Back when he was still Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II first came across the story of Pier Giorgio Frassati at an exhibit in Krakow, Poland. After learning about him, John Paul II began calling Pier the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes”. Years later, the cardinal became pope and was able to beatify Pier in 1990.
Just why was Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati called the “Man of the Beatitudes”? Let’s look at his life as well as the beatitudes listed in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of Heaven is theirs
Pier Giorgio’s faith and love of God were at the center of his actions. At the age of 13, he created a list of how to keep his spiritual life alive during his vacation. He knew that without his faith and reliance on God, nothing could be done. An avid mountain climber, he always went to Mass before scaling the peaks.
In a letter to his friend, Tonino, Pier Giorgio said, “… when one goes into the mountains one should sort out one’s conscience first because one never knows if one will return.”
Frassati was conscious that everything was a gift from God, even his beloved mountains. In his own words, “Every day, my love for the mountains grows more and more. If my studies permitted, I’d spend whole days in the mountains contemplating the Creator’s greatness in the pure air.”
Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance
As his sister, Luciana Frassati, wrote in a book about his life, “Silent, keeping to himself, he studied his surroundings, and, little by little amid the welter of names… he became known as the student who never refused to help.”
Pier found ways to help others and to help strengthen the spiritual lives of his family and friends without being forceful, persistently pushy, or attracting attention to anything he did. He led by example and would not give up on anyone.
Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted
While he was known for being a joyful prankster, Pier Giorgio knew the time and place for it. He was there for those who needed comfort during times of sorrow. He used to go to daily Mass and offer it up for the souls in purgatory.
When he was still a teenager, Pier Giorgio found out that the son of a janitor at his school had died after inquiring as to why he looked so sad one day. When he saw the janitor again, almost a year later, he told the janitor that he would keep his son in his prayers on the anniversary of his death. He often prayed for and offered up Holy Communion for those who had died.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, they shall have their fill
Pier Giorgio never hesitated to share his faith with his friends. As Luciana wrote, “He only had to exchange a few words to win a friend, whom he then looked after and advised.” He would invite them to attend Mass with them. Even if they declined the invitation, he would ask again at another time.
Pier would even trade favors in order to get his friends to Mass or to pray. He would grease a friend’s skis or do odd favors just to get them to “return the favor” by accompanying him to Mass.
Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them
If there was one beatitude that summed what his life was about, it would be this one. Pier spent his life doing countless acts of charity. As a small child, he took off his shoes and socks to give to a woman with a small child who had arrived at his house, begging for charity.
At the age of 17, he joined the Conference of Saint Vincent de Paul. Even on his deathbed, he wrote a note instructing that the medication in his pocket be delivered a man who needed them.
Despite coming from a wealthy family, Pier never had any money because he always gave it away. If someone needed something and he didn’t have the funds, he would beg for it on their behalf.
Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God
Pier Giorgio Frassati took purity of heart and mind seriously. Since he received the Eucharist daily and knew the importance of receiving it with reverence, he did what he could to avoid anything that would make him “unworthy” of receiving it.
He had a habit of going to confession at least once a week and always before he went mountain climbing. According to those who knew him, he never uttered a cuss word in his life.
In a letter to the Catholic Youth group of Pollone, written less than a year before his death, he reminded them that, “… true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be recognized as children of God
Shortly before his death, Pier Giorgio knew that his parents were on the brink of divorce. It pained him to know that such a thing was possible to he gave up his own love – a young woman named Laura Hidalgo – because he knew that it wouldn’t help his parent’s marriage.
Since Pier Giorgio came from a wealthy, high society family, he knew that Laura’s low social status (she was an orphan) and lack of money would create problems in his affluent family. So, he sacrificed his own earthly happiness so that a semblance of peace would remain in his family.
Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness, the kingdom of Heaven is theirs
Pier Giorgio was politically active but always put his faith first. He chose to side with a political party that was rooted in the Catholic family and which caused disagreements with his father. He wasn’t afraid of the clashes with Italian police and soldiers and was even detained for several hours, though he was let go when they found out he was the son of a diplomat.
In a letter to members of the Catholic Youth group in Pollone, he wrote, “The times which we are going through are difficult, because persecution against the Church rages as cruelly as ever. But you fearless and good young people, do not be afraid because of this small problem. Bear in mind the fact that the Church is a divine institution that cannot end and will endure until the end of the world, and ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against her.”
This list is just scratching this surface. There are countless more examples as to why Pier Giorgio Frassati is a model for not only youth but those who are serious about their faith.
Let us pray for his intercession; that God may grant us the same love for God, humanity, and charity that Pier Giorgio displayed during the 24 years he lived on this earth.