How often have you met a young adult and thought “Wow, they are so holy”… or looked to them as an inspiration and example for your own faith?
Teens and young adults, especially those in high school or college, are notoriously stereotyped as the opposite of saintly, but there are multiple righteous examples of young Catholics who lived short lives of adventure and holiness. The world might make you think that you have to choose between the fun of being youthful or the sacredness of faith. On the contrary! The two go hand-in-hand.
Prayer, sacraments, and living a holy life not only enhance your life at any age, but they also build your faith so that obstacles, suffering, and other hardships become a part of the adventure—sometimes even to the point where you’re able to joke and laugh through them.
These 5 blessed young people are prime examples of how every Catholic can use their enthusiasm to live life to the fullest for Christ—no matter how short the life.
To be officially deemed “Blessed” means to have been beatified by the Church, which is one stage away from canonization as a saint. Blesseds have been found to have lived a holy life, and, additionally, a Vatican approved miracle has been attributed to their intercession. What follows is only the beginning; there are many more intriguing and sometimes shocking stories about these and other brothers and sisters of ours who spoke out, defended their families, suffered illness with grace, and died with loving prayer instead of hate on their lips.
We encourage you to enter into friendship with these holy young Catholics. Relate to them as if they are some of your very own friends, because they are!
1. Blessed Chiara Luce Badano’s contagious smile and redemptive suffering
An Italian couple prayed for eleven years for a child before the birth of their daughter, Chiara. She grew up a very loving and considerate girl through the guidance of her parents, joined the Focolare movement (a movement dedicated to the unity of all people), attended daily mass, and loved climbing mountains. Chiara Luce was graced with beauty and had many friends. One day, while playing tennis, she noticed a pain which led to her diagnosis of a very serious bone cancer.
Through her experience, others saw the redemptive value of suffering. Her eyes held a bright joy noticed by the many visitors to her hospital room, including her medical team and Cardinal Saldarini. One doctor commented, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” She offered her suffering to Jesus for the sake of God’s will, whether it was the loss of her hair or walking the hallways with another patient despite a painful growth on her spine. She even frequently refused morphine, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.”
Eventually, she was paralyzed and died at eighteen years old in 1990. She gave everything to others — entrusting her life’s savings to a missionary friend and even donating the cornea of her brilliant eyes. She had not asked for her illness, but she received it with a faithful love that trusted God with her life. Even as she lay bedridden and facing death, she still insisted on loving others, and as a further testament to love, she asked to be buried in a wedding gown.
Her cause for beatification was advanced when young boy named Andrea Bartole miraculously recovered from terminal case of meningitis. His parents had prayed for Chiara’s intercession, and a panel of doctors determined there was no medical explanation for the event. Chiara was beatified on September 25, 2010. She is often quoted as saying, “I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”
Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, pray that we see the redemption in our sufferings by uniting them with Jesus’s suffering on the cross and trusting God’s Will!
2. Blessed Miguel Pro’s pranks, wit, and disguises
When it comes to having fun and being faithful to Christ, one could say that Miguel Pro is, well, a “pro” at it.
Miguel Pro often joked himself into near-death accidents while growing up. Rather than pursue wealth in his father’s successful business or marry one of many adorers, Miguel Pro realized his vocation soon after his older sister entered a cloistered convent. Joining the Jesuits in 1909, Miguel Pro traveled through multiple countries while training for the priesthood after a revolution in his native Mexico forced the Society of Jesus to flee the country. He was ordained in 1925 in Belgium, and returned to Mexico the following year. Only twenty-three days later, President Calles banned all public worship and ordered the arrest of all priests.
Fr. Pro took advantage of his little-known status as a priest and celebrated sacraments for the people in disguise as a businessman, taxi driver, beggar, or policeman. He gave everything he could to others, remarking, “As a rule my purse is as dry as Calles’s soul, but it isn’t worth worrying since the Procurator of Heaven is generous.” The tales of his adventures during his short time as a priest are endless.
In 1927, Fr. Pro was wrongly accused of a bombing attack on Calles, earning him a death sentence via firing squad when he was only 36. Calles hoped that many Catholics would lose spirit with Fr. Pro’s death. Instead, Fr. Pro forgave those about to shoot him, refused to be blindfolded, extended his hands like Christ crucified, and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” During his life, he had promised to do the Mexican hat dance in heaven if he met “long-faced saints.” Needless to say, the spirits of Mexican Catholics were not dimmed, but rather were set ablaze by his assassination.
His death was a gift, not a tragedy: “I see God’s hand so palpably in everything that almost, almost, I fear they won’t kill me in these adventures. That will be a fiasco for me who sighs to go to heaven and start tossing off arpeggios on the guitar with my guardian angel.”
