A Saint at 24? Pier Giorgio and Jesus

A Saint at 24? Pier Giorgio and Jesus January 17, 2024

A saint at 24? One Italian young man is on his way to sainthood, even though he died at 24. Making Jesus the center of your life can make all the difference. If we want young adults in the Church, we need to foster a culture of encounter, discipleship, and apostolate.

Young Adults Making a Difference

Pier Giorgio Frassati lived 1901-1925. Recent generations of Catholic youth revere him because he feels close to them and attractive at the same time. Friends flocked to him because he loved living life intensely. They could find him skiing, hiking the mountains, or laughing and having fun in the midst of a large group of friend. There is a picture of him on his last mountain climb. As a caption, he wrote Verso l’alto on the photograph. It means “towards the heights.” This sums up his attitude towards life and living the faith.

Friends loved him because he was always good for a joke or a story. Then, he was also skilled at sharing his love for Jesus and especially for the Eucharist. After exhorting some young friends to receive communion frequently, he wrote to them:

And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted.  Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind. (Pier Giorgio Frassati, USCCB)

His youthful spirit and love for Jesus in the Eucharist have led him to the glory of the altars and we look at him as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a patron for Catholic youth and young adults. A saint at 24 is getting young adults ready for being saints too.

Popes reaching out to the Youth

I think we can take a cue from the recent Pontiffs who have had a special love for the youth. For example, we can think of the tremendous phenomenon of the World Youth Day initiated by Pope John Paul II and continued by his successors.

Pope Francis to the Youth

The first year of his pontificate, Pope Francis went to Brazil to preside over the World Youth Day. The “American” Pope was returning to the continent. It was an exciting moment. Yet, there were serious logistical hurdles. They wanted to have the great gathering of youth somewhere else. The weather forced them to change plans and they ended up at the iconic Playa de Copacabana. It was a perfect setting for the encounter between the Pope and the youth. A place known for youth, but not always for faith, was transformed into a place to adore God.

Young people, please: don’t put yourselves at the tail end of history. Be active members! Go on the offensive! Play down the field, build a better world, a world of brothers and sisters, a world of justice, of love, of peace, of fraternity, of solidarity. Play always on the offensive! Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5).(Pope Francis, 27 July 2013)

In today’s Gospel, we see how Jesus was always pressing forward; he was on the offensive. Evidently, he knew that his mission was to preach the Kingdom of God, and we catch a glimpse of him doing so in this Gospel. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk. 1:15) When we hear these words, it is easy for us to concentrate on the aspect of repentance. But I think we should focus on the aspect of evangelization. Certainly, young people need Jesus.

We are also witnesses of the powerful scene of Jesus calling the first disciples. When Jesus dedicates himself to the work of spending time with Simon, Andrew, James, and John; converting them first into disciples and then into apostles; he maps out  the work we are called to do with the young people of today and that we carry out at the Newman Center.

Statue of Christ the Redemptor overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro
Statue of Christ the Redemptor overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro | Courtesy Pexels


First, it is important to set up a culture of encounter. Jesus went to where the people were. He knew that he wanted Simon and Andrew, so he went to where they were casting their nets. Similarly, it is wonderful to see so many opportunities for encounter in the context of the Newman Center. This encounter takes place first with others. Coming together in social events or in outreach gives these young people a sense that there is something more to life than what the worlds has to offer.

Encounter with others often leads to encounter with oneself. The small-group discussions and opportunity for confession and spiritual direction lead to a great opportunity for introspection and growing in self-knowledge. This is key to set up success in life and to prepare for the greatest encounter: with Christ.

Sacramental life and life of prayer complete the culture of encounter that we need to foster with our young people.


Jesus calls each of them by name. The personal connection with the young people is key to forming them into disciples. To be a “disciple” is to be a student, to learn from someone else. This is an important stage in spiritual development, indeed one in which we all participate in some way throughout our Christian lives.

Our young people have opportunities to grow in their faith formation. Some, who still need to receive some of the sacraments might participate in RCIA or adult confirmation classes. Others will benefit from the small-group meetings, larger gatherings, and one-on-one encounters to grow in their sense of being a disciple.


The end goal for every Christian is to be an apostle. Christ sends us out. Pope Francis spoke about how the young people are called to be apostles in Christus Vivit.

All should regard us as friends and neighbors, like the apostles, who “enjoyed the good will of all the people” (Acts 2:47; cf. 4:21.33; 5:13). Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship. (Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 36)

Surprisingly, I have been impressed to see students and young adults reaching out to their peers who have never had a religious background. Indeed, they bring them to Mass; the being them to adoration; they bring them to the Newman Center events. They bring them to Jesus! This is the important thing. Young people today, as in every age, need Jesus. It is our job to make Jesus available to them.

Reasons for hope

It is easy to look out at the world and see reasons to lose hope. For this reason, it is such a great blessing at St. Philip’s that we can look at the Newman Center and see reasons for hope. When we are helping young people build a culture of encounter, grow as disciples and be sent forth as apostles; we can look at them and see what we are called to be as well.

What can we do?

In conclusion, we want to share in the beautiful vocation of the first apostles. So, I invite you to encounter, discipleship, and apostolate. Look for encounter with Jesus through receiving communion devoutly and praying as if your life depended on it. Foster your discipleship through focused formation. Maybe now is the time to join a Friends in Faith group or to start back up if you have drifted away. Do apostolate. You can begin by sharing in the mission of the Newman Center by joining us at 7 PM on Wednesday by Zoom to find out more about this marvelous outreach to students and young adults.

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. "Omnis enim res quae dando non deficit, dum habetur et non datur, nondum habetur quomodo habenda est." You can read more about the author here.
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