Blessed Pier joined the Society when he was seventeen years old, and remained an active member the rest of his life, dying at the age of twenty four. He visited the sick, the poor, the displaced, making home visits at least one a week, always fed by his love Christ, whom he saw and received both through the poor and daily Eucharist, as is evident when he said
“Jesus visits me every morning in Holy Communion. I repay him with my poor means, visiting the poor.”
Like Blessed Fredric Ozanam before him, Pier Georgio was fully engaged in the civic, political life of his country, especially as an advocate for the poor and the dispossessed. His ideals and ideas were colored and inspired by Catholic social teaching, particularly the papal encyclical, Rerum Novarum (On New Things), issued just ten years before Pier Georgio’s birth by Pope Leo XII on the rights of the working class.
Pier Georgio Frassati saw the rise of fascism in Italy and the rise of Mussolini; his beliefs compelled him to speak and act against this scourge, writing in 1922
“Let’s hope that our country can have a government capable of making itself respected, that finally puts an end to the great scandal which is the Fascist movement.”
His voice did not go unheard by the fascists; at one point, the infamous blackshirts raided the Frassati home, but Pier Georgio, according to one London newspaper account, fought them off, shouting as he chased them out of the family home, “Blackguards, cowards, assassins!”
Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati was born on April 6, the same month as the Society’s founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (April 23) and patron, St. Vincent de Paul (April 24). Also like Frédéric, Pier Georgio saw youth and young adults as instrumental in reforming his country and society for justice, as shown in a reflection he wrote on Rerum Novarum
“In this trying time that our country is going through, we Catholics – and especially we students – have a serious duty to fulfill: our self-formation. We, who by the Grace of God are Catholics, (…) must steel ourselves for the battle we shall certainly have to fight to fulfill our program and give our country, in the not too distant future, happier days and a morally healthy society.
“But to achieve this we need constant prayer to obtain from God the grace without which all our powers are useless; organization and discipline to be ready for action at the right time; and finally, the sacrifice of our passion and of ourselves, because without that we cannot achieve our aim.”
Young Pier Giorgio lived out the Gospel daily, with little fanfare. His family was not aware (for the most part) of his work with and for the poor, and the poor did not know of his relatively well-to-do family (and many did not even know his name). After his death, at his funeral, his family and family friends were astonished to find hundreds of people who were poor coming to visit his body and bid their farewell. This was testimony to his generous heart, humble spirit, and love for humanity, as witnessed by his words
“No human being should be abandoned, whatever his race or religion: charity should overcome all barriers.”
If you’d like to read more about this special example of a young Vincentian, please visit www.bettnet.com/frassati/fr-homily.html to read a copy of Pope John Paul II’s homily during Blessed Pier’s beatification;
For links to other sites on Frassati, including several Frassati Association websites, please go to this link;
Or visit the Pier Frassati Association international website here (be forewarned, however, that the home page is in Italian; if you look to the lower left of the web page, you’ll find a link to information in English).
The Frassati USA website, meanwhile, is available at frassatiusa.org/;
Catholic News Service offers a video presentation on this young Vincentian on YouTube, available at this link (thanks to Thomas Zielinski for pointing this out).
As always, please feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested; and, if you would like me to delete you from future e-mailings, please drop me a line at your convenience.
Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July weekend!
With you and your loved ones in my prayers, I am
Yours in St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati,
Manuel A. Sánchez
Youth/Young Adult Conference Coord.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Council of Los Angeles
“Don’t forget that even if the house you visit is very dirty,
there you may find Jesus.”
– Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati