A book review: To the Heights

To the Heights: A Novel Based on the Life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati


Brian Kennelly

“To live life without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.” Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati


After the recent NAS link-up on virtue and Ash Wednesday just a day away, God placed it on my heart to read and learn more about the life of this saintly young man, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I was first attracted to him a couple years ago because he was a social activist at heart, loved learning and music, smoked a pipe and found solace in the outdoors, but moreover because he loved God above all the world provided him in his privileged Italian upbringing. I’ve read many famous quotes by him and was inspired by his life through other blogs.

10 Reasons to Love Pier Giorgio Frassati

However, I had to go deeper. As a friend has reminded me many times “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” So I took the adventure with my Braille display and Kindle book, To the Heights, and had my life changed for the better by this literary narrative.

Reading this narrative was better than any Nicholas Sparks novel—first I got to know Pier Giorgio for his adoring quirks and humility, then I began to notice features of him which I want to emulate because they would make me a better all-around human. Well, it’s a process which takes time. As I read this book, his life became more realistic; I could imagine the lively conversations he had with his friends while hiking, envisioned the funny jokes with his group of friends called the “Shady Characters”, and longed for the silence and closeness to Jesus he experienced during Adoration.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was only 24 when he died on July 4, 1925 from the effects of Polio which was contracted by working with the poor; he was an ordinary man who like all of us are called to become saints. The story opens with an account of two young boys who sneak out to see Frassati’s funeral procession which one would expect high-ranking officials to be in attendance; however, throngs of the poor lined the streets of Turin to attest to his well-lived short life. We are skillfully taken through his upbringing, introduced to his family, friends and those who knew him best.

Whether it was the homeless man who came to his parents’ house and was turned away, or the children at his Jesuit school who did not enjoy attending Mass, Frassati quietly defied the typical trends in his life. Despite his nonreligious parent’s desire for him to follow in his father’s prestigious footsteps in high society, he spent time in nature, enjoyed nights with Jesus in adoration, attended daily Mass, prayed the rosary, climbed mountains, helped the poor and gave all he had to make life better for those who were easily forgotten or marginalized. He wasn’t annoyingly pious; rather he boldly lived out every day with the love and light of Jesus through his words and in his heart and shared this gift with anyone he met no matter their social status. Though his earthly life was short, his impact on my life has been profoundly epic.

One of many aspects of the Catholic church I absolutely love are the saints. Saints are ordinary people who call us to be more selfless, humbler, great in love and deed along with bringing us closer to Christ. Rather than simply wishing to have his passion for life, his devotion to people and love of God, I pray through our unique ways we can become more like this modern-day saint by living out the beatitudes.

If in a war-torn atmosphere Pier Giorgio could reach the outcasts of society, so can we; with God’s grace we can all come to holiness and help lead each other to to heaven. I strongly recommend this beautifully-written read.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us


“You ask me whether I am in good spirits.  How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength.  We must always be cheerful.  Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls.  For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all.  It is almost always caused by lack of Faith.  But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path.  Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy.” Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Let’s climb Verso l’alto “toward the top”

Until next time,