By announcing, on July 19, 2018, that he would canonize the young Italian layman Nunzio Sulprizio (1817-1836) on October 14, during the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Pope Francis gives a model to young people.
A young orphan, Nunzio was raised by his maternal grandmother until he was nine. At the death of the latter, he is gathered by an uncle, who exploited and mistreated him mercilessly. As often as he could, Nunzio took refuge in front of the Tabernacle to be in the company of Jesus.
Afflicted by gangrene in one leg, he was sent to the Hospital of the Incurables of Naples, where he offered his sufferings. “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should not I suffer for Him?” Nunzio said. And again: “I would like to die to convert a single sinner”. At 15, he was introduced by a military uncle to Colonel Felice Wochinger, known as “the father of the poor”, who took him under his paternal wing.
Nunzio’s health conditions improve, but he walked the rest of his life with a cane. He devoted himself to the sick around him: “Always stay with the Lord, encourage them, because from Him comes all good”.
Nunzio wanted to consecrate himself to God, but suffering from untold suffering, he learned in 1835 that he had bone cancer. On May 5, 1836, he was given a crucifix and asked to confess. “Rejoice, from heaven I will always assist you,” he assured the priest who had come to give him the sacrament. He died the same day, at the age of 19. According to the witnesses, his body, deformed by the disease, became beautiful and fresh while a fragrance of roses emerged. He is buried in Naples, in the church of San Domenico Soriano, now a place of pilgrimage.
When he was beatified in 1963, at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI – who will be canonized on the same day – presented him as an example for young people: “Can a young person be a saint? Can a worker be a saint? He wondered. And to answer: “He was not only worthy of beatification as a young man and as a worker, but precisely because he was a young worker.”
In his homily reported by Vatican News, Pope Paul VI said: “Nunzio Sulprizio will tell you, young people…that youth should not be considered the age of free passions, inevitable falls, invincible crises decadent pessimisms and harmful selfishness; he will tell you rather than to be young is a grace, it is a chance.”
Paul VI spoke of the “mysterious” aspects of the life of the young Italian: “His childhood, for example, orphan and poor, marked by many sadnesses, does not invite us to meditation … on the mystery of suffering innocent? How is it that all this unfortunate and failed youth has blossomed from the first years into innocent, patient and smiling goodness? ”
In the course of his meditation, he paid homage to Nunzio’s grandmother, who raised him for a few years “and perhaps unknowingly revealed to this suffering and sensitive soul the first notes of the divine conversation”.
Paul VI invited young people to “befriend” this blessed who died at age 19, emphasizing his goodness: “Humanly speaking, this goodness remains inexplicable; it warns us that we are before the secret … that of holiness “.