Pier Giorgio Frassati

by Cristina Siccardi, Ignatius Press, £15

In this biography of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925), the author brings new insights into events in his life, quoting revealingly from the first biography in 1928 by a Salesian, Don Antonio Cojazzi, as well as from the memoirs of Luciana Frassati, Pier Giorgio’s sister.

Why should this rich young man, the son of Senator Alfredo Frassati, owner and editor of the influential Turin newspaper La Stampa, whose life was cut short by polio at the age of 24 – before he had achieved anything – be considered a hero today? Leaving aside his love for his faith and concern for Turin’s growing numbers of wretched industrial workers – the hallmarks of any saint – I think the answer lies in Frassati’s response to the sufferings he endured in his home life, where his sanctity developed almost unknown to his parents.

Frassati honoured and obeyed his parents, even though they misunderstood him and often treated him with great insensitivity. Indeed, it could be said that the way he shouldered his daily domestic crosses is an example of the way a Christian life should be lived. Most Catholics are not destined to be Joan of Arc.

His father, a worldly agnostic, was determined that his son should inherit his own position at La Stampa. His mother, neurotic and self-absorbed, constantly criticised her son for his poor academic performance. His home, materially comfortable, was cold and unwelcoming. His parents’ marriage was deeply unhappy, casting a long shadow over Pier Giorgio’s life.

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