modern witness to the hope which springs from the Gospel and to the grace of salvation which works in human hearts. Thus he became a living witness and courageous defender of this hope in the name of Christian youth of the twentieth century.
3. Faith and charity, the true driving forces of his existence, made him active and diligent in the milieu in which he lived, 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. The secret of his apostolic zeal and holiness is to be sought in the ascetical and spiritual journey which he traveled; in prayer, in persevering adoration, even at night, of the Blessed Sacrament, in his thirst for the Word of God, which he sought in Biblical texts; in the peaceful acceptance of life’s difficulties, in family life as well; in chastity lived as a cheerful, uncompromising discipline; in his daily love of silence and life’s “ordinariness.” It is precisely in these factors that we are given to understand the deep well-spring of his spiritual vitality. Indeed, it is through the Eucharist that Christ communicates his Spirit; it is through listening to the word that the readiness to welcome others grows, and it is also through prayerful abandonment to God’s will that life’s great decisions mature. Only by adoring God who is present in his or her own heart can the baptized Christian respond to the person who “asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:15). And the young Frassati knew it, felt it, lived it. In his life, faith was fused with charity: firm in faith and active in charity, because without works, faith is dead (cf. James 2:20).
4. Certainly, at a superficial glance, Frassati’s lifestyle, that of a modern young man who was full of life, does not present anything out of the ordinary. This, however, is the originality of his virtue, which invites us to reflect upon it and impels us to imitate it. 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. His love for beauty and art, his passion for sports and mountains, his attention to society’s problems did not inhibit his constant relationship with the Absolute. Entirely immersed in the mystery if God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor: thus we can sum up his earthly life!
He fulfilled his vocation as a lay Christian in many associative and political involvements in a society in ferment, a society which was indifferent and sometimes even hostile to the Church. In this spirit, Pier Giorgio succeeded in giving new impulse to various Catholic movements, which he enthusiastically joined, but especially to Catholic Action, as well as Federation of Italian Catholic University Students [FUCI], in which he found the true gymnasium of his Christian training and the right fields of his apostolate. In Catholic Action he joyfully and proudly lived his Christian vocation and strove to love Jesus and to see in him the brothers and sisters whom he met on his way or whom he actively sought in their places of suffering, marginalization and isolation, in order to help them feel the warmth of his human solidarity and the supernatural comfort of faith in Christ.
He died young, at the end of a short life, but one which was extraordinarily filled with spiritual fruits, setting out for his “true homeland and singing God’s praises.”
5. Today’s celebration invites all of us to 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. By his example he proclaims that a life lived in Christ’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is “blessed”, and that only the person who becomes a “man or woman of the Beatitudes” can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. 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.
6. Yes, “tremendous are the deeds of the LordŠ. Shout joyfully to God all you on earth” (Ps 66:1-3). The verse of the Psalm resound in this Sunday liturgy as a living echo of young Frassati’s soul. Indeed, we all know how much he loved the world God created! “Come and see the works of God” (Ps 65/66:5): this is also an invitation which we receive from his young soul and which is particularly addressed to young people. Come and see God’s “tremendous deeds among men” (ibid.). Tremendous deeds among men and women! Human eyes — young, sensitive eyes — must be able to admire God’s work in the external, visible world. The eyes of the spirit must be able to turn from this external, visible world to the inner, invisible one: thus they can reveal to others the realm of the spirit in which the light of the Word that enlightens every person is reflected (cf. Jn 1:9). In this light the Spirit of Truth acts.
7. This is the “inner” person. This is how Pier Giorgio appears to us. Indeed, his entire life seems to sum up Christ’s words which we find in John’s Gospel: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). This is the “inner” person loved by the Father, loved because he or she has loved much! 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”?
8. He left this world rather young, but he made a mark upon our entire century, and not only on our century. He left this world, but in the Easter power of his Baptism, he can say to everyone, especially to the young generations of today and tomorrow:
“You will see me, because I live and you will live” (Jn 14:19).
These words were spoken by Jesus Christ when he took leave of his Apostles before undergoing his Passion. I like to think of them as forming on the lips of our new Blessed himself as a persuasive invitation to live from Christ and in Christ. This invitation is still valid, it is valid today as well, especially for today’s young people, valid for everyone. It is a valid invitation which Pier Giorgio Frassati has left for us. Amen.
Why St. John Paul II believed Frassati was the “man of our century”
Philip Kosloski - published on 07/04/22
St. John Paul II pointed to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati as the "man of our century" for the depth of his love and charity towards others.
While Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati is often referred to as the “Man of the Beatitudes,” St. John Paul II also named him the “man of our century.”
He spoke these words at the beatification of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati on May 20, 1990.
He is the “interior” man loved by the Father, because he loved much! He is also the man of our century, the modern man, the man who loved so much! Isn’t love the most necessary thing in our 20th century, at its beginning as well as at its end? Isn’t it true that only this remains, without ever losing its validity: the fact that he “loved”?
St. John Paul II was referring to the 20th century, which was a century marked by many wars and death. Frassati’s example of selfless love of other people, especially the poor and most vulnerable, was a beacon of light in the midst of the darkness.
Furthermore, “[Frassati] testifies that holiness is possible for everyone and that only the revolution of charity can kindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of men.“
Frassati’s example remains potent in the 21st century and his intercession is repeatedly invoked by young and old alike.
A “revolution of charity” is still needed and Frassti can remain the “man of our century.”
Pier Giorgio Frassati, adolescent d'après le livre une vie en image de Luciana Frassati
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
part of the book:
RITRATTI DI SANTI by Antonio Sicari Jaca Book publisher.
It has been recently necessary a Bishop's synod and a Popes document, (Christifideles laici) to try to define the identity of the Christian laic, but this identity has not been cleared in the intelligence and conscience of all. Actually when this "identity" topic comes up, a mixture of sentiments and resentments have been noticed, everyone is afraid to see his cultural, social, party-political and even "ecclesiastical" belongings in a light of crises (seeing that regarding this particular topic the Church is still painfully divided). I'll try to show here the trouble with simplicity, using only a brief formulation: this century, starting from the first fundamental twenties, put more and more emphasis on sad evidence than on dechristianization, which everybody talks about, and doesn't give much regard to the moral deterioration of the way of living, as directly the faith (here is why the Pope often speaks about the need for a "new evangelisation"): the undoing regards the Christian popular subject that, as such, doesn't feel more responsible (socially and globally responsible) of the truth of Christ and of the truth that Christ is.
As a consequence, having not paid enough attention to this, having neglected that faith, received as a gift and became culture (impregnated the soul of society itself), every other effort of ethical restoration and of charitable engagement couldn't prevent the dechristianization of our people.
The tragedy consisted in this: that which was exploding like charity and apostolate (just think about the huge work of the laic volunteer service, the numerous socio-political engagements of Christians and all charitable engagement by religious congregations) was systematically blown away from a progressive loss of faith of all the Christian people without appreciable distinctions (devastating even the "religious" and "theological" world itself). These are historical contradictions on which one often obstinately refuses to give an answer, let this be for a sort of guilty complex that one prefers to censor.
The most pathetic attempt of remotion is the one of those who wants to attribute this "defeat" to a necessary purification action: that is that Christians had to learn to distinguish between Church and world, nature and grace, faith and reason, ecclesiastical vocation and laic vocation, Christianity and politics, etceteras. We can't demonstrate here the suicidal insubstantiality of these explications and apologies become common obstinate patrimony. These also provocated paradoxical attempts: there are those who look among the saints for some "champions of Christian laic", but when one thinks he has found them he is then forced to manipulate them in order to coincide the life and experience of this new saints with his ideologically prefabricated distinctions. If one goes then to look at the facts one notices that of many distinctions, having become a fashion today, these "saints" are completely unaware, in fact they cheerfully ignore them. And that their life is a continuous objection of who believes that "Christian laic" means to realise wise equilibriums and wise transfusions between world belonging and Church belonging. This is what we saw with regard to Saint Giuseppe Moscati, it is what happens with Pier Giorgio Frassati, who became Venerable on May 20th 1990. One of the most recent biographies that were dedicated to him practically ends with these words: "Pier Giorgio simply behaved like a laic in the Church and like a Christian in the world".
Four crossed concepts to existentially place only one person, who moreover would be very amazed by such language. The truth is that the young Frassati reveived his "Christian laic" in a way that is exactly at the antipodes of what some people that introduce themselves as heirs of his "memoirs" would mean or would prefer. We have no choice but to tell, going toward the proof of the facts, which demonstrate with disconcertment evidence that the term "lay" and the term "Christian" are equal in a absolute manner for the baptised person, when this man hadn't received a particular ministerial or special consecrated vocation, which require being further précised. Pier Giorgio was born in Turin on Holy Saturday, 6th April 1901 in a rich middle-class family of liberal stamp: his mother, Adelaide Ametis a well known painter; his father, Alfredo Frassati, in 1895, when he is a little older than thirty-six years old, founded the Italian newspaper La Stampa; in 1913 he is the youngest senator of the Kingdom and in 1922 is the Italian ambassador in Berlin. In short the Frassatis are at that time one of the three or four family that count in that Turin that is changing in a metropolis rich of industries and subject to massive workmen immigrations. But if the family situation from the point of view of the social prestige is comfortable and stimulating, it is, instead, sad from the point of view of the bonds of affections. Mother and father live a difficult and very formal life, a facade kept only for dignity and for their sons: dad is always busy "somewhere else", among the big troubles of the newspaper and public life, mum repays herself with brilliant social relationships and with a rigid and cold educational system. Witnesses define her as a "modern woman, in advance of the times for her extreme ideas of liberality".
Liberality that doesn't regard her sons: Luciana, still living sister of Pier Giorgio, tells that their childhood never lived indeed, spent a "badly defined nightmare in that huge gentlemanly house that sometimes seemed "a sad barracks". During decades it's been trendy to present this saintly university youth as a model of freshness and purity, full joy of life, of physical and spiritual rigour and of rich generosity towards the less privileged, as well as of impetuous socio-political engagements. But the aspects of passion and crucifixion are been neglected and silent (those alone permit to live like "risen") that is on the daily background of his life and dead. Let's come back for now to the beginnings of his spiritual itinerary. His family passed on to him most of all a system of rules and duties (that is not actually evil, but can be rather sad), a system that through his mother referred to the comprehension of life as generally Christian, while through his father referred to a natural goodness, but void of faith. Pier Giorgio absorbed Christian life immersing himself, spontaneously and by personal choice, in the living water that the Church of that period offered him: of that Church, in which limits and troubles were not missing, he felt "part", an active member, attached to a vine like the Gospel says, in which good sap flows. One could be surprised listing all the "associations" to which Pier Giorgio wanted to be part of, often against the opinion of his family, participating actively and taking on responsibilities.
The names of these associations can seem today disused and pietistic, but they mustn’t make us forget that at that time they show the living cores of a Church in ferment: Apostate of prayer, Eucharistic league, Young worshippers university students association (with the engagement of nocturnal adoration every second Saturday of the month), Marian congregation of the third Dominican order, and others. And these are only a few belongings through which he educated himself most of all to prayer, that means to possess a Christian heart, a memory, a wish, an absolute "mendicancy" of his being. We could dedicate ourselves to describe the practices and engagements that those associations involved, but the most important aspect is in observed that his person didn't loose himself and didn't shatter in thousand little pieces or in thousands devoutness, but was structured integrally so as to not leave empty, weak, or petty spaces. Most of all, everything had a centre: daily Communion. "Are you a over-devout?” somebody asked him one day at the university (believers were insulted like this at that time, from the Masonic-liberal, fascist, and social-communist". No, Pier Giorgio answered giving back the hit with goodness, but with as much firmness, no, I remain a Christian!” All that prayer generated in him a sure passion for all reality indeed and he, with the same intensity, lived the duty and the pleasure to belong equally to cultural, sporting, social, political associations, until that "popular party" that was becoming like whisper for the engagement and the identity even the political ideas of believers. In 1919, still under age, Pier Giorgio signed up to the university club "Cesare Balbo", that included also a "Saint Vincent conference". Here is the description some members give of the ambient: the club was from my point of view mouldy and not very interesting and the presence was most of all justified by being able to play bar billiards. And another: As at the "Cesare Balbo's" as at the catholic residence where we used to live, there were lots of good guys, but hundreds of them at least didn't do anything else but speak about adventures with girls while others, false and over-devout, appeared to be ‘could have been’ clerics. It's a good description of why we assisted during passed decades to the collapse of a kind of catholic association and to the revitalisation of a big part of parish oratory.
Frassati and some friends decided therefore to take in hand the circle. In a flier of auto propaganda they proposed themselves as responsible: Students! Do you want to modernise and give new blood to the circle? Do you want it to live above all its life and as an audacious Christian over every rancidity of the fifteen-century and pigtail? Submit the fates of it to the following colleagues: Borghesio, Oliviero... Frassati. That recent biography which we have mentioned, explains that Pier Giorgio was then with the most progressive and bore this testimony: He was always on the opposition, he didn't understand half terms, bland measures, diplomacy, also necessary sometimes to direct a boat with so numerous a crew and difficult as that of an university circle. He was an extremist, it would have wanted exactly to apply the Gospel and sometimes he was a little rough and angular. He didn't admit deviations, the arrangements were contrary to his character and he was not a malleable one. Mystery of the words: today people of this kind are defined "reactionaries and fundamentalists".
