ROME — On October 14, Pope Francis will canonize seven new saints at the midway point of this month’s Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, highlighting them as key examples of how to live the theme of the gathering, which is responding to God’s call in every state of life.
Most of the attention leading up to the ceremony has been directed toward the two towering figures being elevated: Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI.
But a look at the lives of the other five “blesseds” being canonized at the Mass show some sterling examples of responding to God’s call at every state in life.
A saint for youth
Of the saints being canonized this month, each are either priests or religious, many founders of religious orders, apart from one: Nunzio Sulprizio, an Italian teen who died at the age of 19 after living a difficult life as an orphan, and who achieved what has been judged a heroic level of virtue in his suffering.
Born in Pescara, Italy, in 1817, Sulprizio’s life was marked by a series of tragic losses, beginning with the death of his father when he was just 3 years old. A few months later, Sulprizio’s little sister also died.
His mother remarried in 1822 to provide financial support for the family, but Sulprizio did not get along with his stepfather, and was often treated harshly. His mother died just a year after her second marriage, and Sulprizio was then sent to live with his maternal grandmother who, though illiterate, was firm in her faith.
Under his grandmother’s care, Sulprizio attended a school for poor children that was run by a local priest. But when his grandmother’s death essentially left him an orphan at the age of 9, he was taken out of school and sent to work as an apprentice at his uncle’s blacksmith shop.
However, Sulprizio’s uncle was harsh and treated his nephew like a slave, refusing to feed him if he thought Sulprizio had misbehaved, or beating him if he did not perform strenuous errands as his uncle saw fit.
Eventually, the strain of the work became too much, and Sulprizio was hospitalized with gangrene, spending months of suffering offering his pain to God.
When he recovered enough to get on his feet, Sulprizio dedicated himself to helping other patients. At one point he met a priest, the now-St. Gaetano Errico, who promised to allow him to enter a religious order when the time was right, so he deepened his spiritual life and began to receive the sacraments more often.
In 1835 doctors amputated Sulprizio’s leg, as his condition had continued to grow worse. After ordering that a crucifix be brought to his room so he could look at it as he lay in bed, Sulprizio died from bone cancer in 1836 at the age of 19.
He was beatified by Paul VI, who said Sulprizio is someone who shows young people that “the period of youth should not be considered the age of free passions, of inevitable falls, of invincible crises, of decadent pessimism, of harmful selfishness. Rather, he will … tell you how being young is a grace.”
Responding to God’s call
Yet while Sulprizio is someone young people can look up to, the four other people being raised at the altar on Sunday are among examples of living the call to holiness in a religious or priestly vocation.
Born in Milan in 1853, Blessed Francesco Spinelli suffered from severe spinal problems as a child, but he made a full recovery at the age of 18. In his youth, he and his mother would make frequent visits to the poor and the sick.
Ordained a priest in 1875, he traveled a few months later to Rome for the Jubilee Year called for by Pope Pius IX. While he was there, he prayed in front of what are believed to be relics of the crib of the infant Jesus, and during his prayer, he was inspired to establish a new religious congregation for women dedicated to praying in eucharistic adoration.
In 1882 he co-founded the Sacramentine Sisters in Bergamo, however, the first convent established failed, in part due to financial troubles, leaving Spinelli penniless. He then left the city and made his way to Rivolta d’Adda, where he eventually established the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament order in 1892. He died in 1913 and was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II in 1992.
Blessed Vincenzo Romano, from Torre del Greco, Italy, was born into a life of poverty in 1751, but developed a strong devotion to the Eucharist as a child. He first felt the call to religious life at the age of 14, and his parents, though wanting him to be a goldsmith, saw his draw to the spiritual life, and allowed him to enter the seminary.
He was ordained a priest in 1775 in Naples, and became known for his simple, yet austere life, as well as his charitable work with orphans and seminarians. Romano placed a strong emphasis on education throughout his ministry, but his health began to decline after falling and breaking his femur in 1825.
Culminating in a long illness, the priest died in 1831, and was also beatified in 1963 by Blessed Pope Paul VI.
Blessed Maria Caterina Kasper, who hails from Germany, was born in Dernbach in 1820. During her youth, Kasper and her friends would often walk to a Marian shrine near their village, establishing the foundation of an early devotion to God and Mary.
When she was 21, Kasper’s father died and, according to the law at the time, the property had been given to his first wife, meaning that Kasper and her mother were forced to leave their home and rented a home with another family, where Kasper worked as a farmhand.
She gained a reputation for helping others, and, after her mother passed away, joined four other women in founding the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. She died in 1898, and like many of the others who will be canonized this week, she was beatified by Pope Paul in 1978.
Blessed Nazaria Ignacia of St. Teresa of Jesus was born in Madrid in 1889. She first felt the call to give her life to God at the age of 9, however, her parents initially resisted her interest in religious life, but relaxed their position.
Eventually, the family was forced to move to Mexico due to financial difficulties, and it was there that she finally joined the Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly in 1908. She was soon sent to Bolivia, where she tended to the elderly and sick for nearly 12 years.
Ignacia later felt the call to establish a new religious order, and 1925 founded the congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Papal Crusade. She died in 1943 and was beatified by John Paul II in 1992.
Elise Harris is the senior correspondent for Crux in Rome.
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