Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was born on April 6, 1901, in Turin, Italy, to an agnostic family and found himself from an early age drawn to the faith and to serving the poor.
He was known for giving his own possessions away, even as a young boy. He joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society at age 17.
The young Frassati also had a great love for art, music, literature, and theater — only surpassed by his passion for the outdoors and athletics, especially mountain climbing, rowing, and cycling. He also loved swimming and horseback riding.
His active life never overshadowed his spiritual life, however. He started every day with Mass and prayed the rosary, read the Bible, and practiced charity — and encouraged everyone he met to do the same.
Frassati died on July 4, 1925, at the age of 24 of polio, which doctors said was likely contracted from the sick to whom he tended. He was beatified on May 20, 1990, by Pope John Paul II.
It is no surprise that given his extraordinary life and early death, Frassati has become popular, particularly among youth and young adults.
For those who want to follow in his footsteps, a Catholic nonprofit organization called Creatio is happy to oblige. The group organizes mission trips and outdoor adventures with the hope of helping pilgrims to encounter God in creation the way Frassati did.
The Frassati Hiking Pilgrimage takes individuals to the same mountains Frassati climbed, his family’s summer home, the shrine where he attended daily Mass, and more. The pilgrimage takes place twice a year, lasting eight to 10 days, and typically has 15 people in attendance.
“On all of our pilgrimages, we want pilgrims to have the full experience of living in the footsteps of the saints,” Chris Lanciotti, Creatio’s director of mission integration, who is currently on the Frassati pilgrimage, told CNA. “We strive to know and love the saints in their entirety.”
Lanciotti shared that during the pilgrimage they visit Frassati’s summer home in Pollone, where his niece still resides, and the nearby Sanctuario di Oropo, a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary that Frassati regularly visited.
“We visit the Alps in Aosta Valley and hike into a mountain ‘rifugio’ (refuge) high in the Alps dedicated to the life of Frassati,” Lanciotti added. “Frassati would climb these mountains frequently as well.”
Additionally, the pilgrims visit Frassati’s tomb at the cathedral in Turin and his childhood parish where he took his vows as a lay Dominican. This summer, the current pilgrim group is celebrating Frassati’s feast day, July 4, with members of his family in Pollone.
“From Creatio’s very roots, we’ve been devoted to the memory of Pier Giorgio Frassati because of the proximity of his work and our own — a passion for evangelization, for the mountains, community, and service to the poor,” Lanciotti explained.
“These are all aspects of Creatio’s mission, and he has been one of our patron saints from our early stages,” he added. “One of our first missionary guides visited Frassati’s hometown as part of her study abroad program in college, and she helped to develop this pilgrimage when she joined Creatio in 2019.”
In 1990, Pope John Paul II named Frassati a patron for World Youth Days and called him “the man of the eight beatitudes.” His ability to combine all of his passions — spending time with friends, being outdoors, and a love for Christ — has inspired many young Catholics to look to him as a role model.
Frassati’s friends described him as “an explosion of joy.” As his sister Luciana wrote in her biography of her brother: “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 friends.
On what would be his last climb, Frassati wrote a note on a photograph: “Verso L’Alto,” which means “to the heights.” This phrase has become a motto for many young people on their journey to encounter Christ.
“God calls us each to holiness in the most simple things and actions in our life. We can see how every circumstance of this young man’s life — which are not much different than our own — was lived out in an extraordinary way,” Lanciotti said. “Whenever we can bring holiness close to our own lives, it makes it more credible to live in our own lives in a holy way.”
Other pilgrimages hosted by Creatio throughout the year include El Camino de Santiago in Spain, El Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico, an adventure mission to the Galapagos and another to Lima, Peru, and several local hikes in Colorado.