Pier Giorgio is made to pass instead as a "progressive". This is not enough for hiding an evident fact: that he has not been really an example of " laic" in the sense in which this value is spread and publicised today. It is the case therefore to sift well this typical "progressivism" that one is prepared to recognise only towards saints. We have a series of episodes available. In the September 1921 in Rome the national Congress is held of the Italian Catholic youth, in the 50° anniversary of the foundation. There are more than young people present. The Sunday mass of September 4th is anticipated to the Coliseum, where the teams converge coming from all over Italy: every group with its flag. But the liberal-Masonic Police headquarter kept watches on horse in order to prevent the celebration and the young people were forced to return to S. Pietro Plaza, where the celebration could take place on the church square, followed then from a hearing in the gardens. When the young people in the Vatican decided to go to the ‘Altare della Patria’ singing the alternate song of" Brothers of Italy and "We want God", the Police headquarter decided again to disperse the procession using force. Here is a testimony that concerns our young "saint"; Pier Giorgio holds up the tricolour flag of the Caesar Balbo club. Suddenly they emerge from the front door of the Altieri Building, where there were set aside, about two hundred regal watches to the orders of the most sectarian police officer that I have never known. Cries: " Set with the muskets, remove the flags!” It seems that they have to deal with beasts. They beat with muskets, they grab, they tear, and they break our flags. We defend them, as we are able with our hands and teeth. I see Pier Giorgio taking on two guards that try to tear the flag from him. ... They push us into the courtyard of the Building that is used as a safety room... Meanwhile in plaza of Jesus the bestial show continues... A priest is thrown literally on the courtyard with his cassock torn and a bloody cheek. To our cry of protest they again set with the blows of muskets... Together we knelt on the ground, in the courtyard, when the torn priest lifted the rosary and said: " Boys, for us and for those that have struck us, let's pray!” The magazine Catholic Civilisation, in a time when things were called by their names, telling the facts explained them this way: " The sect, furious from such an unexpected demonstration of faith, wanted to make blackmail of it". And still: "The fact, owed to turbid intrigues of sect and party... ". And it defines the distorted chronicles that the Newspaper of Italy and the Resto del Carlino made the work of "certain journalists more ignoble and more sectarians". The day after young Catholics had to go themselves to S. Peter's again and Pier Giorgio with his guys recrossed the city bringing in triumph the stubs of broken and torn flags to which he had hung a great poster with the writing: "Tricolour slashed by order of the Government". A "progressive" fact, as we see. However it was spoken of all over Italy.
A friend of Pier Giorgio tells: While everyone was speaking of him, he showed reluctance to the congratulations that came from every part. Those praises seemed strange to him because he could not understand as a young Catholic that circumstance could act in different way. The following year the law was declared that prohibited religious teaching in schools, just when at Catholic associative level we complained of the "deplorable disorganisation" of the students. In Turin Pier Giorgio wrote a letter to the partners of the "Militias Marie" club, which he belonged to as delegate of the students. He wrote: Our young people need a proper education for their strength and a solid apologetic base to face the continuous dangers, to which they are exposed while unfortunately attending corrupt public schools ... We who by the grace of God are Catholic we don't have to waste our lives... We have to temper ourselves to be ready to sustain the struggles that we will certainly have to fight for the conclusion of our program.
Pier Giorgio expressly asks: "continuous prayer "," organisation and discipline"," "sacrifice of our people and of ourselves" and he offered the possibility of "after school activities where (the students) will complete the culture that the public schools are not able to give, they will be educated at the same time in the religious and philosophical matters". He concluded: While I am thanking you for what you will do, sure that you will be compensated largely in life, I greet you as a Christian. Hurrah Jesus! The students' delegate. Pier Giorgio Frassati. At to end of that same year the FUCI exposed in its glass showcase at the Polytechnic the notice for a night-time adoration of the Eucharist. Evidently the notice "stuck out" among the thousand motley notices that, in the other glass showcases, spoke of dances, parties and funs, and so the anticlerical ones democratically decided to tear them and the voice scattered. A friend tells: I remember Pier Giorgio, upright in front of the glass showcase with a baton in his hand, and a howling uproar among the one hundred students. Insults, threats, struck they weren't able to shift him. The greater number however, had the upper hand.
The glass showcase went into pieces and the notice was burnt. However the destruction of the glass showcase and the notices had become a vice, since the anticlerical ones punctually entrusted the Giordano Bruno's club. More than a "forge", already, spoke about the necessity to maintain good relationships and to begin negotiations. Frassati didn't allow half terms: "I shall fight. Do we not have the right to defend ours glass showcase, or do they only have the right to break it? The others sustained that it was not possible however to stay there to continually keep watch, but Pier Giorgio was hasty". I say that it is needed in order to give a lesson". In another occasion, for the Easter parties, he had posted a sacred notice in the courtyard of the university. They tore it. Pier Giorgio copied it by hand and put it up again "with geometric progression", reaching the number of 64 copies. Since the beginnings of 1920 when the nervous workers started, he accompanied them as a body guard, in the red suburbs in Turin, a Dominican monk that went to talk to the young workers”, among howling and threatening Bolsheviks", and not rarely, to defend him, it ended up coming to the hands. In times of political elections he spent entire nights driving a car full of manifests, fliers and printouts and holding on the running board two big overflowing pots of glue, and "attaching" in the most ‘hot’ points of the city, not without undergoing aggressions and organised defences. And it will certainly not be fun. When they instigate the fascist teams, the opposition of Pier Giorgio will be so determined that his same house will be aimed at: on a Sunday, while he is having lunch alone with his mother, a team storms into the house, armed with batons of lead balls covered with leather, and start to smash the mirrors of the antechamber and any furniture they come by.
Pier Giorgio succeeds in grasping a baton and sent them running. Even the foreign press brings the news of the episode. In a letter Pier Giorgio himself tells: Dear Tonino, I’m writing to reassure you: you will read in the newspaper that we have suffered a small devastation in the lodge from some of the fascist pigs. It’s been more an exploit of cowards but nothing more... They have no shame: after the facts in Rome they shouldn't let themselves be seen but be ashamed of being fascist. In another occasion to who attacked him he shouted: Your violence cannot overcome the strength of our faith, because Christ doesn't die. He suffered basically because he began to discover the weakness of that "popular party" in which he had believed. He was already enrolled to his foundation and he publicised it without fear. He was convinced that "the party would have been really popular when big numbers of faithful to the Christians professional organisations had sustained it».
A friend tells that, when Pier Giorgio spoke about it, he showed his love for it, because "it felt that it was a social result of his faith". With the beginning of fascism he was humiliated by having to ascertain the weakness and the changing of many adherent of the popular party, but unlike so many he tenaciously stayed attached to it "with the last hopes, with the last thoughts, with the last wishes". When the Manager of the’ Popolo’, Giuseppe Donati, had to leave in exile, only Pier Giorgio was at the border to say good bye and to shake his hand, challenging the eyes of the fascist police. Donati in person then wrote: " I saw in him the last friend of the Country that I left". And Pier Giorgio would be dead three months later. From the social and political point of view he was afflicted by the scarce intelligence of faith of many members of the Catholic associations: that is the lack of the view of faith applied to reality with intelligent love. In 1921, participating at the national congress of the FUCI in Ravenna, he had proposed and defended the thesis of the breaking up of the FUCI to make it meet it in an ampler "Catholic youth" that united intellectuals, workers, students and simple people. He found opposition in the ecclesiastical assistant of the FUCI, but he didn't show it had been understood. He frequented the most vigorous club of workers, such as the "Savonarola", composed of metal mechanics workers of the Fiat, well situated in front of one of the more trained communist clubs. We brought, a friend tells, to the centres of religious, cultural, social and syndicalism associations... Everywhere, it can be said, Pier Giorgio was present and he co-operated and participated in every initiative... He wasn’t even missing at the club of the Legionaries (of particular importance, if one thinks that the First World War had shortly ended) and at the Union of the Job, where the students met the workers. Christian identity was for Pier Giorgio opened to all ambits, social and political, even beyond the national borders. He was indignant because France ruined "the most Catholic part of Germany"; militarily occupying the Ruhr ("it's an infamy!” he said) and he wrote a letter of protest to a German daily paper. In the same way he sustained with public declarations the struggle of the Irish people that asked for " Independence of its nation and its spirit." He had become interested in the international association Pax Roman that united the university Catholics of all nations; and he wanted to be the organiser of a conference that he held in Turin. All these indications must not make us forget that we are speaking of a university student with continuous and difficult examinations to be undertaken and overcome with at least good results, but after strenuous work. To succeed he had to applicate himself for a long time, and he wasn't exceptionally gifted. Yet even his study was illuminated by charity and faith, if one thinks that among all the possibilities that were offered to him, and they were notable, given his social condition, he had preferred to enrol himself in the faculty of mining engineering, because during his sojourn in Germany he had ascertained the particular gravity of the conditions of work of the workers of the sector: " "I want to help my people in the mines and I can do this better as a laic than as priest, because priests here are not in contact with the people". This was the way he explained the field of his studies that he had chosen to Louise Rahner, the mother of the famous theologian, in who’s house he sojourned for a certain time. He said he wanted to become "a miner among the miners". There is another aspect of his life that we have to describe, a more known one, but that now, in the amplest picture that we have delineated, it finds its correct position. It deals with that " voluntary service of charity" to which Pier Giorgio constantly devoted himself, emerging himself in the liveliest tradition of the social saints of his country (Don Bosco, Cottolengo, Faà di Bruno, Murialdo, and Orione). Here is a delineated sketch from G. Lazzati, to commemorate the 50° anniversary of the birth of Pier Giorgio: Estranged the men, beginning from his relatives, they will see this youth to whom nothing seemed to be missing in order to be a champion of worldliness (...) to drag through the streets of Turin wheelbarrows full of the poor mens household implements looking for houses, and to sweat under the load of big packages also badly packed, and to enter the bleaker houses where poverty and vice go together, under the hypocritically scandalised eyes of a world that does nothing to help them better themselves; and to make himself, with amazing humility, he, the son of the Italian ambassador in Berlin, he, the senator's son, solicitor for the poor, and for them to remain without a cent for a tram to get back home, but returns home at all hours of the night... His sister Luciana has revealed that the situation was more humiliating than can be imagined: at home Pier Giorgio passed as a fool and they kept him short of money: to be able to give to the others, he often had to deprive himself not only of the superfluous but of the necessary. What he did for the numerous poor families, of whom he took care of as a member of the "Saint Vincent", results from thousand of episodes full of charity and from thousand thankful testimonies. It was not therefore, a dull charity: "to give is beautiful he said, but still more beautiful it is to put poor men in condition to work". He knew well that charity was a matter of social justice indeed". It was discussed; a friend narrates, of certain agricultural pacts. He sustained that the land belongs to the farmers and it must be given to who works it. Impulsively I exclaimed: 'But you that owns fields, would you do it?’ He looked at me and he told me in few words: They are not mine...I'd do it immediately!».
The conscience, with which meanwhile he acted, lightening, as he was able to, the misery of the poor, with his own sweat, emerged when he had to convince others to participate in his exploit. A friend tells: One day he tried to convince me to take part in the "S. Vincent". My difficulty was that I didn't have enough courage to enter the dirty and malodorous houses of the poor, where I could catch some illness, he in all simplicity answered that to visit the poor was like visiting Jesus Christ. He said"; around the crippled, the miserable one, around the wretch I see a light that we don't have...” that visiting poor men hovels was possible to get some serious illness was not a way of saying. And in fact Pier Giorgio became ill in a terrible way: despite that he was physically tempered by sport, he contracted fulminating polio during one of his "visits», that killed him in a week. It was a week of passion. Before briefly telling this, let's see the image again that has been handed down of this university youth: "bourgeois", open, healthy, jovial, a passion for the mountain and of skiing, noisy at parties, animator of a healthy goliardy (he had founded a " Society of the Left Types" with a proper statute). All of this was not just appearance but in his nature. Yet, this same nature, without dissociation’s, without highs and lows, without changing of character, it was also deeply tempered by his and others suffering. Among them a lacerating suffering, we have also to remember the deep love for a girl of humble conditions, love to which he morally felt forced to abdicate when he realised that his choice, for the prejudices of the family, it would have never been approved. He understood that a possible insistence of his would have provoked the definitive breaking of the bond between him and his parents. God suggested, in the depth of the heart (and we owe to interpretative the episode considering his entire brief life; without knowing it, Pier Giorgio was already a step away from death) not to seek his happiness at the price of the salvation "of his parents": " I cannot destroy a family, he said, to form another one. I will sacrifice myself".
On June 30th 1925, returning from his usual turn of charity, Pier Giorgio started to accuse migraine and inappetence. Nobody minded him: in those days his old grandmother was dying, and that big guy tall and muscular, who no one ever minded or took notice of because he was such a good person, with his inopportune fevers was just annoying. Pier Giorgio started to die, feeling his young body being destroyed, while the progressive and implacable paralysis advanced, without anybody minding him. The dying grandmother continued to polarise the attention of the family, causing physical tiredness and psychological wearing out of all the family. Pier Giorgio was kindly made to understand not to annoy them with his slight illness, when there were already enough troubles in the house and when he would have done better to study for his last examinations that had been dragging on for too long. So Pier Giorgio, humble and obedient, faced alone the symptoms of this terrible illness, the gravity of which he didn't entirely realise, and the agony of what was happening to him, without even being able to speak of it, since every attempt to do so was stopped with unknowing cruelty. When the petrified parents realised what was happening under their eyes, it was too late. The serum made hastily and exceptionally in the Pasteur Institute in Paris arrived when it was too late to be of any benefit. On the last day of his life, Pier Giorgio asked his sister Luciana to take a box of injections that were in his study to one of his poor men because he had not been able to do so, he wished to write the necessary indications and address. It is a note that visually expresses the tragedy: he wanted to write it, at all costs with his own hand which was already tormented by the paralysis, and an almost inextricable tangle of lines and letters are the results. It is his will: his last energies for his last act of charity.
