We celebrate Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s feast day on July 4th. Bl. Pier Giorgio was a man who lived a life of simple holiness by implementing the beatitudes in his daily living. In fact, St. John Paul II called him the “Man of the Beatitudes” because of his dedication and service to the poor.
The young saint was also deeply devoted to the Holy Eucharist and spent long hours in Eucharistic Adoration. The Holy Eucharist informed all of his actions and he was given special permission to receive Holy Communion daily, which was not common at the time.
Much of what Blessed Pier Giorgio did in service to those in need was hidden from his family and others. The charitable works he completed were not known until his death, when people lined up outside of the family home to say farewell to a man who had shown them great kindness and compassion. He died at the age of 24 after contracting polio, which he more than likely came into contact with while serving the poor whom he loved so much.
Many of the lay saints who have been beatified or canonized in recent decades lived lives of remarkable holiness through the ordinary requirements of their daily lives. Bl. Pier Giorgio was a son, brother, student, friend, avid outdoorsman, athlete, and a defender of the Catholic Faith. He saw the injustices of his day and sought to serve those who were most vulnerable. He was a man who gave his entire life to Christ through prayer and service to others.
At the beatification of Bl. Pier Giorgio, St. John Paul II described his life:
Certainly, at a superficial glance, [Pier Giorgio] Frassati’s lifestyle, that of a modern young man who was full of life, does not present anything out of the ordinary. This, however, is the originality of his virtue, which invites us to reflect upon it and impels us to imitate it. In him faith and daily events are harmoniously fused, so that adherence to the Gospel is translated into loving care for the poor and the needy in a continual crescendo until the very last days of the sickness which led to his death. His love for beauty and art, his passion for sports and mountains, his attention to society’s problems did not inhibit his constant relationship with the Absolute. Entirely immersed in the mystery of God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor: thus we can sum up his earthly life!
Far too often in our daily lives, especially the secular aspects that make up most of our day, we seek to separate our faith life from the rest of our lives. We carve out an hour on Sunday, grace before meals, and occasional prayers. Our work, play, relationships, entertainment, and other pursuits are segregated from our Catholic faith. Bl. Pier Giorgio “harmoniously fused” the ordinary events of his daily life—his secular pursuits—with his spiritual life. There is not supposed to be a separation between our daily lives and our spiritual lives. They are one unified whole of who we are and what we are called to by Christ.
We are meant to give every aspect of our lives to Christ. Bl. Pier Giorgio understood this truth, which is why prayer and the Sacraments influenced every choice he made. By surrendering himself fully to Christ, he allowed grace to move him to go where he was needed most. Even as a university student and with all of the demands placed upon him by family and friends, he sought to love with the heart of Christ and to reach out to those who were suffering around him. He did not do it for honor or adulation. He simply understood that communion with Christ always means communion with others, especially the poor and the afflicted.
The same is true for our own lives. We are not called to separate our Catholic Faith from our jobs, relationships, hobbies, sports, outdoor activities, clubs, etc. We are called to be leaven in the world through these activities and relationships with others. Christ calls us to serve as we are able within our own communities. It may simply be taking flowers to a sick elderly neighbor and spending time visiting with them. It may be having our family volunteer to feed the homeless in our community or offering hope to desperate women seeking abortion at the local Planned Parenthood. It may be listening to a troubled co-worker. There are countless ways we can serve and minister to those around us.
We are witnesses in our secular pursuits, including our places of employment. Not in the sense of aggressively pursuing our co-workers; rather, we are witnesses by our very lives. Are we honest, patient, kind, charitable, and joyful? Can others tell we are Catholic by the way we live? Bl. Pier Giorgio simply lived the call of the Gospel in every aspect of his life. We are called to do the same.
Much of what Bl. Pier Giorgio did was hidden. In our culture of attention-seeking, it can be difficult to remember that the Father ‘knows what we do in secret’ and that He is the one we should be seeking to please. A life of sanctity is only accomplished through a cooperation with grace in the ordinariness of our daily lives. It is through serving our families, our co-workers, our brothers and sisters in Christ in our parishes, our neighbors, and communities that we will be sanctified.
The vast majority of us will not be called to large scale projects halfway around the world or to build up new religious orders; instead, we will grow in holiness each time we say “yes” to God in the ordinary moments of our day. Holiness can only be found in surrendering to the Divine Love and allowing God to take us on the adventure He has planned for each one of us. Giving ourselves over to the life of grace is always an unexpected and incredible journey. In order to answer that call for our lives we must surrender everything to Christ. Bl. Pier Giorgio is an example to us of what a life of virtue and holiness looks like when we give ourselves completely over to Christ and seek to serve where He calls each one of us.