Canonization of Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Saint for Every Young Person

COMMENTARY: The soon-to-be saint is the antidote to so much of what ails our world.

Pier Giorgio Frassati atop a mountain.
Pier Giorgio Frassati atop a mountain. (photo: Courtesy photo / Associazione Pier Giorgio Frassati)

Pier Giorgio Frassati’s friends called him an “explosion of joy.” Those same words describe perfectly the worldwide reaction to the recent report that his canonization is coming in 2025. 

Loud applause erupted when Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, first made the announcement on April 26 at the National Assembly of Catholic Action in Italy. There has been cheering and jubilation ever since. Like so many others, I look forward to celebrating Pier Giorgio’s final ascent — to the summit of holiness. 

The world needs St. Frassati. In my opinion, he is the antidote to so much of what ails our modern culture. Here are some reasons why.

He is an example of true manhood. With gender confusion, sexual promiscuity and pornography addiction running rampant and assailing the hearts and minds of young people, Pier Giorgio models how to live a virtuous, chaste and courageous life. He was an extraordinary athlete, described by a contemporary as “healthy, strong, and tanned with eyes as clear as pure water.” When he discerned that pursuing a relationship with a young woman whom he highly esteemed would lead to familial strife with his parents, he relinquished that love in cooperation with God’s holy will. “True happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things,” he said in a speech to Catholic youth, “but in peace of conscience, which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.” An infusion of Frassati-like purity would go a long way toward healing so many broken hearts and deformed consciences.

He is a model for every Catholic layperson. Influenced by Jesuit, Dominican, Salesian and Vincentian spirituality, Pier Giorgio seamlessly blended his sacramental life with a call to service. “Jesus comes to me every day in Holy Communion,” he told a friend. “I repay him in my miserable way by visiting the poor.” From the age of 12, he began the practice of daily Communion. He prayed the Rosary, often on his knees. He went to confession regularly, even once on the street in Turin. He read Holy Scripture and the lives of the saints. He supported the Church and was active in many apostolates. He served the poor to such an extent that thousands attended his funeral when he died suddenly at the age of 24. And he did all of this while having a father who was a fallen-away Catholic and a mother and sister who went to church only out of a sense of duty. There was no family prayer, not even at meals. This didn’t deter Pier Giorgio. As Pope St. John Paul II exclaimed in the beatification homily, “He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone” and that “it is really worth giving up everything to serve the Lord.” 

He is the personification of true friendship. Pier Giorgio was an influencer long before social media popularized the concept. He was an instigator, a practical joker and a natural leader. He held his friends accountable when they were losing their way. He did not seek out the approval of others and therefore earned the respect of everyone around him. “In this earthly life after the affection for parents and sisters,” he wrote to a friend, “one of the most beautiful affections is that of friendship.” He gave his friends rosaries as gifts; he gave one friend the epistles of St. Paul; he begged their prayers; he prayed for them. He wrote meaningful letters, none of which contained an emoji or meme or text abbreviation. In an effort to bond his friends spiritually for life, he formed “The Tipi Loschi Society.” (In English, the “suspicious ones” or “shady types”—meant in a good-humored way.) They climbed mountains, pulled pranks on one another and prayed. “It was his goodness that kept us united,” a friend wrote after his death. His goodness still unites us.

He is the quintessential guide to heaven. As a young adult, Pier Giorgio contemplated the life that is to come. He knew how to be detached from earthly things; he mastered the balancing act of living in this world but not being of it. He said the day of his death would be the happiest day of his life, and he prepared for it. At 22 years old, he wrote to a friend: “Since one does not know when Death will come to take him away, it is very prudent to prepare oneself every day as if one is going to die that same day; and so from now on I will try to make every day a little preparation for death, so that I shouldn’t find myself unprepared at the point of death and have to regret the beautiful years of youth, wasted from the spiritual side.” He left this world with no regrets and nothing wasted. If only we could do the same. 

When Pier Giorgio was beatified on May 20, 1990, shouts of “Boom! Boom! Boom!” were heard on the piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a reference to the way Pier Giorgio would sometimes jokingly sign letters, sending cannon blasts to his Tipi Loschi friends. When he is canonized in 2025, a different sort of explosion will be heard: one of uncontrollable joy coming from every corner of the world. The most relatable saint of all will have made it “to the top” (Verso l’alto, as Pier Giorgio put it).

Future St. Frassati, pray for us!

Christine M. Wohar, founder of FrassatiUSA, is the author of Finding Frassati and Following His Path to Holiness.