The funeral was a hasten of friends and in particular of poor men; the first to remain astounded, to see so many that loved him and so many he had known, it was his relatives that for the first time understood where Pier Giorgio had really lived in his short years of life, despite he had a comfortable and rich house to which he used to return to, never on time. The most unusual and unexpected commemoration post mortem is the one that the famous socialist Phillip Turati dedicated to him. He wrote in his newspaper: He was really a man, that Pier George Frassati, that death seized at 24. What we read of him is so new; unusual that it fills with reverent amazement even those who didn’t share his faith. Young rich, he had chosen for himself work and kindness. Believer in God, confessed his faith with open demonstration of cult, conceiving it as a militia, as a uniform that is worn in front of the world, without changing it, with the usual suit for convenience, for opportunism, for human respect. Convinced Catholic and partner of the university Catholic youth of his city, mistrusted the easy sneers of the sceptics, of the vernaculars, of the mediocrity’s, participating in religious ceremonies, making processions to the canopy of the Archbishop in solemn circumstances. When this and calm and fair demonstration of his own belief and not an exhibition for other purposes, it is beautiful and honourable. But how can we distinguish the "confession " from the "affectation"? Here is life and the comparison of words and of external actions that are worth little more than the words. That young Catholic was indeed a believer. (...) Among hate, haughtiness and spirit of dominion and of prey, this "Christian" that believes, and operates as he believes, and speaks as he feels, and acts as he speaks, this "intransigent" of his religion, is also a model that can teach something to everybody. Perhaps Turati even suspected that the conclusive words used by him to describe a convincing Christian secular ("He acts as he believes, he speaks as he feels and acts as he speaks") these are about those that the Church uses when it consecrates its ministers: a question of "priesthood" in fact. And the Christian laic are also priests in the power of the same baptism. There is another observation that is necessary to be made before concluding. Often one hears a question (that burns above all the hearts of the Christians that live in Piedmont): why is a land that was so rich of social " saints " up to the end of the last century, today so dechristianize? What has happened? Where is their inheritance was it not accepted and lived? Beatifying this last young laic from Turin, the Church seems to give an answer: it needed (it needs) to be welcomed this inheritance of Pier Giorgio Frassati (and today it could be” the favourable moment").
The holiness of Pier Giorgio expresses in fact a value of continuity with the tradition of his land and a value of novelty: and this is his function of "zipper" (in the passage of an age) that is necessary to know how to accept it. On one side he has inherited the purest tradition of the Piedmont’s saints: he engaged in their immense work of defence of the faith, through the profuse charity in the field of the immarginalsation, produced at the time by a rising industrial-urban context. On the other side, he has however pointed out the novelty: the necessity that faith is compared in the arc of human experience and it "benevolently operated" in every ambit: in the environments of the university, of work, of the press (Pier Giorgio collected subscriptions not for his father’s daily paper, but for the Catholic one), of political and party engagement, and wherever it was necessary to defend social liberties, always trying to conceive and to foment the associations, as " Christian friendship" destined to the birth of a social Catholicism. While the age of the mass Christianisation was opening and documenting itself, Pier Giorgio realised that it was necessary to reopen the matter of the relationship of Faith-Operate: this was traditionally applied to charity – assistance - moral fields, it was necessary to extend it to all the operate of man (from economy to sport!), without accepting limitations and pre-determined spaces.
This splendid confession of his remains: Each day I understand what a grace it is to be Catholic Living without faith, without a patrimony to be defended, without sustaining a struggle for the Truth is not to live but to scrape a living... Also through every disenchantment, we have to remember that we are the only ones that possess the truth. In an age of sad dechristianisation, in an age of new and cheerful evangelisation we need men like this: "convinced": laic, that is Christians: that means saints.
Torino - Tomba del B. Pier Giorgio Frassati all'interno del Duomo
Torino - Tomba del B. Pier Giorgio Frassati all'interno del Duomo
Pier Giorgio Frassati, Man of the Beatitudes: An Interview with Archbishop Peter Sartain
I recently had dinner with Archbishop Peter Sartain, the affable leader of Seattle’s Catholic community. Quickly I learned why so many churchman admire him. After an exchange of greetings, the first thing he did was hand me a second-class relic of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, my favorite saint. That launched a long conversation about the man Pope John Paul II christened “the man of the beatitudes,” to whom I and Archbishop Sartain both have a strong devotion.
Through dinner I learned that Archbishop Sartain is one of the world’s leading Pier Giorgio experts. He has read almost all the relevant literature, in both English and Italian, and is close friends with Pier Giorgio’s surviving family. The archbishop also frequents Turin, Italy, where Pier Giorgio lived and died.
On this his feast day, the fourth of July, Archbishop Sartain agreed to chat with me more about Pier Giorgio’s impact, his love for the poor, and some recommended books on the young saint.
BRANDON VOGT: What first drew you to Pier Giorgio Frassati and how has he impacted your life?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: I was first introduced to Pier Giorgio when I was a seminarian in Rome in the mid-1970’s. The quickest route from the seminary to St. Peter’s Basilica took you along the Via Pfeiffer, on which the 12th century church, San Lorenzo in Piscibus, is located. The church is named “in Piscibus” because many years ago the fish market was nearby!
I passed that way frequently, but the church was always locked. One day, however, I found it open and noticed that many young adults my own age were going inside, so I followed them. It turned out that the church was hosting an exhibition on the life of Pier Giorgio, who at that time had not yet been beatified. I was impressed and inspired by his story, told in words and pictures in the beautiful exhibit. As a young man about his age, I was moved by his extraordinary life, and how at such a young age he integrated his deep love for God, a profound life of prayer, an active life of sports, leadership in various Catholic groups, his love and service of the poor, and his treasuring of good friendships.
I remember leaving the church and going immediately to a nearby bookstore to buy as many books as I could about his life. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted to imitate him, and the more I wanted to tell others about him.
After I was ordained and returned to the States, I kept up with the cause for his canonization, and during several return trips to Rome I discovered some interesting magazine articles about the progress of his cause. As a young priest, I found many things in his life to imitate and knew that young people would find him to be a great example. When I was pastor of St. Louis Church in Memphis, I inaugurated a “Frassati Society” in response to a group of young adults who approached me about creating new outreach to their generation. The Frassati Society was a great success—we met every Sunday evening. We spent time in prayer, always had some catechetical input, enjoyed some social time, planned service projects and retreats—and always ended our evening with prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Church.
Since my first encounter with Pier Giorgio in the mid-70’s, I have thought of him as a friend, and he continues to be an example and important intercessor for me. I still enjoy telling his story to anyone who will listen!
BRANDON VOGT: Pier Giorgio’s life was full of wonderful anecdotes. Which is your favorite?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: There are many favorites! One occurred just four nights before he died. He had been reading Johannes Jorgensen’s recently-published Life of St. Catherine of Siena. Frassati was already ill with the acute case of poliomyelitis that would soon cause his death, though he did not know it, and during a visit with two close friends, he excitedly read passages from the book. One passage recounted the day that St. Catherine, praying the Office as she walked back and forth inside a church, had the sense that someone was walking with her—and realized it was Jesus! Here’s what Jorgensen writes:
“Like two young ecclesiastics saying their office together, the Saviour and Catherine walked up and down the brick floor of the chapel…and when, at the end of each psalm, she had to say the doxology: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son,” etc., she altered the words and making a deep reverence towards the Lord, said in a trembling voice: “Glory be to the Father and to Thee and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”
Pier Giorgio was understandably captivated by Catherine’s closeness to Christ and the fact that Christ showed himself so clearly to her. After a moment of silence, he turned to his friend Massetti and, with a seriousness that perplexed his friend, said, “See, St. Catherine already had in life the gift of seeing Jesus.” And after another pause, he added, “but we have to wait until we go to Paradise.”
I love that passage myself, because it showed how much he longed to see Jesus—how Jesus for him was Everything—and how he was about to be called to eternal life by Jesus, in just four days.
BRANDON VOGT: Like all saints, Pier Giorgio understood the deep congruence between the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. How did his faith and his charity flow into each other?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: You’re right. I don’t think Pier Giorgio made any distinctions in his life between faith, prayer, mountain climbing, friendships, and active love—for him, they were all of a piece, all a part of being a disciple of Jesus.
Most of all, he could not conceive of a life that did not include faith and deep prayer. He loved the poor intensely and saw Jesus in them—from prayer Jesus sent Pier Giorgio to them, and in them he met Jesus. This kind of spiritual maturity was extraordinary—it’s something I aspire to.
BRANDON VOGT: Pier Giorgio’s cause for canonization hit a few early snags when people chafed at his pipe smoking and partying. What should we make of these activities?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: Honestly, I don’t think we should make anything of them other than see in them a young man like us who led a full life and made his spiritual life the integrating factor of everything.
As for “partying,” he knew how to enjoy life and desired to help others enjoy life, too. We have to be leery of thinking of his “partying” in 21st century terms. Here we’re talking about the way he enjoyed social time with his friends. He was a jokester and wanted others to enjoy themselves. He wanted to encourage their friendship because he knew that true, faith-filled friendship is a gift of God. He also knew that joy is a sure sign of a person in love with God.
BRANDON VOGT: On May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio and described him as “a man of the beatitudes.” Why this title?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: During his homily on that occasion, Blessed John Paul said:
“Entirely immersed in the mystery of God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor, he is a man of the eight beatitudes. Thus we can sum up his earthly life.”
Back in 1983, when Blessed John Paul inaugurated the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre (yes, in the same San Lorenzo Church where I had first met Pier Giorgio!) he said:
“Together with the memory of the ancient cross of San Damiano and the example of St. Francis, I want to recall to you as an incentive for striving toward high ideals also the figure of a young man who lived in our era, Pier Giorgio Frassati. He was a “modern” youth open to the problems of culture, sports, to social questions, to the true values of life, and at the same time a profoundly believing man, nourished by the Gospel message, deeply interested in serving his brothers and sisters and consumed in an ardour of charity that drew him close to the poor and the sick. He lived the Gospel Beatitudes.”
BRANDON VOGT: You’ve read almost all the literature on Pier Giorgio, in multiple languages. What would you recommend to a beginner who is looking for an introduction to Pier Giorgio?
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: The best introduction to Pier Giorgio’s life are two books by his sister, Luciana Frassati: A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati (Ignatius, 2001) and My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days (New Hope Publications, 2002). These two beautiful books, written by one who knew him best, give an intimate glimpse into his personality, family life, spirituality, and impact.
All Saints Catholic Church (Walton, Kentucky) - nave, altar to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio Frassati was no ‘gloomy faced saint’
8 July, 2013
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, beatified in 1990 (CNS)
The Church celebrates so many wonderful saints and feast days that it is easy for a holy person to slip below the radar on a particular day. For instance, last Thursday, 4th July, it was officially the Feast of St Elizabeth of Portugal, 1271-1336, known as “the Peacemaker.” I have no doubt she is worthy of mention in the Church’s liturgical calendar but she did live a long time ago. In contrast, there is another memorable personality who shares her feast-day and yet who is relatively unknown, at least in this country. This is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, born on 6 April 1901 and who died on July 4 1925. Pope John Paul II, who beatified him in 1990, called him “man of the beatitudes”, because he seemed to exemplify so many of their virtues in his brief but intensely energetic life.
He was born into a well-known and influential family in Turin. His father, an agnostic, was the founder of the liberal newspaper La Stampa and later became the Italian ambassador to Germany. His mother, who was highly strung and very strict with her two children, was a painter. His parents were unhappily married and the household atmosphere was clouded by their silent antagonism, his father’s religious scepticism and his mother’s dominating personality. Pier Giorgio, a lively, imaginative and generous-hearted boy, disappointed them; for his mother he was too pious and for his father not sufficiently ambitious or academically outstanding.
In the company of his friends, Pier Giorgio was the life and soul of the party, a keen mountain climber and hiker, who involved himself in Catholic social programmes and vigorously opposed the rise of Fascism. Photos of his student days show a handsome, magnetic youth, always laughing in the centre of the group.
In private, he had an intense life of prayer and love for the Sacraments; what money he had he gave away among the poor of Turin, much to his parents’ chagrin. Pier Giorgio thought of the priesthood but decided his vocation was as a lay Catholic; among other activities he worked for Catholic Action and joined the Society of St Vincent de Paul. He also fell in love but in deference to his mother’s opposition, put thoughts of marriage aside. Helping the poor in the slums during a polio epidemic he contracted the disease, only disclosing the symptoms to his family when he was already dying. His parents were startled to see thousands of ordinary people following his funeral procession; he is buried in a side chapel in Turin Cathedral, which I have visited.
Why am I drawn to him? Because although he had a deep inner prayer life and devotion to his Faith, he does not conform to the conventional idea of a good person. He would have understood St Teresa of Avila’s remark, “God protect me from gloomy faced saints”. Pier Giorgio was in love with life, the mountains, singing, poetry – and at the same time and behind all these human passions, in love with Christ, especially as he discovered Him in the poor of Turin. He is a marvellous example to young people today, especially those who are trailing after false gods in the wastelands of postmodern life. He is also, with his social conscience and yet buoyant high spirits, a living refutation of those atheists who think Christians are bigoted, rule-bound and full of hate. Above all, Blessed Pier Giorgio reminds us what life is really about and how to live it to the full.
July 5, 2016
By CAROLE BRESLIN
Our Lord had a special love for the poor when He walked this earth. At one time He rebuked one of the apostles, saying, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11). Rather than avoiding the destitute or shun the homeless, Christians are called to love them as we love ourselves.
At the beginning of the 20th century, our Lord sent a man to Italy to be servant of God to those in need. Nearly 60 years before Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People — Vatican II), Pier Giorgio discerned that God had called him to remain a layman so that he could serve the poor and the needy more effectively.
Alfredo Frassati, a respected member of high society in Turin who owned La Stampa, married Adelaide, a talented artist. Together they established a lovely home and welcomed their firstborn, Pier Giorgio, into it on April 6, 1901.
Although his father claimed to be an agnostic and his mother was a nominal Catholic, they had Pier baptized. From a young age, and certainly with no encouragement from his parents, he showed that he was specially chosen by God. Perhaps the only one in the family who truly understood him was his younger sister, Luciana. He also had a close relationship with his grandmother who lived with the Frassati family and was a devout Catholic.
During his short life, he gave of his time generously and gave his possessions to the poor. Since the parents were preoccupied with their own pursuits, they were not fully aware of how much Pier did for the less fortunate persons of Turin.
When the family visited his grandparents in Pallone during their vacations in the hills, his grandfather took him to distribute food to the poor. Pier noticed a boy sitting isolated in the room. He had festering sores and looked so destitute that Pier went to sit with him. When the sisters told Pier to stay away from the boy because he was ill, Pier not only stayed with him but also shared his food and drank out of the same bottle.
Back in Turin a beggar came to the door during dinner — a dinner at which Pier reminded his father that they had to say grace before eating — and was quickly sent away by his father. Pier disagreed with that action and retorted that “even if he is a drunk, he is still hungry. What if that were Jesus?” His father scorned him for such “foolishness.”
After Pier failed in Latin at the state school, his parents decided to send him to the Jesuit school instead. Although Pier regretted having to leave the school where his beloved sister went, he was thrilled when he received permission to receive Holy Communion every day — a rarity in that time. He was then 12 years old.
Fr. Lombardi, the priest at the school, remarked to his mother, “We have to drag the other boys into the pews for daily Mass, but Pier we must drag out of the pews after Mass.” The zeal of Pier did not stop at daily Mass. He not only joined every organization that he could, but he also became very active in them: the Eucharistic Crusade, the Apostleship of Prayer, the Marian Sodality, and others.
When a classmate called Pier’s father a traitor for his editorials in La Stampa, Pier’s friend Camillo Banzatti got into a fight with him. When Alfredo found out that Pier did not come to his Camillo’s aid, he scolded his son. Pier replied that it would not have been fair for two to fight just one. However, the next day Pier confronted the classmate, declared that it was his turn to fight him, and quickly punched the youth.
One of Pier Giorgio’s favorite activities was mountain climbing. One day he met Gianni Brunelli, a fellow mountain climber. They both declared their sorrow over the outbreak of World War II. Together they begged alms for wounded soldiers and then Pier challenged Gianni to invite all the wounded to Mass on Sunday.
Although Gianni was skeptical of success, that Sunday Pier waited at the church with hope and was rewarded when Gianni came down the street with a group of soldiers — some on crutches, some missing limbs, others wearing bandages. With great joy Pier welcomed them and led them into the church where they filled up the last three pews!
On his way to school one day, Pier went early to Mass. He then walked to the school looking for the custodian, who was bringing out the trash. Pier went up to him and told him, “I prayed for your son today because it was the anniversary of his death in the war.” The custodian wept, saying even his own family did not remember that his son had died a year ago.
One night when Pier came home after a night of charitable works, he found his sister crying. They were leaving Turin because his father had just been named ambassador to Germany. There Pier would discern that he did not have a call to the priesthood.
During a diplomatic reception in Germany, Pier quietly went into the kitchen, gathered up some bread and other items, and left out the back door to distribute the food to the poor. As he ran out of food and met others in need, he ended up giving away his coat and shoes as well — a common occurrence for Pier. Along the way he met Fr. Carl Sonnenschein, who was doing the same, and they worked together.
While working with Fr. Carl, he decided he could not become a priest because he would not be able to continue the work he was be able to as a layman. He worked at the leper settlements, resisted the fascist attacks on the Church, and helped needy women whose husbands were at war.
When his sister married and moved to Denmark, he was devastated at losing his best friend and confidant.
After returning from a climbing expedition, he wondered at his sudden weakness. He felt faint and his legs trembled with exhaustion. He returned home to find that his grandmother was nearing death and a priest had come to visit her and give her Last Rites.
Not wanting to distract anyone from the needs of his grandmother, he went to bed. The maid was shocked to find him still in bed the next morning and not at Mass. When his grandmother died, they found him with a raging fever and called the doctor — he had polio and died a few days later at the age of 24. He died on July 4, 1925.
As his parents left the house with his body to go to the cathedral, they were shocked to see thousands of people lining the roads. They did not know the many people whose lives he had touched.
Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio on May 20, 1990.
Dear Pier Giorgio, what love you had for the Eucharist that spilled over into your daily life by helping others in need. Obtain for us the grace to love our fellow citizens as you loved yours. Amen.
(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)
JULY 5, 2016
The Hidden Truth about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio Frassati smiled and laughed so freely that he was called “an explosion of joy.” He whistled and sang loudly and hopelessly out of tune. He loved playful teasing and practical jokes. In his early 20’s, he was the picture of strength and health, leading groups of friends into the Alps to scale mountain peaks.
His ready laughter and adventurous spirit were fountains that sprang from a well of holiness. Pier Giorgio was so filled with virtue that Saint John Paul II, who beatified him in 1990, called him the “Man of the Beatitudes.” Joy of life and love of God coursed readily through his veins. Could anyone who knew him in the sunshine of his youth, in the early twentieth century in Turin, Italy, have believed that he would die before the age of 25?
In her beautiful memoir My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days, Luciana Frassati—Pier Giorgio’s only sibling—tells the story of her brother’s final week on earth, and of the veil that was lifted from the eyes of his family as they discovered two truths about him that they had not dreamed possible: that he was dying, and that he lived a life of immense charity that touched thousands of lives.
His family never suspected these truths, because Pier Giorgio quietly and humbly hid both his suffering and his good works.
“We were still unaware, at his death watch, that he had been late for mealtimes because he had given his tram money to some poor person and his jacket to another,” writes Luciana.
Pier Giorgio’s wealthy father was an important senator and owned one of Italy’s most prestigious newspapers, but Pier Giorgio was always broke and often begged for money from his family and friends—not for himself, but for the poor, whom he visited and served daily, and to whom he gave every cent he could find.
To his family, he was merely an engineering student—an average one, who worked hard but for whom learning never came easily. They saw him come and go from their large estate, where the discord between his parents created an atmosphere of constricted love, and where no one fully knew or understood Pier Giorgio, and they never guessed where he actually went.
It was as if a veil had been placed over their eyes, and it remained there until his very last days on earth. Until his death from poliomyelitis—a disease he most likely contracted while serving the poor—at the age of 24.
When Pier Giorgio first began to feel sick, he tried hard to hide it. His grandmother was on her deathbed upstairs in the Frassati home, and he did not want to bother anyone with his own ailments. Every time he came in the door, he inquired about his grandmother and went to visit her room. As his sickness progressed, he became less and less able to move, yet he still pushed himself out of his bedroom and down the hall to pray at his grandmother’s bedside. One sleepless night followed another, as he stumbled down the hall and back again, unable to rest, unwilling to complain.
His family, consumed by his grandmother’s illness, believed he had the flu. A doctor who came to examine him diagnosed him with rheumatism; and so, the veil remained. While his grandmother approached her death, no one knew that a few doors away, death was coming for her grandson, too.
Pier Giorgio wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. He prayed his heart out for his grandmother, and exhorted others to pray, too. “Go to Grandmother,” he told Luciana. “Pray for her because her condition is very serious,”—and then he broke down and sobbed.
When his grandmother passed away, polio was ravaging Pier Giorgio’s body and beginning to paralyze him—yet every two hours throughout the night, he made his way to his grandmother’s room, where he stood and prayed, or knelt and prayed, each time appearing more exhausted, less able to rise again.
All the while, his family thought what an inconvenient time he had chosen to get sick.
“You’re letting yourself go,” his mother told him, not knowing that he would be dead two days later. “If you want to get well, you must get hold of yourself.”
The regret with which Luciana writes about her family’s dismissal of Pier Giorgio’s sickness is heartbreaking. She spent the rest of her life spreading her brother’s story, wishing they had understood sooner and cared for him better. And yet, his family’s blindness helped to conform him to the Person he most wanted to imitate. It gave him the opportunity to be more like Christ. For as Pier Giorgio—a daily communicant who strived to live the Gospel with every breath he took—was misunderstood by his loved ones as his death came near, so was his Lord misunderstood by His loved ones as His death approached, as well.
In Mark 10:32-34, Jesus tells his apostles something that should have shocked, saddened, and stunned them: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.”
The apostles should have wept, right? Shouldn’t they have fallen to their knees in grief? That’s not what Mark says they did, though. He says that James and John came forward to Jesus—and asked Him to let them sit at His right and His left in His glory. He had just told them He was going to be murdered, and they responded with a request for special treatment in heaven.
I imagine James and John might have regretted that move later, when they looked back and understood, in hindsight, what Jesus had been saying. But for some reason, at the time of Jesus’ words, the veil remained. Like Pier Giorgio’s family, Jesus’ apostles did not appear to understand the gravity of the situation they were in. For reasons that might only be revealed in heaven, the veil was not lifted until later.
As Saint Paul says, the Lord “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendations from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) For Pier Giorgio, the time to “bring to light the things now hidden” was approaching hand in hand with the end of his earthly life.
Two days after Pier Giorgio’s grandmother died, the doctor who had diagnosed him with rheumatism returned and, deeply grieved by what he found, called for a second doctor, who called for a third, to confirm the sad diagnosis: poliomyelitis.
His family reeled in shock and grasped for quickly unraveling threads of hope while the paralysis moved into his lungs. As they struggled to comprehend the first hidden truth—that he was dying—the second hidden truth came to the surface as well: that he had been surreptitiously serving the poor in the manner of a saint.
“During his life he had kept quiet about his poor,” writes Luciana, “but at this point, having sensed his imminent death, he was forced to reveal himself.” One of his last acts was to ask Luciana to retrieve some medicine and a pawn ticket from his study. With effort that Luciana calls “impossible to describe,” he scrawled a note to ensure the items would reach the poor people for whom he had kept them. This small glimpse of charity on his deathbed was only a hint of what would come to light after his death.
Pier Giorgio took his last breath on July 4, 1925. At his funeral, thousands of people from every part of the city flooded the streets.
“The letters we began to receive and even more what was said about Pier Giorgio by unknown friends and all the strangers who turned to us constituted a revelation so imposing and so sublime that it overwhelmed us at least as much as his death,” Luciana writes. Only then did his family realize the impact he had made and the lives he had touched in the name of Jesus. Only then did they begin to understand the truth about Pier Giorgio. Only then did the lifted veil reveal that they had been living with a person of extraordinary grace.
On his feast day, July 4, and always, let us ask Blessed Pier Giorgio to intercede for us, that we, too, may live and die in humility, charity, and holiness.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!
Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of several children's books, including the award-winning The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus; and St. Conrad and the Wildfire. Her newest picture books are Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus and Where is Jesus Hidden? Her articles have appeared in various magazines. You can contact her at Maura.Roan.McKeegan@gmail.com.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Feast day: Jul 04
July 4 marks the feast day of Pier Giorgio Frassati, a
well-known young blessed of modern times. Born on April 6, 1901 in
Turin to a wealthy agnostic family, he early in life found himself drawn to the
faith and serving Christ in the poor. He was particularly known for his prayer
and his great love of the outdoors.
Pier Giorgio’s friends described him as “an explosion of joy.” His sister Luciana in her biography of her brother says that “He represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful.” He loved sharing his faith and praying with his many friends.
At a young age after starting at a Jesuit school, Pier Giorgio received permission to receive communion daily, which was rare at the time. He also joined the Marian Sodality and Apostleship of Prayer. Often, he would spend hours of the night in an adoration chapel.
He was also known as an avid sportsman and loved the outdoors, particularly mountain climbing. He cultivated a deep appreciation for theater, opera, museums, and poetry, loving to quote Dante.
Pier Giorgio was deeply devoted to Catholic social teaching and serving the poor. He joined the People’s Party, based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, and was known to go to serve the poor in the slums, even giving away his bus fare money and running home to be on time for meals. As his sister said, “Catholic social teaching could never remain simply a theory with [Pier Giorgio].” He would forgo vacations as the family summer home because “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”
He desired to become a mining engineer, studying at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin, because he desired to “serve Christ better among the miners.”
He was also politically active, both against the communist as well as fascist causes in early 20th-century Italy. He stood up to police harassing a Church-sponsored protest in Rome once, grabbing a fallen banner and using it to rally his fellow students.
His love for balancing contemplation and action naturally led him to a love for the Dominican order, particularly after reading the sermons of Girolamo Savonarola and writings of St. Catherine of Siena. In 1922, he joined the Lay Dominicans, taking the name Girolamo after the fierce Renaissance preacher.
Pier Giorgio contracted polio shortly before he was to receive his degree, and doctors believed this was due to his tending to the sick in the slums. But even on his last night of life, his concern remained for the poor, using his paralyzed hand to scrawl a note asking a friend to take medicine to a poor man Converso.
Thousands turned out for his funeral. Many of the poor and needy who he had served for the past seven years came, and it was through their presence that his parents learned of his service. Just as his parents were surprised at the multitude of destitute and needy, those their son had served were surprised to learn that their friend was the heir to the wealthy and famous Frassati family.
In 1981, his remains were found to be incorrupt, and his body was transferred from the family tomb to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin.
At his beatification in 1990, St. John Paul II referred to him as the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes,” and recalled fondly that “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.”
Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Columbus, Ohio) - relic of Saint Pier Giorgio Frassati
JULY 27, 2021
Pier Giorgio Frassati’s Love for Our Lady
Our Lady is worth a whole lot to the church, and we owe everything to her.
— Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Acommon complaint among many non-Catholics is that the Church honors Mary too much. How much honor could be too much for the Mother of God? For Blessed Pier Giorgio, this devotion was a core component of his spirituality.
He belonged to many Marian organizations and prayed the Little Office of Our Lady. A very tangible witness of his all-consuming love for her was pinned to his study door: his handwritten copy of Saint Bernard’s Hymn to the Virgin from Dante’s Paradiso.
Like many of us, he had a special fondness for her under one particular title: the Madonna of Oropa. (His other favorite was Our Lady of Consolata in Turin.) According to a centuries-old local legend, the Madonna of Oropa is one of the black statues carved by Saint Luke and brought to Oropa by Saint Eusebius. According to a more recent legend, Pier Giorgio ran off to see her every single morning that he spent in Pollone. This is definitely a legend! His actual practice was to make a special trip to the shrine to pray at her feet upon arriving in and before departing from Pollone. Fittingly, his portrait now hangs in a side chapel there.
One of the simple joys I experienced whenever I stayed at the family home in Pollone was literally taking time to smell the roses. They grow in abundance in a variety of colors along the garden path. In the summer, a fresh-cut bouquet can always be found in Pier Giorgio’s bedroom. If he were alive, he would probably take them right from the vase and bring them to his beloved Madonna of Oropa!
“Flowers were his fervent and most obvious homage to the Blessed Virgin,” his sister Luciana wrote. “Wherever there was a celebration in her honor, Pier Giorgio would show up with a bunch of flowers. He did this from the time when he was a student at the Sociale, in other words, from when he was a young boy.”
After his death, several people shared testimonies of seeing Pier Giorgio walking to the shrine with flowers from the family garden. The priests there were particularly impressed by his visits in the winter snow. “We were amazed, and would say, ‘Why are you here in this weather, Pier Giorgio?’ He would answer, ‘I’ve brought some flowers for Our Lady.’”
Nearly every image we have of Pier Giorgio brings to mind a strong, handsome, athletic figure with a hint of a confident swagger. It’s beautiful to picture that same young man, so full of love for Our Lady, humbly cutting and carrying flowers to her.
Of course, the flowers were not the only or even the best gift he brought to her. His rosary was his constant companion, and he favored Our Lady with a daily bouquet of prayers, as well. According to Pier Giorgio’s best friend, Marco, “a day never passed that he didn’t weave at the feet of his heavenly Mother the crown of her favorite prayer.”
He was a master weaver, if ever there was one. How beautifully adorned Our Lady must have been on the day they finally met.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with You.
Blessed are You among women,
and blessed is the fruit of Your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Is there an outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother near you? Bring to the statue a bouquet of flowers for Our Lady and pray a decade of the Rosary there.
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Know that the great Christian family is praying for you.
I was introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours on my very first morning in Nashville, back in 1995, and I have been praying it ever since — still with several of the people who introduced me to it — only now I’ve graduated to the large-print edition. Realizing this important prayer was also a component of Blessed Frassati’s spiritual life highlights for me the beautiful rhythm and continuity of the Church throughout the ages.
Pier Giorgio faithfully prayed the shorter form called the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary because this was the form required when he became a member of the Dominican Laity at the age of twenty-one. He explained to one of his friends, “We need to recite the Dominican Office of Our Lady or the Rosary every day, but if you deliberately omit this for one day or for a few days you don’t commit a mortal sin.”
Many people do not realize that the Liturgy of the Hours (also referred to as the Divine Office or the Breviary) is the public prayer of the Church, second only to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It adds rhythm to the day and does indeed connect those who pray it to the great Christian family. In fact, in a sense, Catholics have been praying the Office since the time of Christ, because it is rooted in the Jewish prayer tradition.
Much as in Pier Giorgio’s day, the times we are living in call for an increase in prayer. Short on time? The truth is we can always find the time for things that are important to us. Pier Giorgio managed to fit prayer into his busy day no matter where he was or what was on his schedule. Someone saw him one day on the tram immersed in his book and asked, “What are you doing, Pier Giorgio?” He answered with a smile, “I’m saying my Office.”
A priest in my former parish shared with our Breviary group a humorous pact made by some fellow priests. Should one of them die, the others agreed to find his Breviary and be sure all of the ribbons were in the right place so that no one would think he had grown lax in his prayer life. Priests, you see, have an obligation to pray the Office daily. For laypeople, it is encouraged but not required.
No matter what your vocation, staying committed to daily prayer is an essential part of the holiness formula. It keeps you out of the weeds and on the right path. Pier Giorgio knew this and modeled it for his friends so well that, according to his sister Luciana, they found his prayer book after his death “on his bedside table, open and well-worn.”
May our prayer books be likewise found — faithfully used and not covered with the dust of good intentions. And, of course, with all the ribbons in the right place.
There may be a Breviary group at your parish. If not, maybe you could start one with the help of your pastor. If you are not already praying a version of the Divine Office, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pier Giorgio prayed, may be a great place to start. There are many online sources of information about the origin of these prayers and how to pray them. At first, it may seem confusing or overwhelming, but it gets easier with practice. Try it!
This article is adapted from Christine M. Wohar’s forthcoming book, Finding Frassati: And Following His Path to Holiness. It is available to preorder as a paperback or ebook from your local Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.
image: Stained glass depiction of Pier Giorgio Frassati at the Catholic University of America’s Buisness School chapel / photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Wohar has spent extended periods of time in Pollone with members of the Frassati family, including Pier Giorgio’s younger sister and biographer, Luciana. In 2006, Wohar founded FrassatiUSA, a nonprofit organization that works to promote the spirituality of Blessed Frassati. She hosted a three-part series for EWTN, Sanctity Within Reach: Pier Giorgio Frassati, featuring an in-depth discussion with Wanda Gawronska, Niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. She coedited the book Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family and is the executive producer of Pier Giorgio Frassati: Get to Know Him.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Saint of Lofty Goals
Youth Find Kindred Spirit in Rugged Outdoorsman Who Loved the Poor
Pilgrims find places of prayer amid the mountains and in the Frassati summer home and shrine in Pollone, Italy, where Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati enjoyed hiking. Sarah Harmon, a residence director at Franciscan University’s Gaming, Austria, campus, takes students on pilgrimages to the Frassati mountain retreat. (photo: Courtesy of Sarah Harmon)
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a mountain climber, cigar smoker and ambassador’s son. He also was a daily communicant, lover of the Blessed Virgin Mary and friend of the poor. Above all, with another possible miracle attributed to Frassati now under investigation in Rome, he soon may be a saint.
The miracle, which was submitted for review last fall, involves the inexplicable healing of Kevin Becker, an American college student who fell from the second story of his home in 2011, fracturing his skull and severely injuring his brain. After his mother asked Frassati for a miracle, Becker awoke from his coma. Within three weeks, he walked out of the hospital with a clean bill of health.
If the miracle is approved, it will mark the end of an almost century-long campaign to canonize Frassati.
A Hero for Our Times
As a new biography by Cristina Siccardi, Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero for Our Times (Ignatius, 2016), recounts, Frassati was born in 1901 into one of the most influential families in Turin, Italy. Despite growing up in a home where both human affection and religious devotion were in short supply, the young Frassati lacked neither.
Warm, funny and full of faith, Frassati was the center around which a large group of school friends revolved. He organized hiking trips, discussion groups and theater outings, along with prayer gatherings and evening Rosaries.
Privately, the young Frassati spent countless hours with the poor of both his native Turin and Berlin, Germany, where his father served as ambassador. His father was also the founder of the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
In his late teens and early 20s, Pier visited orphans, cared for the sick and used his pocket money to help those in need. Sacrificing even his bus money (and running home instead), Frassati paid for the education of orphans, bought tools for the unemployed and purchased medicine for the elderly. He also studied engineering so that he could “serve Christ better among the miners.”
Frassati’s life of friendship and service ended in 1925, when he contracted polio (likely from the sick he tended). The night before he died, the 24-year-old’s last work of mercy was to scratch out a message with his almost paralyzed hand, asking a friend to take medicine to a sick man he visited. His feast day is July 4, the date of his death.
His parents only learned about their son’s charitable endeavors when thousands of Italy’s poor lined the streets for his funeral.
Not surprisingly, private devotion to Frassati began immediately after his death. The formal case for his canonization began seven years later, in 1932.
In 1943, however, false rumors — related to how coed groups of Frassati’s friends would go on trips into the mountains together; nothing inappropriate by today’s standards, but in the 1930s some people objected — about Frassati brought the process to a halt. It would take another 47 years before St. John Paul II would move his cause forward, beatifying Frassati in 1990.
A Hero for Our Youth
During that time, Frassati had no religious order pushing his cause; his sister and nieces did nearly all the work. Following his beatification, however, more helpers joined the cause.
Among those helpers was Domenico Bettinelli, director of community engagement at Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
In 1994, Bettinelli was a young graduate student. When he attended a talk about Frassati, he was immediately captivated by, as he describes, “this young man who was so much like me — around the same age, similar heritage and similar outlook on life.”
Soon afterward, Bettinelli built the first website dedicated to Frassati. (It can still be found at bettnet.com/frassati.)
“I think what really made me connect with Frassati was how ‘real’ he was to me,” said Bettinelli. “By that, I mean, he’s relatable. As a young man of the 20th century, he dealt with much of what I dealt with at that age, including struggles with school, relating to family that sometimes didn’t understand him, spending time with friends, and balancing that with other obligations, including faith activities and politics. He showed us what all the saints show us: that the perfection Christ calls us to in Matthew 5:48 is attainable, through Jesus Christ, in our regular, old daily lives.”
Twenty-three years later, young people are still learning that lesson from Frassati.
Since 2013, Sarah Harmon, a residence director at Franciscan University’s Gaming, Austria, campus, has taken groups of students on pilgrimages to the Frassati summer home in Pollone, Italy. This past semester, 42 young people accompanied her. There, they met Frassati’s family, toured the home, prayed in the shrine dedicated to him, and hiked the trails he once hiked.
For the students, Harmon says, the trip is life changing.
She explained, “They see Pier Giorgio, who died at age 24, who wasn’t married or a priest, who was just living his life as a friend to his friends, a son to his parents, a brother to his sister, and a servant to the poor. They see and hear about his life, and think, ‘If he could do it, why couldn’t I?’”
“After this trip, one student came away with the phrase ‘no excuses’ in her mind,” she continued. “No excuses for not making it to Mass, no excuses for not having a time of prayer every day, no excuses for not striving each day to serve and love a little more. No excuses.”
Eleven years ago, Frassati’s example (and the experience of working in Italy with his niece), inspired Christine Wohar to found FrassatiUSA (FrassatiUSA.org), which spreads information about Blessed Pier Giorgio across the English-speaking world, providing everything from prayer cards and books to information about local “Frassati Groups.” Over the past 11 years, Wohar has seen devotion to Frassati spread rapidly. Much of that spread, she believes, is because “Pier Giorgio is the antidote for what ails our youth culture.”
“He wouldn’t have known the meaning of a safe space,” she said. “He had everything — wealth, privilege, good looks — but he was always getting out of his comfort zone to serve the sick and poor. He knew that money couldn’t buy true peace; it was just the opposite.”
A Hero for Us All
Frassati, however, isn’t just an example of holiness for the young. Wohar also believes Frassati shows Catholics of all ages how to be both deeply Catholic and deeply committed to social justice.
“He used to say that he went among the poor, because Jesus came to him every day in Communion,” she explained. “He said, ‘I repay him by serving the poor.’ He was very sacramental. That was the core of his life. But then he took that out to care for the poor.”
Likewise, Brother David Brokke, of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, who studied Frassati this past year during his third year of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, thinks Frassati demonstrates how to transcend the past and embrace God’s love in the present.
“A lot of people, if treated poorly or too strictly by a parent during their early years, act out of those wounds,” he explained.
“Blessed Pier Giorgio certainly had wounds from his family life, but he never allowed them to form his identity or determine his actions. Instead, Pier Giorgio responded with humility, respect, love and concern.”
“As I tried to enter into his mind and heart, it drew me closer to this man of God in more ways than I thought possible,” he said.
“He’s not simply a really cool guy. He was a young man with a heart meek and humble. He was a man who shows us how to live an integrated life.”
Wojcieszów, kościół par. p.w. Wniebowzięcia NMP, XIV, XVI, XVIII
OCTOBER 27, 2016
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Man of the Beatitudes
Saint John Paul II would call Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati “a man of the beatitudes,” and one of the Beatitudes that blossomed early in Pier Giorgio’s life was poverty of spirit. Although he was born into a life of wealth, as a son of a diplomat, he never cherished material things, and his heart and his hands went out to those who were truly in need. His sister reports that when he was a very young child, a poor woman came to the door of their house carrying a child without shoes. Young Pier Giorgio quickly took off his own socks and shoes, gave them to the poor child, and slammed the door shut so no one in the house would stop him! Luciana would report that by the age of eleven, her brother had become increasingly aware of the prevalence of poverty and began to do what he could to alleviate it by collecting things such as silver paper, tram tickets, and stamps for missionaries and giving away whatever small gifts of money family members would give him.
