Blessed Pier Giorgio Michelangelo Frassati was born in Turin, Italy, on April 6, 1901. His father, Alfredo Frassati, was a journalist and politician, and his mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. Before Pier Giorgio was born, Alfredo and Adelaide lost their eight-month-old daughter, Elda.
Pier Giorgio had a younger sister, Luciana. He and his sister were tutored for a number of years and entered a public school in Turin. In 1913, Pier Giorgio failed his Latin exams, hence he was sent to a private school where he could complete the content of two academic years in one year. After spending a year in private school, Pier Giorgio rejoined his classmates in the public school.
The private school was run by the Jesuits. Due to their influence, Pier Giorgio joined the Apostleship of Prayer, the Eucharistic Crusade, and the Company of the Blessed Sacrament in 1914. He also began to receive Holy Communion daily. Love for the Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady were the hallmarks of Pier Giorgio’s spiritual life.
In 1917, Pier Giorgio failed his Latin exams a second time and had to return to the Jesuit private school, where he finished high school in 1918.
After high school, Pier Giorgio began to study mining engineering. He wanted to become a mining engineer so he could “serve Christ better among the miners.” At that time, those who worked in the mines were among the poorest and subject to some of the worst working conditions.
Pier Giorgio had a great love for the poor. At 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society to visit and serve the poor. He gave both service and money to the poor, sometimes giving away his bus fare to the poor and then running home to be on time for a meal.
To improve the condition of the poor, Pier Giorgio strove to foster the social teaching of the Catholic Church. He became an active member of the newly founded Italian Popular Party which promoted the Catholic social teaching based on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum.
Pier Giorgio enjoyed mountain climbing. He organized outings with friends and would invite them to Mass, scriptural reading, and recitation of the Rosary. Pier Giorgio also loved music and art, and would go to the theatre, opera, and museums.
In 1922, Pier Giorgio became a member of the Third Order Dominicans, taking the name “Girolamo.”
A week before his death, Pier Giorgio made a list of all the exams needed to complete university. But before obtaining his degree, Pier Giorgio contracted polio, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. After six days of intense suffering, Pier Giorgio died on July 4, 1925 at the age of 24.
Before his death, he was still concerned about the well-being of the poor whom he had been visiting. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand, Pier Giorgio scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to bring to a poor sick man the medicine needed for injections.
At the funeral of Pier Giorgio many poor and needy unknown to the family showed up to pay respect to the young man who had served them with dedication. In 1981, when the body of Pier Giorgio was exhumed on March 31, 1981, it was found to be intact and incorrupt. He was beatified by St. John Paul II on May 20, 1990.
When he died, Pier Giorgio was two exams short of completing his university degree. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, April 6, 2001, the Royal Polytechnic Institute of Turin passed a special resolution posthumously granting him the degree in mining engineering.