Pope Francis has a special suggestion for young people today: "Be like Frassati!", pointing them towards the example of someone their age - Pier Giorgio Frassati - whose remains will be brought to Krakow for World Youth Day.
And Pier Giorgio is indeed a compelling example for young people to follow - an example endorsed by four popes. This strapping young outdoorsman and student at Turin Polytechnic is proof that sainthood is possible for anyone at any age, independently of their background and their circumstances. A practical joker, Frassati attracted his peers with his joy and his intense spiritual life; he was a friend to the poor and the suffering, and it was in attending the sick that he contracted the polio that killed him at the age of 24.
Pope Francis, in his message for the WYD 2016, which has the Beatitudes as its central theme, urges young people today to imitate Frassati:
"I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others. I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. [...] Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly[...]. Imagine that, on the day before his death, when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped.”
Pope Benedict XVI also directed the attention of today's youth towards Blessed Pier Giorgio. In his homily before the WYD of 2012, that is in the events took place in all the dioceses of the world, he described the Blessed Frassati as a young man suffused with joy, despite the deep suffering and the many challenges that he faced: "His life was spent with serenity and joy in the enthusiastic service of Christ and of his brothers and sisters. Young like you, he experienced his Christian formation with deep commitment and gave his testimony of faith, simply and effectively. A young man who was drawn by the beauty of the Gospel of the Beatitudes, who experienced to the full the joy of being a friend of Christ," said Benedict XVI during his meeting with the young people of Turin. In another speech he also recommended reading Frassati's biography.
In reality, Pier Giorgio's life attracted widespread attention long before his beatification: Monsignor Giambattista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, wrote: To the question that puzzles young people, "How to be modern and be christian? Pier Giorgio gives an answer with his life".
Without waiting for Frassati's beatification, St. John Paul - still as Cardinal Wojtyla - highlighted him as patron of Catholic youth, calling him the "Man of the eight Beatitudes". In his speech to university students in Krakow he added that "his sensitivity towards the poor, the needy and the sick was striking. Maybe this can be seen as a challenge to the climate of our generation and our times - times that are threatened by insensitivity." Later, already as Pope, he stated that "I, too, in my youth, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his Christian testimony (Pollone 1989)." At the World Youth Day in 2001, John Paul went further, entrusting young people to Frassati. To those that in St. Peters square carried and followed the WYD Cross he made a impassioned appeal: "Get to know him! [...] I entrust your missionary efforts to him."
According to a niece of Blessed Frassati it's no coincidence that the Beatitudes have been chosen as the theme of the WYD in Krakow and that Pier Giorgio's relics will be present. "It's clear that St. John Paul wants to have near him the man who right there, in his Krakow, he called the "Man of the Eight Beatitudes", to help him in persuading young people from all over the world that "it really is worth giving up everything to serve the Lord. [...] that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people."
The relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati will be exposed during World Youth Day in Krakow at the Basilica of the Holy Trinity of the Dominican Fathers at ul. Stolarska 12.
Irena Świerdzewska / BP KEP