Pier Giorgio would not cease to perform those little acts of selfless kindness for the poor for the remainder of his life, but as he reached his late teens and early twenties, he also did what he could as a doer on a broad scale, joining and actively participating in religious and political organizations, not the least of which would be the Third Order Dominicans!
He became involved in the Italian Catholic Youth Society and in the Federation of Catholic University Students (FUCI). The first group consisted of mostly peasants and workers, and the second consisted mostly of the children of the wealthy. Pier Giorgio, the son of a rich father, with a heart that belonged to the poor, strove without success to fuse these two groups and unite them in a common cause. In a time and a nation fraught with conflicts between social classes, and between Church and state, Pier Giorgio had taken to heart Pope Leo XIII’s call for “revolutionary change” in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, which championed the rights of workers to negotiate for dignified working conditions and living wages, while balancing them with the rights and the duties of property owners. Pier Giorgio particularly championed agrarian reform in restoring land to those who farmed it, believing it unjust for a relatively few landholders, including his own father, to own such vast expanses of lands that provided such meager sustenance to those who with their own hands had produced the produce.
In 1917 Pier Giorgio marched in Rome with fifty thousand youths in the fiftieth-anniversary celebration of the founding of Catholic Youth. A group of Italian royal guards including mounted cavalry charged the group and attempted to disperse them and to confiscate the flags they were carrying. The group with Pier Giorgio resisted bravely, grabbing and relentlessly holding the flag that a guard had wrenched from the standard-bearer. When a companion was threatened with a bayonet to give up his flag, Pier Giorgio ran to the officer of the guards and at the top of his lungs shouted the name of his father. Upon hearing the name of the ambassador, the officer rebuked the soldier and politely asked Pier Giorgio to leave. Pier Giorgio refused, though, and would not leave the company of his friends who had been assaulted. Luciana reported that he took up the Catholic Youth banner in one hand and his rosary in the other and invited the group to pray, “for us and for those who have hit us.”
The year 1922 was monumental for Pier Giorgio, and for all the people of Italy, with a blessed event on May 22 and a diabolical one on October 28. The first would set Pier Giorgio’s heart on fire, and the second would, in his own words, make his blood boil.
On May 22, 1922, Pier Giorgio would add the initials T .O .S .D . to his name and change it to Fra Gerolamo. T.O.S.D. stands for Third Order of Saint Dominic, and Fra Gerolamo was the name he chose for himself within the order, the first name of the controversial Dominican martyr Savonarola (1452–1498). He described himself as a fervent admirer of that friar, who had fought boldly against spiritual and political corruption and ended up burned at the stake. Pier Giorgio’s choice of lay orders and of his spiritual namesake revealed that by age twenty-one he was ready to preach Christ’s good news and to give his very life to do so, if need be.
On October 28, 1922, Pier Giorgio would no longer be the son of the ambassador, for that is the day when Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power and the day that Alfredo Frassati, his father, resigned his ambassadorship to Germany. Pier Giorgio would write a few weeks later that his “blood boiled” when he glanced at Mussolini’s speech. He saw the violence and oppression that the Fascists brought with them. Indeed, he once fought off with his own hands a small group of young Fascists who had broken into his father’s home. He foresaw, but did not live to see, the extent of the brutality a few years later when the prime minister became the dictator. As a member of Italy’s Popular Party, a party of many Catholics, Pier Giorgio spoke out, and for a time resigned, when some of their leaders collaborated with Mussolini’s Fascists.
Pier Giorgio was always a man of heroic virtue and uncompromising principles. He saw the need to strive to promote social change, but unlike some great political reformers espousing social justice who would make the entire world into a utopia while treating those around them with little compassion and respect, Pier Giorgio knew that true charity begins at home and with each and every individual we meet, each person being truly our brother or sister in Christ. It is for this attitude, bathed in each and every beatitude, that Pier Giorgio is known best, so let’s take a look at how this most blessed young man lived out the life of his favorite scriptural passage, one that he copied out by hand, read, and lived, Saint Paul’s hymn to love (1 Cor . 13).
Greater Love Has No Man Than This
It is in his role as a lover that this young hound of the Lord barks out his preaching in words and in deeds that we’d all do well to hear — and we’d also do well to add our own voices to his chorus of barking, whether or not we’re afraid to bark off key! Pier Giorgio studied so hard, was frustrated in so many desires, and died at such a young age. Read his letters, and you will relive his struggle to complete his engineering degree, only to die so close to the end. You will read of his wistful love for a young orphaned woman named Laura Hidalgo, a love that he could not proclaim to her or pursue because his parents did not deem her kind worthy of their son, and he feared such an espousal would quickly push his parents’ rocky marriage over the cliff of divorce. You will read of the devastation he felt when his sister Luciana got married and left the country, leaving him alone in the house where his beloved mother and father treated each other with less and less love.
Nonetheless, despite all the hardships Pier Giorgio endured, you will see that as an aunt once said of him, “He is always happy with everything.” Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that joy is one of the “effects” of the virtue of charity, because it makes us happy when we are enjoined with what we love. Pier Giorgio showed that a life of thinking, doing, and loving for Christ, and especially one lived in the Dominican spirit, can be, in spite of all the heavy crosses, a yoke that is light and most joyful.
We see this joy too in the pleasure Pier Giorgio took in using the physical body that God gave him. Dominicans are champions of Christ’s Incarnation. Christ took on human flesh, and human flesh is not evil. Saint Dominic’s earliest preaching was against the Albigensian heresy that proclaimed that the flesh was evil and only the spirit good. Pier Giorgio never hesitated to put his healthy young body to the test in helping others. Even as the ambassador’s son, he would often appear at events somewhat sweaty since he preferred to ride his bike to events and save the tram fare to share with the poor.
When his cherished bike was stolen one day, he merely said that he supposed someone needed it more than he did.
Few things gave Pier Giorgio more joy than the climbing of mountains. He thrived on the physical exertion, and the activity provided him fellowship with the beloved friends who climbed with him. He also derived spiritual benefits from the beautiful views of God’s creation that the peaks provided, and some of their mountain trips included trips to Mass in chapels in the hills.
Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that the love of charity is a kind of friendship, and Pier Giorgio Frassati always deeply loved his friends. His sister reports that one teacher gave him the nickname bifronte (two faces) because he so often turned back to the students behind him, sharing a smile and a laugh. In 1924, the year before his death, he formed a tightly knit group of friends who called themselves the Tipi Lochsi, which has been translated as the “Sinister Ones,” “Shady Characters,” and even “Swindlers and Swindlerettes.” They assigned each other humorous names, Pier Giorgio himself becoming “Robespierre,” the heartless leader of the French Reign of Terror, who could hardly have been more his opposite. Many of these amusing letters are still extant, often ending with tongue-in-cheek cannon salutes and even with the words “Boom! Boom! Boom!”
Pier Giorgio was, then, a wonderful example of a perfectly normal and healthy young man who loved the simple joys of life with no thought of rebelling against the generous God who provides them. He is widely recognized as a tremendous model for youth in our time, and indeed, this is why Pier Giorgio’s body was transported all the way to Sydney, Australia, in 2008, so that on World Youth Day, gathered around his remains, youth from all over the world could be inspired by his story to strive to love as he did.
Pier Giorgio followed Christ’s Great Commandments to love God with all his heart and to love his neighbor and self through that love of God. His love of Christ was evident from early childhood when he saw a woman with flowers headed for a chapel and gave her a rose that he insisted she give to Jesus. His devotion to Christ in the Eucharist grew when he attended the Jesuit school and received permission to receive daily Communion Indeed, his mother worried about such piety and even asked a parish priest to ask him to tone down his devotions! His devotion to Christ lasted throughout his life. At the time of his death, a book on the life of Saint Catherine of Siena sat on his nightstand. He felt a special devotion to her because she spoke to Christ while she lived on earth.
This mystical love of Christ never failed to overflow into loving actions for the least of those Pier Giorgio came across. As a child he visited a school with his grandfather and shared soup from the same bowl with an isolated young boy with a disfiguring skin condition. As a young student, he noticed that a janitor seemed particularly forlorn one day. He asked him why and learned that the janitor’s teenage son had recently died. Nearly a year later, he saw the janitor again, remembered the date of the boy’s death, and told him he would pray for him that day. Many people remarked how he was always loved by the porters. He was no respecter of titles alone, but treated every person with dignity.
Pier was blessed with above average height, remarkable good looks, an athletic build, and of course, he came from a respected, wealthy, aristocratic family. He could have “hobnobbed” with whomever he preferred, but, as his sister Luciana noted, he always seemed to gravitate toward the least attractive, most discouraged member of any group. He would say he could see a “special light around the poor,” a light imperceptible to most, and a light that drew him forth to the poor at night. Whether in Italy or in Germany, through organizations including the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Pier Giorgio would venture out into the slums, befriending the sick, the poor, and the friendless, catering to their physical and spiritual needs.
Pier Giorgio did not hide his light under a bushel basket, yet ironically, most of his family would not perceive the radiance of that light and the warmth it provided for so many people until after his death. Oblivious to his son’s desires, talents, and years of study in the field of engineering, in June 1925, only a month before Pier Giorgio’s unexpected death, Alfredo arranged a job for him at his newspaper and, while he was gone, had an employee break the news to him and show him the office that had already been set up for him. In that same month, Pier Giorgio climbed his last mountain.
In the last days of June 1925, Pier Giorgio’s beloved grandmother Linda lay on her deathbed until her soul left her body on the first of July. Pier Giorgio, just down the hall, was lying in bed as well, but everyone assumed it was just a passing illness. He drew no attention to himself, and hobbled as best he could to visit his grandmother’s bedside. People had noticed that his clothing began to dangle from the once robust physique, but they had no idea that his illness would soon become terminal. Indeed, in his last days, his mother would chide him for being unable to help the family with her mother’s funeral.
It was not until the day before his death that the family would realize Pier Giorgio had become paralyzed from the waist down. Once the gravity of his condition was known, his family immediately sought medical attention. The doctor determined that Pier Giorgio had contracted a rare and devastating strain of poliomyelitis. A vaccine existed that could counter the disease, although possibly not at this late stage. Further, there was none available in all of Italy. The nearest available dose was in Paris, France. When the nearness of his death was evident, Pier Giorgio wrote a note to be delivered to Giuseppe Grimaldi, a friend from the Saint Vincent de Paul Society:
The injections are for Converso and the pawn ticket belongs to Sappa; I had forgotten it. Please renew it on my account.
Even on his deathbed, Pier Giorgio’s thoughts went out to others in need. The doctors concluded that his polio had probably been contracted through his interactions with the sick and the poor, but Pier Giorgio would not have had it any other way. Christ showed us and Saint John told us, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Pier Giorgio knew this, and he did this. Can his example inspire us, even in the smallest of daily deeds, at no risk to our health or possessions, to give unto others a little of that love that Christ and Pier Giorgio sacrificed so much to give?
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Dr. Vost’s Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints Every Catholic Should Know, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Pier Giorgio Frassati, en montagne d'après le livre une vie en image de Luciana Frassati
BEATIFICAZIONE DI PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
OMELIA DI GIOVANNI PAOLO II
Domenica, 20 maggio 1990
“Io pregherò il Padre ed egli vi darà un altro Consolatore . . . Lo Spirito di verità” (Gv 14, 15).
1. Nel tempo pasquale, a mano a mano che ci avviciniamo alla Pentecoste, queste parole diventano sempre più attuali. Sono state pronunziate nel cenacolo da Gesù, il giorno prima della passione, mentre si congedava dagli apostoli. La sua partenza - la partenza dell’amato Maestro mediante la morte e la risurrezione - apre la via a un altro Consolatore. Verrà il Paraclito: verrà, grazie proprio alla dipartita redentrice di Cristo, che rende possibile e inaugura la nuova presenza misericordiosa di Dio fra gli uomini. Lo Spirito di Verità, che il mondo non vede e non conosce, si fa, invece, conoscere dagli apostoli, “perché dimorerà presso di loro e in loro opererà” (Gv 14, 17). E di ciò, il giorno della Pentecoste, tutti diverranno testimoni.
2. La Pentecoste, tuttavia, è solo l’inizio, poiché lo Spirito di Verità viene per rimanere con la Chiesa “per sempre”, nell’incessante rinnovarsi delle generazioni future. E allora non solo agli uomini del suo tempo, ma a tutti noi e ai nostri contemporanei si rivolgono le parole dell’apostolo Pietro: “Adorate il Signore, Cristo, nei vostri cuori, pronti sempre a rispondere a chiunque vi domandi ragione della speranza che è in voi” (1 Pt 3, 15).
Nel nostro secolo, Pier Giorgio Frassati, che a nome della Chiesa oggi ho la gioia di proclamare beato, ha incarnato nella propria vita queste parole di san Pietro. La potenza dello Spirito di verità, unito a Cristo, lo ha reso moderno testimone della speranza, che scaturisce dal Vangelo, e della grazia di salvezza operante nel cuore dell’uomo. È diventato, così, il testimone vivo e il difensore coraggioso di questa speranza a nome dei giovani cristiani del secolo ventesimo.
