Blessed Pier Giorgio is a great inspiration for Catholics, especially young people. His short life was lived in service for others and can teach us much about living in the world while living for God.
Pier Giorgio Frassati was born on April 6th 1901 in Turin, Italy. His parents were well known in the town, as his father owned a newspaper and was influential in Italian politics. At a young age Pier Giorgio had developed a strong spiritual life; he would go to mass and receive the Eucharist as often as possible, not just on Sundays, he also had a great devotion to Our Lady.
Pier Giorgio would socialise often with his friends, he went to university to study Engineering, he would go to the theatre, museums and read poetry but his favourite activity was mountain climbing. He even used this as an opportunity to share his faith with his friends, encouraging them to pray the rosary and read the Bible while they were out. He told his friends: “I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.” Even more than all of his adventures with his friends, Pier Giorgio loved to serve the poor of Turin, he considered it his privilege to do so. Some days he would give his bus money to people he saw suffering and would run home and he would sacrifice his family holidays to stay behind and look after others.
Pier Giorgio gave more than his possessions however, he gave his whole self, and in 1925 he contracted polio which doctors said he most likely caught from the sick he served. The young man died at the age of 24 on July 4th, the day we now celebrate as his feast day. On the day of his funeral, Pier Giorgio’s family were surprised by the number of people who had turned out on the streets of Turin, the streets were full of all of the
people he had taken care of and sacrificed so much for. Those on the streets were surprised to discover Pier Giorgio was in fact the heir to one of the most influential families in the city; he had simply been their friend.
He was beatified (an important step to becoming a recognised saint by the Church) in 1990 and is now often called ‘The Man of the Eight Beatitudes’ because of his love of living out the call of Jesus to love God by serving those in need.
In the words of Bl Pier Giorgio ‘Verso l’alto’ (which means ‘to the heights’). Let us be inspired by this saintly young man to go to the heights of our service of others and our love of God.
St Thérèse of Lisiuex was a remarkable young woman who had such faith in God that her writings have helped form the teachings of the Catholic Church. Even though she died at the age of 24, she is known as a Doctor of the Church.
Thérèse Martin was born in Alençon, France on 2nd January 1873, to Louis and Zélie Martin (now also canonised saints). St Thérèse’s mother died when Thérèse was 4, she became very close to her father and sisters. We find out most of what we know about St Thérèse from her autobiographical writings known as ‘Story of a Soul’.
As a young child St Thérèse was often ill, aged 10 she received healing from a serious illness through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories. From a young age she felt called to follow her sisters and enter the Carmelite convent in Lisiuex; however she was prevented due to her age. St Thérèse was so convinced of her call and had such trust in God that during a pilgrimage to Rome she asked Pope Leo XIII if he would permit her to enter aged 15, even though she had been told not to speak to him.
St Thérèse is known for her ‘little way’ of holiness, she said “I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.” She looked for small ways to be holy in each moment. St Thérèse did not always find it easy to pray; she suffered physically and emotionally and did not always get along with the other members of her community. However she offered all of her suffering to Jesus and because of this was able to face the trials that came her way.
St Thérèse is often called ‘The Little Flower’ not solely because of her love for flowers but because she saw herself as a little flower in God’s garden. She recognised that all flowers are different, and she was happy to be who God had created her to be. She also said “The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
On 30th September 1897 St Thérèse died, after being very ill. Even after death her life continues to inspire many people to live a life of complete trust in God and gives us an example of how to endure suffering. St Thérèse is considered to be patron saint of missions, not because she travelled far and wide (she was a cloistered nun) but because of her prayers and support of missionaries, hence why she is one of our patrons!
“My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death,” she said. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”
Pope St John Paul II gives us an incredible example of faith in God. Many people remember Pope St John Paul II for his incredible pontificate (his time as Pope), but his lived his whole life as a witness to God’s love in the world.
Karol J Wojtyla (Pope St John Paul II’s baptismal name) was born in the small Polish city of Wadowice on 18th May 1920. He suffered great tragedy as a young man with his mother, brother, and father dying before he was 21.
As a young man he loved acting and play writing, a passion that continued throughout his life, and so enrolled in a university to study at the drama school. However after the Nazi occupation of Poland the university was closed down and he went to work at a quarry. Despite the Nazi occupation of his native country Karol Wojtyla remained faithful to God and, feeling called to be a priest, entered a secret seminary to study for the priesthood.
After the Second World War he continued his studies at a re-opened major seminary and was ordained a priest in 1946. During his time as a priest, Fr Wojtyla served in several parishes as well as chaplain to university students. He kept his enthusiasm for the outdoors too, regularly going hiking, skiing and playing soccer.
At the age of 38 he became Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, 6 years later Archbishop and just 3 years after that a Cardinal (one of the most senior clergy in the Church below the Pope). As a cardinal he played a key role in the Second Vatican Council, and contributed on many documents that have helped shape Church teaching for our time.
Pope St John Paul II was elected as Pope on 16th October 1978 and was pope for almost 27 years. His first words as Pope to the people gathered in St Peter’s Square were: “Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ.”
A key point from his pontificate was devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; his Papal motto was ‘Totus Tuus’ meaning ‘totally yours’. Pope St John Paul II had a great love for his people, he met more people that any Pope before him. He had a particular zeal for young people, he founded World Youth Day, the international gathering of young people every 2-3 years that still continues to this day. He was a strong advocate of mercy and forgiveness; this was shown particularly when, after a failed assassination attempt on his life he met with the would-be assassin and forgave him.
The beloved Pope died on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2nd April 2005, nearly 3 million people travelled to Rome after his death to pay their respects and to pray. Pope St John Paul II was canonised (declared a Saint) by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.
Here is one of our favourite quotes from St John Paul II to young people: “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
Here’s some of our favourite links about this saint: