When we hear the words “Holiness”, “Sanctity”, “Spirituality”, what comes to our mind? Probably, praying the rosary, attending the Eucharist, and doing charitable deeds. Truly, these activities lead us to holiness of life. Actually, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Dominican lay person and one of the patrons of World Youth Day, whose memorial we celebrate every July 4, developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and even obtained permission to receive daily Communion which was rare at that time. He dedicated much of his spare time, even to the point of sacrificing his vacation, in serving the poor, the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from the ravages of the First World War.
Apart from these, his ordinary activities, preference and skills led him to a spirituality which might be unconventional for a would-be saint during his time:
- Blessed Giorgio often went to the theater, to the opera, and to museums. He loved art and music, and could quote whole passages of the poet Dante.
- He loved music but admitted that he was not very musically inclined. As a child, he took piano lessons for a brief period.
- He loved to swim, do mountaineering and other sports.
- He enrolled in gymnastics and dance lessons as well. But admitted that dancing is not for him.
- He enjoyed gardening.
- Apart from his native Italian, he studied French, Latin and German at an early age, progressing in fluency as an adult.
- He was required to fulfill a period of military service. This could include membership in the army, the police force, or other government agencies which only ceased in 2004.
- He was a dog lover. The family had a dog named Jor (sometimes spelled Ior.) Later, the family had three other dogs named Mime, Wotan and Uadi. (The dogs were named for characters in works by the German composer Richard Wagner.)
- He enjoyed all the usual pranks and practical jokes such as shortsheeting the beds of friends and priests when they would be on retreat, and his friends enjoyed playing pranks on him.
- He collected different rocks and minerals for he studied mining engineering. He decided to become a mining engineer at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin, so he could “serve Christ better among the miners," as he told a friend.
- He seemed to be almost always on the go: to the mountains, to the sea, to visit the coal mines, to visit friends, to attend Eucharistic Congresses, to participate in Catholic gatherings, to tour the great cathedrals, and so on. Like everyone, he experienced the inconveniences of crowded train cars, lost luggage and time-consuming customs inspections, but he always remained in good spirits.
- He fell in love with a girl named Laura but since her family disapproved her, he obeyed his family with a broken heart.
We don’t have to go out of our status, our state of life, our preference, our talents and skills in order to be holy. In Latin, the word, “Beatus” has two meanings blessed and happy. To be blessed is to be happy. To be happy is to be blessed. Blessed Giorgio wrote: “You ask me if I’m happy. How can I not be? As long as faith gives me strength I am happy... The faith given to me in baptism suggests to me surely of yourself you will do nothing but if you have God as the center of all your action, then you will reach the goal.”
Then, he wrote: Verso L’alto! which means ‘Upwards!’ ‘To the top!’ ‘Towards the height!’ But for Blessed Giorgio, it is more than that, it is ‘Towards God!’
The Young Thomasian Professionals Lay Dominican group organizes annually the feast day Mass of Blessed Frassati. This is held every July 4th at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church (also known as the chapel of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila). Click here to learn more about Blessed Frassati.