3. La fede e la carità, vere forze motrici della sua esistenza, lo resero attivo e operoso nell’ambiente in cui visse, in famiglia e nella scuola, nell’università e nella società; lo trasformarono in gioioso ed entusiasta apostolo di Cristo, in appassionato seguace del suo messaggio e della sua carità.
Il segreto del suo zelo apostolico e della sua santità, è da ricercare nell’itinerario ascetico e spirituale da lui percorso; nella preghiera, nella perseverante adorazione, anche notturna, del Santissimo Sacramento, nella sua sete della parola di Dio, scrutata nei testi biblici; nella serena accettazione delle difficoltà della vita anche familiari; nella castità vissuta come disciplina ilare e senza compromessi; nella predilezione quotidiana per il silenzio e la “normalità” dell’esistenza.
È proprio in questi fattori che ci è dato scoprire la sorgente profonda della sua vitalità spirituale. Infatti, è attraverso l’Eucaristia che Cristo comunica il suo Spirito; è attraverso l’ascolto della sua parola che cresce la disponibilità ad accogliere gli altri, ed è pure attraverso l’abbandono orante nella volontà di Dio che maturano le grandi decisioni della vita. Solo adorando Dio presente nel proprio cuore, il battezzato può rispondere a chi “domandi ragione della speranza” che è in lui. E il giovane Frassati lo sa, lo sperimenta, lo vive. Nella sua esistenza la fede si fonde con la carità: saldo nella fede e fattivo nella carità, poiché la fede senza le opere è morta.
4. Certo, a uno sguardo superficiale, lo stile di Pier Giorgio Frassati, un giovane moderno pieno di vita, non presenta granché di straordinario. Ma proprio questa è l’originalità della sua virtù, che invita a riflettere e che spinge all’imitazione. In lui la fede e gli avvenimenti quotidiani si fondono armonicamente, tanto che l’adesione al Vangelo si traduce in attenzione amorosa ai poveri e ai bisognosi, in un crescendo continuo sino agli ultimi giorni della malattia che lo porterà alla morte. Il gusto del bello e dell’arte, la passione per lo sport e per la montagna, l’attenzione ai problemi della società non gli impediscono il rapporto costante con l’Assoluto.
Tutta immersa nel mistero di Dio e tutta dedita al costante servizio del prossimo: così si può riassumere la sua giornata terrena! La sua vocazione di laico cristiano si realizzava nei suoi molteplici impegni associativi e politici, in una società in fermento, indifferente e talora ostile alla Chiesa. Con questo spirito Pier Giorgio seppe dare impulso ai vari movimenti cattolici, ai quali aderì con entusiasmo, ma soprattutto all’Azione Cattolica, oltre che alla FUCI, in cui trovò vera palestra di formazione cristiana e campi propizi per il suo apostolato. Nell’Azione Cattolica egli visse la vocazione cristiana con letizia e fierezza e s’impegnò ad amare Gesù e a scorgere in lui i fratelli che incontrava nel suo sentiero o che cercava nei luoghi della sofferenza, dell’emarginazione e dell’abbandono per far sentire loro il calore della sua umana solidarietà e il conforto soprannaturale della fede in Cristo.
Morì giovane, al termine di un’esistenza breve, ma straordinariamente ricca di frutti spirituali, avviandosi “alla vera patria a cantare le lodi a Dio”.
5. L’odierna celebrazione invita tutti noi ad accogliere il messaggio che Pier Giorgio Frassati trasmette agli uomini del nostro tempo, soprattutto a voi, giovani, desiderosi di offrire un concreto contributo di rinnovamento spirituale a questo nostro mondo, che talora sembra sfaldarsi e languire per mancanza di ideali.
Egli proclama, con il suo esempio, che è “beata” la vita condotta nello Spirito di Cristo, Spirito delle Beatitudini, e che soltanto colui che diventa “uomo delle Beatitudini” riesce a comunicare ai fratelli l’amore e la pace. Ripete che vale veramente la pena sacrificare tutto per servire il Signore. Testimonia che la santità è possibile per tutti e che solo la rivoluzione della carità può accendere nel cuore degli uomini la speranza di un futuro migliore.
6. Sì, “stupende sono le opere del Signore . . . Acclamate a Dio da tutta la terra” (Sal 66, 1-3). I versetti del Salmo, che risuonano nella liturgia dell’odierna domenica, sono come un’eco viva dell’anima del giovane Frassati. È noto, infatti, quanto egli abbia amato il mondo creato da Dio!
“Venite a vedere le opere di Dio”: anche questo è un invito che si raccoglie dalla sua giovane anima e si rivolge in modo particolare ai giovani.
“Mirabile Dio nel suo agire sugli uomini” (Sal 66, 5). Mirabile il suo agire per gli uomini! Occorre che gli occhi umani - occhi giovani, occhi sensibili - sappiano ammirare le opere di Dio, nel mondo esterno e visibile. Occorre che gli occhi dell’anima sappiano volgersi da questo mondo esterno e visibile a quello interno e invisibile: e così possano svelare all’uomo quelle dimensioni dello spirito nelle quali si riflette la luce del Verbo che illumina ogni uomo. In questa luce opera lo Spirito di verità.
7. Ecco l’uomo “interiore”! E tale ci appare Pier Giorgio Frassati. Difatti, tutta la sua vita sembra riassumere le parole di Cristo che troviamo nel Vangelo di Giovanni: “Se uno mi ama, osserverà la mia parola e il Padre mio lo amerà e noi verremo a lui e prenderemo dimora presso di lui” (Gv 14, 23).
Egli è l’uomo “interiore” amato dal Padre, perché molto ha amato! Egli è anche l’uomo del nostro secolo, l’uomo moderno, l’uomo che ha tanto amato! Non è forse l’amore la cosa più necessaria al nostro XX secolo, al suo inizio come alla sua fine? Non è forse vero che soltanto ciò resta, senza mai perdere la sua validità: il fatto che “ha amato”?
8. Egli se ne è andato giovane da questo mondo, ma ha lasciato un segno nell’intero secolo, e non soltanto in questo nostro secolo. Egli se ne è andato da questo mondo, ma, nella potenza pasquale del suo Battesimo, può ripetere a tutti, in particolar modo alle giovani generazioni di oggi e di domani: “Voi mi vedrete, perché io vivo, e voi vivrete!” (Gv 14, 19).
Queste parole furono pronunciate da Gesù Cristo, mentre si congedava dagli apostoli, prima di affrontare la passione. Mi piace raccoglierle dalla bocca stessa del novello beato, quale suadente invito a vivere di Cristo, in Cristo. Ed è invito valido tuttora, valido anche oggi, soprattutto per i giovani di oggi. Valido per tutti noi. Invito valido che ci ha lasciato Pier Giorgio Frassati. Amen.
© Copyright 1990 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Beato Piergiorgio Frassati Terziario domenicano
Torino, 6 aprile 1901 - 4 luglio 1925
Nasce nel 1901 a Torino in una famiglia della ricca borghesia: suo padre è Alfredo Frassati noto giornalista e la mamma è Adelaide Ametis affermata pittrice. In un periodo in cui Torino inizia un accentuato sviluppo imprenditoriale, Pier Giorgio viene a conoscenza delle difficoltà in cui si dibattono gli operai. Entra in contatto con la povertà: durante il liceo comincia a frequentare le Opere di san Vincenzo. Amico di tutti, esprime sempre una fiducia illimitata e completa in Dio e nella Provvidenza ed affronta le situazioni difficili con impegno, ma con serenità e letizia. Dedica il tempo libero alle opere assistenziali a favore di poveri e diseredati. Si iscrive a diverse congregazioni e associazioni cattoliche, si accosta con frequenza alla comunione, aderisce alla «Crociata Eucaristica» e frequenta la Congregazione Mariana che lo inizia al culto della Madonna. Fonda con i suoi amici più cari una «società» allegra che viene denominata «Tipi loschi», giovani attenti ad aiutarsi nella vita interiore e nell'assistenza degli ultimi. Muore di poliomelite fulminante il 4 luglio 1925. (Avvenire)
Martirologio Romano: A Torino, beato Piergiorgio Frassati, che, giovane militante in associazioni del laicato cattolico, si impegnò con tutto se stesso in iniziative di sviluppo sociale e di carità verso i poveri e i malati, finché morì colpito da paralisi fulminante.
Piergiorgio nasce a
Torino nel 1901 in una ricca famiglia borghese: il padre Alfredo, giornalista,
padrone del quotidiano “La Stampa”, intimo amico di Giolitti dal quale sarà
inviato come ambasciatore a Berlino; la madre è una nota pittrice: Vittorio
Emanuele III acquista un suo quadro esposto alla Biennale di Venezia. La fede,
a casa Frassati, non è proprio “di casa”, ma il Signore sa farsi strada lo
stesso nel cuore degli uomini pronti ad ascoltarlo.
Il sistema si combatte dall’interno
Piergiorgio non si trova molto a suo agio nel ceto sociale al quale appartiene,
e nemmeno con la vita che si conduce a casa sua, in cui la fede è un elemento
più di forma che di sostanza. Condivide l’infanzia con la sorella Luciana, di
appena un anno più piccola, la sua unica confidente appena iniziano i
contrasti, presto evidenti, con mamma e papà: non è un grande studente,
Piergiorgio, almeno finché non approda all’Istituto Sociale dei Padri Gesuiti e
poi, dopo la maturità, s’iscrive a Ingegneria meccanica con indirizzo minerario
per stare accanto ai minatori, allora considerati i più sfruttati tra gli
sfruttati. Purtroppo il traguardo della laurea non lo raggiungerà in vita, ma
solo con il conferimento di quella “honoris causa” nel 2002. Nonostante la poca
attenzione allo studio, a cui preferisce la preghiera, l’Eucaristia e la
carità, Piergiorgio decide però di restare a casa sua, accanto alla sua
“Bighellonare” a servizio della carità
In effetti, gli scontri con il padre non tardano a verificarsi, ma sono scontri
a senso unico, in cui è papà Alfredo a definire il figlio “un uomo inutile”, a
condannare il suo “bighellonare” per la città tra persone che non sono alla sua
altezza; Piergiorgio, dal canto suo, è sempre sorridente, accetta i rimproveri
con gli stessi occhi sereni da eterno fanciullo con cui si pone al prossimo
bisognoso: non con la sufficienza che accompagna alcuni giovani del suo ceto,
ma con vero amore e vera partecipazione per le sofferenze umane. In questi anni
si iscrive praticamente a tutte le associazioni cattoliche esistenti, a partire
dalla Conferenza di San Vincenzo, l’Azione Cattolica, la Fuci, ovunque ci fosse
bisogno e ovunque potesse essere mandato a fare servizio a chi non ha niente.
“Frassati Impresa Trasporti”
Lo prendono in giro, gli amici, lo chiamano “Frassati Impresa Trasporti” perché
sempre va nelle “soffitte” degli indigenti, nelle case della periferia di
Torino, che è città sì di grandi Santi, di intellettuali ma anche di tanti
operai, poveri e soli. In queste case Piergiorgio porta di tutto: cibo,
vestiti, legna, carbone, mobili; per queste persone spende tutti i soldi che la
famiglia gli passa, e che saranno sempre meno. Intanto si avvicina anche alla
spiritualità dei Domenicani e diventa Terziario; a Berlino avrà l’occasione
anche di conoscere padre Karl Sonnenschein, “il San Francesco tedesco”. Questa
frequentazione lo fa interrogare sulla possibilità di diventare sacerdote,
progetto che però Piergiorgio accantona perché si rende conto di non avere la
vocazione. Ma lui è felice così: diserta le occasioni mondane per la Messa e
alla compagnia dei giovani rampolli borghesi predilige quella dei poveri,
attraverso i quali sente saziarsi la sua sete di concretizzare il Vangelo.
Sarebbe un errore, però, pensare che sia un tipo strano o isolato, tutt’altro:
pieno della vera vita era, tra le altre cose, un grande appassionato della
montagna e dell’alpinismo.
Ecco l’amore, ma forse è meglio di no
Ed è proprio in cordata che, un giorno, incontra Laura Hidalgo. Se ne innamora
subito, ma sarà un amore che terrà tutto per sé, nel proprio cuore, sia per
“non metterla in imbarazzo” sia per non dare un’ulteriore fonte di dispiacere
alla sua famiglia, essendo lei di un ceto sociale notevolmente inferiore. Un
altro sacrificio che pochi giovani, al posto di Piergiorgio, avrebbero saputo
affrontare. Ma lui, no. Lui affronta tutto con il sorriso, perché sa fin nel
profondo di ogni sua fibra che l’amore vero è un altro, ed è quello che lo
aspetta nella prossima vita, quella che comincia forse a intravedere, arrivando
perfino ad anelare il giorno della nascita al cielo definendolo “il più bello
di tutti”. In questo ultimo periodo fonda la “Società dei Tipi Loschi” i cui
membri, “lestofanti e lestofantesse”, si danno soprannomi buffi (quello di
Piergiorgio è Robespierre), fanno gite e scherzi, ma soprattutto aspirano alla
più profonda delle amicizie: quella fondata sul sacro vincolo della preghiera e
della fede. Un’amicizia cristiana vera, per certi aspetti profetica per buona
parte dell’associazionismo laico della Chiesa che verrà.
