12 amazing facts about the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

frassati Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died at the age of 24 in 1925, is beloved by many Catholic young people today for his enthusiastic witness to holiness that reaches “to the heights.” | Credit: Public Domain

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, born on April 6, 1901, to a prominent and wealthy Italian family, became a popular role model soon after he died on July 4, 1925, at the age of 24. He could be declared a saint during the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year, according to the head of the Vatican’s office for saints’ causes.

According to the website dedicated to him by the U.S. Catholic bishops, for years Frassati has been “a significant global patron for youth and young adults — and has a special place in the hearts of young people across the United States as well. St. John Paul II declared him a patron for World Youth Days and deemed him ‘the man of the beatitudes’ as he exemplified those blessings in his everyday life.”

Here are 12 amazing facts about his short but very intense life:

1. Despite being raised by agnostic parents, Frassati’s inclinations to help others manifested in his childhood. Once, as a child, he answered the door to find a mother begging with her son who was shoeless. He took off his own shoes and gave them to the child.

2. At an early age, he joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer and obtained permission to receive daily Communion, which was rare at the time.

3. At the same time, he was known among his friends as “Il Terrore” (“The Terror”) due to his fondness for practical jokes.

4. At 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time taking care of the poor, the homeless, the sick, and the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.

5. In 1919, Frassati joined the Catholic Student Foundation and the Popular Party, whose principles were based in the social doctrine of the Church. He strongly opposed the rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini and was jailed in Rome after joining the protest of the Catholic Workers’ Association.

6. He became notable for giving literally everything he had to the poor. He would even use his bus fare for charity and then run home to be on time for meals.

7. An avid and accomplished mountain-climber, he saw many parallels between Catholic life and his favorite pastime. He would regularly organize trips into the mountains with occasions for prayers and conversations about faith on the way up or down from the summit.

8. After what would become his final climb he wrote a simple note on a photograph: “Verso L’Alto” (“To the heights”) — a phrase that has become a popular Catholic motto.

9. At 24, Frassati became very ill with polio. Some of his friends believed that he contracted the disease from the people in the slums of Turin. In his last days, he whispered the names of people who still needed assistance to his family and friends who gathered at his bedside. He died on July 4, 1925.

10. Pier Giorgio Frassati was declared “Blessed” in 1990 by Pope John Paul II, who called him a “man of the beatitudes” and a “joyful apostle of Christ.” A year before, after visiting his tomb, John Paul II revealed that he also had felt in his own youth “the beneficial influence of his example.”

“He left the world rather young,” he said, “but he made a mark upon our entire century.”

11. In her biography of her brother, Frassati’s sister, Luciana, wrote that “he represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful.”

12. Pier Giorgio Frassati’s popularity is big among young people, especially in America. Many apostolates have been created with his name, and he is regarded as the patron of students (mainly because he wasn’t good at school), young Catholics, mountaineers, youth groups, Catholic Action, Dominican tertiaries (he became one), and World Youth Day.

This article was first published on July 4, 2021, and has been updated.

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