Charity, Generosity and Prayer: Approach Advent Like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
BOOK PICK: Part biography and part devotional offers insights into holy living from a relatable saint-in-the-making.
And Following His Plan to Holiness
By Christine Wohar
EWTN Publishing, 2021
192 pages, $18.95
To order: EWTN Religious Catalogue
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati may be among the most relatable and accessible of the beatified and saints.
Pier Giorgio walked the earth within the past century, and his life contained the loves and the challenges that many can relate to. He struggled with his studies and had some difficulties in his home life. He had a circle of close friends and enjoyed an array of sporting and outdoor activities, particularly those involving the mountains of his native Italy.
But in addition to these characteristics, Frassati was deeply committed to his Catholic faith. This devotion drove his active prayer life, as well as a passionate and often anonymous philanthropy among the downtrodden.
In Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness, author Christine Wohar combines her deep knowledge and admiration of Blessed Pier Giorgio to produce a work that is part biography and part devotional. Wohar weaves together excerpts from his own letters and anecdotes of his life to exhort readers to act in accordance with his examples.
For those unfamiliar with Pier Giorgio Frassati, he lived from 1901 to 1925, before dying from polio on July 4, 1925, at the age of 24. He came from a privileged family but used his resources to serve the poor while also vigorously defending the faith during a time in which it faced many hostilities in his home country of Italy. Pier Giorgio was beatified in May 1990, and Pope St. John Paul II called him “the man of the eight beatitudes” in recognition of his commitment to the poor.
Wohar’s interest in Blessed Pier Giorgio stemmed from her starting a young-adult group that her pastor asked her to name after Frassati. From that point on, you could say she became hooked on Blessed Pier Giorgio, founding Frassati USA, which is dedicated to promulgating his work and his cause for canonization.
The author’s immersion into her subject comes through from the earliest pages of the book. While many chroniclers of saints and potential saints must make do with ancient writings and texts, Wohar was able to meet family members of Blessed Pier Giorgio, including his sister, and writes about those encounters and visits to his family home. This gives the book an intimate feel that other biographies, even the most well-researched, may lack.
The book contains 40 brief chapters that follow the pattern of an excerpt from one of Blessed Pier Giorgio’s letters followed by a snippet of his biography. Wohar then brings the chapter to a close with a short prayer and a call to action inspired by Frassati’s actions and experiences.
Some of the chapters are lighter and focus on Blessed Pier Giorgio’s relationships with his sister, parents and friends and his love of music and daily activities of life. Others are meatier and focus on his prayer life, his undying charity and his defense of the faith.
In a chapter on penance, Wohar recounts Blessed Pier Giorgio’s frequent use of the sacrament, including a story of a sidewalk confession when he ran into a priest.
In a chapter on sacrifice, Wohar summarizes his relatable outlook:
“What Pier Giorgio understood so well at such a young ae was that life gives us many opportunities to sacrifice, whether we want them or not. Governments will oppress us. Our families are imperfect. The Church has shortcomings. People we love will hurt us. People we depend on will die. But all of these things will eventually pass. By learning to unite our present sufferings in sacrifice to those of Christ, we can participate in the great work of the salvation of souls. Our reward will be eternal joy.”
Wohar also highlights Pier Giorgio’s deep generosity, including his going to impoverished neighborhoods to reach those in most need, his propensity for anonymous giving and even occasions in which he truly gave people in need the clothes off his own back. With this example in mind, she encourages readers to commit to small acts of generosity.
Wohar also writes of how Blessed Pier Giorgio was all-in for God.
“The same guy who would carry breadcrumbs around for this fish would haul a poor family’s belongings through the streets in a wooden cart; he would give his bus ticket to someone in need and have to run home; he would spend hours on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament; and he would go without food or water even on a mountain climb if it meant keeping the fast before Mass. … [E]very single day, Blessed Pier Giorgio showed by his actions that he embraced the two greatest commandments. He loved God with all his heart, mind and soul; and he loved his neighbor as himself. Therefore, no amount of prayer, fasting, almsgiving or sacrifice could ever be too much.”
Whether interested in learning more about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati or in a devotional — or perhaps both — Finding Frassati is an apt read, for Advent and beyond.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.
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