Favourite Saint: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Greg talks about the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and how living according to the Gospel need not always be as difficult as we think it is.

Honestly, it seems that a very popular question to ask amongst Catholics was: who’s your favorite saint? For me, I’m always stumped by this question. I don’t think I’ve ever had a FAVORITE saint. But I have had different saints whose lives and view on God have spoken to me throughout the different periods of my life. And to answer this question, I turn to someone whose life has been inspiring me greatly in this current period of my life: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. (I know he’s not exactly a saint but he’s probably in Heaven and praying for us so it still counts ok!)

 

Blessed Pier was born in Turin into a wealthy family. Though an average student, Frassati was known among his peers for his devotion and piety. He developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. Mountain climbing was one of his favorite sports. Outings in the mountains became opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to praying the rosary.

 

He was also dedicated to works of social action, charity, prayer and community. He was involved with Catholic youth and student groups, the Apostleship of Prayer, Catholic Action, and was a third order Dominican. He would often say, “Charity is not enough; we need social reform.” He helped establish a newspaper entitled Momento, whose principles were based on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical: Rerum Novarum (Of New Things). He was strongly anti-fascist and did little to hide his political views.

 

Frassati donated most or all of his money to people he saw as more “needy” than him, and as a result, he became accustomed to giving his train-fare to the poor and running back home or riding in third class.

 

Frassati died in 1925 of poliomyelitis. His family expected Turin’s elite and political figures and many of his friends to be at his funeral. They were surprised, however, to find the streets of the city were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family — the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly. [1]

 

What really gets me was that Blessed Pier life didn’t have extraordinary miracles like some saints. Neither was his life one of a great conversion to God (like St Paul or St Augustine) or even one of a life that was given to God through consecration as a religious. In fact, some might say that his life seems reminiscent of some of our own. Sure, his charity towards those in need and his great devotion to God were traits that (rightly so) inspires me as I read about him. However, what I really got from him was how it reminded me of John 17:14-18, more specifically verses 16 and 18:

 

They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:16)

As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)

 

What a paradox! It’s the common Christian adage of “in this world but not of the world”. How can we be sent to this world and be in it and yet, not be of the world? It’s a question of subtlety. See, for me right now, it’s a question of how can I continue to bring glory to God without denying my secular role? In short, how can I live my life in such a way that in all I do, I echo God even if I do not loudhailer His Name? For me, this question strikes a core in me because at times, it is so difficult to remember God in all that you do, let alone even echo Him.  And yet, Blessed Pier was able to bring God, not just to his friends but also to the people he meets whom he may not know intimately. More importantly, he never stopped being part of the world. He never forgot that his first duty was as a student, studying something that wasn’t grand or world-changing but to be a mining engineer so that he could “serve Christ better among the miners”. I used to be quite skeptical about how I, as a scientist, could bring Christ to others. Easy enough for careers with social interactions at the forefront of their jobs.  However, Blessed Pier showed me that at wherever I am, whatever I am meant to do, God is always there and there will always be opportunities to glorify God and to bring Christ to others.

 

“Do small things with great love”. A common quote of Mother Teresa’s which I think Blessed Pier Giorgio, though living before Mother Teresa, exemplified with his life. His life was a life of doing small things but always with Love Himself at the center of it all. I sometimes wonder if there are fruits of my time here on Earth. At times, God graces me to be able to witness the buds and at times, the fruits. Mostly, it can be hard to see. Likewise, it might have been hard for Blessed Pier to not be able to see the fruits that he has grown for God. And yet, he stuck to it till the end, even tending to the needy while already on his deathbed. The fruits were plenty indeed and the multitude of people that appeared for his funeral was a clear sign of all the people whose lives have been made better through the charity and love of Blessed Pier Giorgio. At the end of the day, the message that I’ve taken away from Pier Giorgio is that I don’t have to be called to be a religious or even an influential person to be able to bring Christ to others and to grow into the saint I was created to be. All I need is to be aware of the opportunities in my own journey where I can continue to radiate out God’s Love to others and to take that bold step to be Christ in my own way to the people around me.

[1] Retrieved and paraphrased from: https://frassatiusa.org/frassati-biography and http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=6994