In a world were Islamic terror seems to reign, political leaders are relegated to irrelevant sound bites or tabloid headlines, being politically correct is the only safe way to act and the common caricature of a modern man is either an out of shape, slow witted father or a sex crazed womanizing hunk, there is a great need to fill the void of true manhood.  The main character in To the Heights fills that void.  He’s a rugged outdoors man, a mountain climber.  He likes cigars and a good class of wine with friends.  He’s politically active and never really out grows the common childhood fight.  He was very well known in the social circles and always a gentleman.  But besides being the blueprint of a masculine man, he’s the model of sanctity and on his way to being recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.

To the Heights, written by Brain Kennelly, is a fictional novel based on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  Pier Giorgio was born in the early 1900’s in Turin Italy, living through WWI only to see his beloved country fall to the Mussolini and the Fascist.  He was born to a wealthy political family.  His father was owner and writer of a political newspaper and eventually enjoyed a career as a politician.  He hoped his son would follow in his footsteps.  Pier Giorgio had different aspirations though.

To most, he seemed like your typical youth.  He liked a good glass of wine and a cigar.  He was a man’s man, always venturing off into the mountains and even started a mountain climbing club.  He was a good looking youth, always sociable and well known, but could not tell his feelings to a girl he liked, partly because he was shy  and partly because he knew it was not the right time.  He, like all man, got into fights as a child, but he never out grew it either.  Even though he tried to avoid it, he was ready to fight for a just cause, whether to honor his family name or stand up to the Fascists.

But while he seemed like most ordinary youth, he was different, he was saintly.  Pier Giorgio had a deep love for his faith, which baffled his Catholic-in-name only Family.  Pier Giorgio was a daily Mass goer, frequented the sacraments, spent hours and even nights deep in prayer, whether at home or at adoration.   Even his friends were amazed by his faith.  Pier Giorgio was well known to place bets with them and if he won, they would go to Mass or adoration with him.  He always won.

But beyond that, Pier Giorgio had a deep love for the poor and sick.  He was an active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  He constantly worked to help the under privileged, using his wealth to do so.  For his graduation, his father asked him if he wanted money or a car, Pier Giorgio took the money only to give it away to the needy.  Even on his death bed, a death caused by his love for the poor, he gave his sister orders to finish several endeavors he started before he became ill.  To Pier Giorgio, life was about adoring the true God and showing his love to all people.

To the Heights is a powerful novel, full of such stories from the life of Pier Giorgio.  Most stories are based on the writings of his sister, but some from other sources as well.  It touches on all aspects of his life, his private time with friends and family, his work with the poor, his deep faith, his mountain adventures and his struggles growing up in Italy during World War I and the rise of Fascism.  I’m usually not a big fan of fictional novels, but in reading Brain Kennelly’s work, it does not take long to get drawn into the life of Pier Giorgio.  He was a manly man but a saint on top of that.   He is a role model for all men.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Fassati, pray for us.