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us that we may be as courageous and creative as you in serving the Lord even if faced with a firing squad.
3. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s enthusiastic devotion to God and to his fellow man
“I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of this example, and as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony,” Pope John Paul II commented after visiting Frassati’s final resting place. The following year, the Pope would beatify Frassati, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes.”
Pier Giorgio was part of a wealthy and influential family in Italy and he devoted his life to activism and serving the poor. He was studying to be a mining engineer because he desired to serve Christ among miners. He always put studies first, but was an active member of multiple organizations including Catholic Action and the People’s Party. He even helped start the first Pax Romana group to promote universal peace through the unity of Catholic students world-wide.
As a young man, he gave everything of himself to others. His wealthy father was careful not to spoil his children by giving them excessive money, but Frassiti still used the little he had for others. For instance, he would run home in time for dinner after giving his bus/train fare to the poor. He was a daily communicant and a third order Dominican. He sacrificed summer vacation at the family summer house, saying, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”
In addition to his fierce dedication to serving others, he also loved art and music. He organized alpine outings with friends, and he led companions to the faith through prayer and the sacraments.
He was not afraid to physically defend himself, the weak, or his cause; he fought anticlerical Communists, Fascists, lifted a fallen banner in a demonstration in Rome while using the pole to defend against guards, and chased out fascists who broke into his family home aiming to harm him and his father. At the demonstration in Rome, as his friends were being captured and arrested, he refused special treatment offered due to his father’s political position.
Frassati died from poliomyelitis before graduating the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin. He most likely contracted the illness from the sick people for whom he cared. Despite the tremendous pain, he neglected to see a doctor for himself his grandmother was dying. Before dying, he cared for others before himself still and sent medicine to a poor sick man.
At his funeral, the streets were lined with thousands of people his parents never met who has loved and been helped by their young, enthusiastic, and devout son. His body was later found to be intact and incorrupt.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us that we may be as devoted to others and enthusiastic as you in our fight for our faith!
4. Blessed Fr. Miroslav Bulešić’s courage to speak for Christ, even unto death
Sent to heaven at the age 27, this young blessed was killed in 1947 by communists while he shouted, “Jesus, receive my soul!” The attackers had entered the rectory wanting to kill him for speaking out against their abuses. They pinned him to the ground and stabbed him in the neck to stop him from calling to Jesus. Cardinal Angelo Amato called the murder a hate crime.
Miroslav Bulešić was born in Croatia in 1920 and ordained a priest during World War II. He witnessed hostility and violence between communists and fascists as well as communist abuse of clergy. Hundreds of priests, seminarians, and other religious were killed (or died in prison) when communists took over the region.
“Human wickedness was vented on a helpless priest, and the wolf tore the lamb apart. Hatred extinguished a human life, which is always precious but was twice as priceless this time as the life of a good man,” Cardinal Amato said about Fr. Miroslav.
Bl. Fr. Miroslav Bulešić, pray for us that we may be true to Christ until death and speak up for those in need, those who are persecuted, those who are vulnerable, and against injustices.
5. Blessed Rolando Rivi’s dedication to his studies and undeniable martyrdom
Also murdered by communists in Italy during the World War II era, Rolando Rivi became the world’s first beatified seminarian. He was only eleven years old when he entered seminary and was fourteen at the time of his death. When Nazi troops occupied his seminary, he continued to study, bringing his books home to San Valentino with him. “I study to be a priest, and these vestments are the sign that I belong to Jesus,” he referred to his seminarian cassock and never gave up on following his vocation.
After Mass on April 10, 1945, he disappeared, leaving his books in the woods, where he usually went to study. His parents found a note by the books stating, “Do not search for him. He just came with us partisans for a while.” He had been kidnapped, his cassock taken, and was imprisoned and tortured for three days. While some partisans wanted to let him go due to his youth, those desiring his death won out, calling for “one less future priest.” They took him into the forest and dug his grave. As Rivi knelt in prayer by his grave, they shot him in the head and heart.
Biographer Paolo Risso faced many challenges researching the boy’s death due to political red tape, but was certain that this boy, the youngest seminarian killed during those turbulent times, had died a martyr’s death. His killers’ hatred for Catholicism was so plain to see that they were sentenced to time in prison by a judge. Cardinal Amato compared the criminals to hyenas, who were “indoctrinated to fight Christianity, humiliate clergy, kill parish priests, and destroy Catholic teaching.”
Bl. Rolando Rivi, pray for us that we may also be doubtlessly faithful , devoted to our vocation, and a sure follower of Christ so that no one can deny that we belong to You.