A phrase we often hear in connection with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is Verso l’alto—“towards the top,” or “towards the heights.” He wrote it on the back of a famous photo of him doing his favorite thing: mountain climbing. After his death, the phrase became a two-word summary of his brief yet unforgettable life.
Pier Giorgio was born at the beginning of the 20th century into a well-to-do family in Turin, Italy. He was a happy, fun-loving youth who loved to spend time with his friends, swim, hike, and—you guessed it—mountain-climb among the celestial peaks of his homeland.
He laughed a lot. He was joyful, ever-smiling, genuine. He glowed from the inside out.
What was it that made this young man so happy?
Pier Giorgio’s vibrant faith was the interior furnace that fueled his ebullient joy. Even those of us who only see his trademark smile in photographs can tell that it was the genuine expression of a soul on fire for God.
He was devoted to Our Lady and to the Eucharist. He received permission to receive Holy Communion every day, which was rare back then. He practiced the corporal works of mercy to the highest degree, serving the poor with his own hands, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, helping the war-weary soldiers coming home from World War I.
He was also involved in various apostolates of the Church, joining the Third Order Dominicans in 1922. He didn’t shy away from the political arena, either, pushing for the recognition of the true teachings of the Church in a world that was becoming enamored of communism and fascism.
In other words, he lived his faith to the fullest at every moment of his rather ordinary life. And wouldn’t you know it? He became a saint.
Of course, Pier Giorgio’s inability to give anything less than 100% got him in trouble, eventually. His close work with the sick was—the doctors thought—what probably caused him to contract polio. He died at the age of twenty-four after a six-day illness. After his death, the poor people that he loved so much flooded the streets for his funeral.
At his beatification in 1990, fellow-saint and fellow-mountaineer Pope John Paul II named Blessed Pier Giorgio “the man of the eight Beatitudes” for the way he whole-heartedly lived his faith.
Striving to live the Faith in all aspects of life will make us saints, too. So let’s do it! At The Catholic Company, we carry a replica of the famous “Verso l’alto” photograph of Pier Giorgio with those words written on the front. A joyful reminder to keep on climbing towards the heights of sanctity at every moment—and to ask Blessed Pier Giorgio to accompany us along the way. Available today at The Catholic Company!