Una morte inattesa
È il 30 giugno 1925. Tutta la famiglia Frassati è in ansia per la salute di
nonna Linda, che morirà il giorno seguente; così, nessuno fa caso a Piergiorgio
che ha un mal di testa molto forte e non ha voglia di mangiare. Proprio lui,
sempre così bello e in salute. Se ne accorgeranno quando, il giorno del
funerale della nonna, non riesce neppure ad alzarsi da letto. Ma sarà troppo
tardi. Ha contratto una poliomielite fulminante, che lo porta via il 4 luglio,
a soli 24 anni. Alle sue esequie si presentano in migliaia: per lo più sono i
poveri di Torino che aveva soccorso o anche solo accarezzato con la sua vita
piena di Dio. “Io non conosco mio figlio!”, mormora il padre impressionato
dalla folla e così il suo dolore si fa ancora più struggente.
Il “primo miracolo” di Piergiorgio
Non si dà pace Alfredo Frassati, che comprende chi è davvero suo figlio solo
nel momento in cui lo ha perso per sempre. Il suo cuore è spaccato, Piergiorgio
ha lasciato un vuoto troppo grande, un silenzio assordante. Ma Alfredo non ha
paura di soffrire: si fa scavare dalla sofferenza in profondità e pian piano
quel vuoto si riempie della luce e della Parola di Dio. Si riavvicina alla
fede, Alfredo, maturando verso la fine della sua vita – morirà nel 1961 – una
conversione potente e meravigliosa che molti considerano, forse a ragione, il
“primo” miracolo di Piergiorgio.
donaci il coraggio di volare in alto,
di fuggire la tentazione della mediocrità e della banalità;
rendici capaci, come Pier Giorgio,
di aspirare alle cose più grandi
con la sua tenacia e la sua costanza
e di accogliere con gioia il tuo invito alla santità.
Liberaci dalla paura di non riuscirci
o dalla falsa modestia di non esservi chiamati.
Concedici la grazia,
che Ti domandiamo per l’intercessione di Pier Giorgio
e la forza per proseguire con fedeltà
sulla via che conduce “verso l’alto”.
Per Gesù Cristo nostro Signore. Amen.
Wojcieszów, kościół poewangelicki, obecnie rzymskokatolicki pomocniczy pw. bł. Piotra Jerzego Frassati
FRASSATI, Pier Giorgio
di Maria Cristina Giuntella - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 50 (1998)
Figlio primogenito di Alfredo e di Adelaide Ametis, nacque a Torino il 6 apr. 1901. Studiò prima al ginnasio "D'Azeglio" e poi all'Istituto sociale retto dai gesuiti. Sulla sua formazione religiosa incisero i gesuiti e prima ancora il teologo C. Borla e il salesiano A. Cojazzi, figura di spicco del cattolicesimo torinese; fu probabilmente il contatto con l'ambiente salesiano a caratterizzare il suo cristianesimo gioioso e poco conformista. Frequentando l'ambiente dell'Istituto sociale il F. entrò in contatto con la Congregazione mariana, alla quale si iscrisse nel 1918, e con la Conferenza di S. Vincenzo. Ottenuta la licenza liceale prese a frequentare il corso di ingegneria industriale mineraria al Politecnico di Torino. Nel 1919 il F. si iscrisse al circolo "Cesare Balbo" della Federazione universitaria cattolica italiana (FUCI).
In numerosi viaggi all'estero, soprattutto in Germania, quando il padre divenne ambasciatore a Berlino, prese contatto con esponenti dell'organizzazione internazionale degli studenti cattolici "Pax Romana", fondata a Friburgo nel 1921. L'esperienza tedesca fu molto importante: conobbe il futuro teologo K. Rahner, della cui famiglia fu ospite a Friburgo per imparare la lingua; frequentò l'ambiente studentesco e operaio cattolico, entrando in contatto con il sacerdote K. Sonnenschein, che operava negli ambienti popolari berlinesi.
Proprio l'esperienza di Sonnenschein, che aveva costituito un circolo di operai e studenti, fu alla base di una proposta avanzata al X Congresso nazionale della FUCI, che si tenne nel luglio 1921 a Ravenna contemporaneamente al convegno internazionale di "Pax Romana": in quella occasione infatti il F. presentò, insieme con altri, una mozione nella quale si proponeva che il movimento universitario cattolico confluisse nella Gioventù cattolica italiana.
La mozione non passò perché proprio in quel periodo la Federazione stava sostenendo la sua specificità di associazione studentesca autonoma rispetto all'Azione cattolica, secondo una tradizione che fin dalle origini la vedeva proiettata verso l'ambiente universitario piuttosto che verso l'associazionismo cattolico. D'altra parte la linea del F. - che sempre di più si distaccherà, anche in campo politico, da quella della dirigenza fucina - si ispirava a una duplice presenza "massimalista" del circolo fucino nell'ateneo e nell'ambiente operaio. Il suo progetto si muoveva in una prospettiva molto diversa rispetto alla linea della preparazione professionale e della "vocazione intellettuale", che poi sarà espressa con forza da Giovan Battista Montini e da Igino Righetti, e si radicava piuttosto nell'ambiente intellettuale e operaio torinese, nel clima della città in cui agivano A. Gramsci e P. Gobetti.
Ma fu soprattutto la militanza politica nelle file del Partito popolare italiano che lo porterà a distaccarsi dagli ambienti fucini. Il F., infatti, si iscrisse al PPI nel 1920, aderendo alla corrente di sinistra di G. Miglioli, espressa nel capoluogo piemontese da G. Rapelli e da G. Quarello, e partecipò al congresso di Torino nel 1923 quale delegato della sezione di Novara. Egli sostenne Il Pensiero popolare, organo di un gruppo di popolari di sinistra che aveva assunto la direzione della sezione di Torino. Nel periodico riconosceva quella intransigenza nei confronti del fascismo che invece era venuta a mancare a un'altra testata cattolica Il Momento, per la quale si era impegnato precedentemente, meritandosi qualche rimbrotto paterno.
Convinto antifascista, il F. nel 1922, dopo la crisi del primo ministero Facta, auspicava la formazione di un governo di coalizione di cattolici e socialisti; per il suo antifascismo, ispirato soprattutto a motivi religiosi, venne in contrasto con la FUCI torinese, piuttosto conciliante verso il nascente regime. Quando nel 1923, in occasione della visita di Mussolini a Torino, la presidenza del circolo decise, senza consultare i soci, di esporre la bandiera, il F. protestò violentemente e dette le dimissioni da socio del "Cesare Balbo"; in seguito le ritirò, impegnandosi per l'elezione di una nuova presidenza più intransigente nei confronti del fascismo. Nel 1924 fu espulso definitivamente dalla FUCI torinese e si impegnò nell'attività politica e sindacale. Iscritto al Sindacato allievi ingegneri, partecipò alle agitazioni per la difesa del titolo di studio contro la riforma universitaria di Gentile. Dopo il delitto Matteotti aderì, quale rappresentante degli studenti popolari, all'Alleanza universitaria antifascista, promossa dagli studenti dei partiti democratici.
Il significato dell'impegno politico del F. sta principalmente in una profonda ispirazione religiosa, che non lo lasciava immune da progetti di costruzione di uno Stato cristiano di stampo savonaroliano: è significativo a questo proposito che quale terziario domenicano abbia assunto il nome di fra Girolamo; Savonarola fu senz'altro un suo modello. D'altra parte l'ammirazione per L. Sturzo e per G. Donati, che andò a salutare a Bardonecchia, ultima tappa di questo verso l'esilio, la presenza attiva nell'ambiente universitario e la collaborazione con studenti di estrazione laica gli impedirono di scivolare verso forme di integralismo.
Accanto all'impegno politico e universitario l'altro momento importante della vita del F. fu l'attività assistenziale e caritativa svolta nella Conferenza di S. Vincenzo e attraverso iniziative personali. Nell'impegno per la carità, intesa in primo luogo come giustizia, si coniugavano nel F. l'ispirazione "savonaroliana", la militanza nella sinistra popolare "sociale", le esperienze fatte a Berlino con il Sonnenschein. E fu probabilmente attraverso il contatto quotidiano con i poveri della città che contrasse la malattia che lo portò alla morte.
Il F. morì, infatti, di poliomelite fulminante, dopo quattro giorni di malattia, il 4 luglio 1925.
I funerali, ai quali partecipò una folla immensa, soprattutto di povera gente, rivelarono ai suoi stessi familiari e alla città, l'altro F., quello che, secondo la testimonianza concorde di alcuni suoi amici, pur continuando a vivere in un ambiente borghese, si era distaccato da esso, testimoniando in solitudine le sue scelte, il suo cristianesimo radicale. Un cristianesimo calato nella città, nelle contraddizioni e nei conflitti della modernità, della libertà e della giustizia.
Quando dopo la crisi del 1931 tra Azione cattolica e regime, apparvero i primi segni del fallimento di un progetto di restaurazione di uno Stato cattolico sotto protezione fascista, negli stessi ambienti dei giovani universitari, che non avevano capito le posizioni politiche del F., cominciò a maturare un processo di allontanamento dal fascismo in nome di valori religiosi e si iniziarono a comprendere i rischi e gli equivoci del compromesso fra Chiesa e fascismo; la vita del F. assunse allora il valore di testimonianza di un modo nuovo di essere laico cattolico, moderno, gioioso, sportivo e studente nell'università. Soprattutto dalla metà degli anni Trenta furono numerosi i circoli giovanili che presero il nome di "Pier Giorgio Frassati". D'altra parte proprio una precoce agiografia finì per snaturare il carattere normale della sua biografia, censurandone, a volte involontariamente, i momenti di conflittualità. Il processo di beatificazione, aperto nel 1932 dalla Chiesa torinese, fu ripreso da Paolo VI, che lo aveva conosciuto, e portato a compimento da Giovanni Paolo II, che lo proclamò beato il 20 maggio 1990.
Fonti e Bibl.: Subito dopo la morte del F. la famiglia, in particolare la sorella Luciana, cominciò a raccogliere le sue lettere, poi pubblicate, a partire dal 1951, in diverse edizioni, con traduzioni in francese e in polacco. La famiglia ha inoltre conservato documenti e testimonianze passati poi integralmente negli atti del processo di beatificazione: Atti del processo apostolico di beatificazione e canonizzazione del servo di Dio P.G. F. (1980-1981), Roma 1989. Sulla base delle lettere e delle testimonianze la sorella Luciana ha pubblicato altri saggi su momenti della vita del F., contribuendo a mantenerne viva la memoria, fra cui ricordiamo: Mio fratello P.G.: la carità, prefaz. di L. Gedda, Roma 1952; Vita e immagini (con scritti di F. Olgiati, L. Ambrosini, F. Turati, E. de Concini, M. Soldati, G. Piovene, S. Negro), Genova 1959; P.G. F. i giorni della sua vita, introduz. di K. Rahner, Roma 1975; Il cammino di P.G., Milano 1990. Non esiste una biografia critica; la prima, A. Cojazzi, P.G. F. Testimonianze, Torino 1928, pur fortemente agiografica, ha contribuito alla conoscenza del F. nell'ambiente dell'associazionismo cattolico; si veda al riguardo Id., P.G. F. Il libro che lo ha fatto conoscere ed amare, prefaz. di F. Traniello, Torino 1990. Vedi anche: P. Soldi, Verso l'assoluto: P.G. F., prefaz. di G. Testori, Torino 1982; C. Casalegno, P.G. F.: una vita di preghiera, presentaz. di A. Ballestrero, Casale Monferrato 1988; M. Staglieno, Un santo borghese, P.G. F., Milano 1988; C. Casalegno, P.G. F., Casale Monferrato 1993. Fra le testimonianze si vedano: M.R. Pierazzi, Così ho visto P.G.: ricordi e testimonianze, Brescia 1955; Beato P.G. F. terziario domenicano: ricordi, testimonianze, studi, a cura di R. Spiazzi, Bologna 1985. Un carattere critico hanno le voci di M.C. Giuntella, in Dict. d'histoire et de géogr. ecclés., XVIII, Paris 1977, coll. 1054 s.; e di F. Molinari, in Diz. storico del movimento cattolico in Italia, Torino 1982, pp. 209-212. Vedi anche gli articoli di G. Lazzati, P.G. F. a cinquant'anni dalla morte, in Studium, LXXI (1975), pp. 504-516; P. Molinari, La beatificazione di un giovane laico: P.G. F., in La Civiltà cattolica, CXLI (1990), 2, pp. 549-560; A. Monticone, Immagine di P.G. F. nel cattolicesimo italiano, in Sociologia, n.s., XXIV (1990), 2-3, pp. 191-198; D. Veneruso, P.G. F. e l'Azione cattolica, ibid., pp. 173-189. Nel maggio 1990 l'Istituto "Luigi Sturzo" ha organizzato a Roma un convegno su P.G. F., l'Azione cattolica e il Partito popolare; alcune relazioni presentate in quella sede sono state poi pubblicate: G. De Rosa, P.G. F., in Sociologia, n.s. XXVI (1992), pp. 7-13; B. Gariglio, La Torino cattolica degli anni di P.G. F., ibid., pp. 15-35; G. Ignesti, P.G. F. e il Partito popolare, ibid., pp. 38-52; A. Riccardi, P.G. F., la Chiesa e il mondo urbano, ibid., pp. 53-70. G. Ignesti ha successivamente ampliato il suo testo in un saggio su P.G. F. e il Partito popolare, Roma 1994. Nel 1993 presso la II Università di Roma "Tor Vergata" si è svolto un seminario su La santità contemporanea, in cui A. Genovese ha tenuto la relazione Un santo per forza. Studio agiografico su P.G. F. (gli atti del seminario sono in corso di pubblicazione a cura di F. Scorza Barcellona).
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