The Saints and Blesseds of World Youth Day

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada.  He is the Canadian Bishops’ Conference national coordinator for World Youth Days in Canada.  He also assists the Holy See Press Office with English language media relations.

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During his Pontificate, Blessed John Paul II spoke often to young people about the call to holiness and the vocation to be saints. In his message for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, the Popes words became the rallying cry for the Jubilees greatest celebration:

Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.

Two years later, at World Youth Day in Canada, John Paul II took up once again the theme of holiness and saints in his message to us:

Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect Gods glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Churchs history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!

At the concluding Mass of Torontos World Youth Day at Downsview Park on July 28, 2002, Pope John Paul issued this stirring challenge: And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Churchs life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the momentum of John Pauls invitations and exhortations to holiness at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. At the opening ceremony on August 18, 2005, Benedict addressed the throng of young people from around the world:

Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.

In 2005, Benedict XVI spoke to the great assembly of over one million young people gathered in prayer at Marienfeld for Colognes great vigil:  The saintsare the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way:  only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.  

On Sunday July 27, 2008, having returned to Castelgandolfo, Pope Benedict shared with the world his memories of World Youth Day in Sydney.  The Holy Father spoke to the crowd with these moving words: 

World Youth Day was transformed into a new Pentecost, from which the mission of the young people, called to be apostles to their contemporaries, was relaunched. They are following in the footsteps of many young saints and blessed, in particular Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whose relics, brought to the cathedral of Sydney, were venerated by an uninterrupted pilgrimage of young people. Every young man and woman was invited to follow the example of the young saints and blessed, to share the personal experience of Jesus, who changes the life of his friends with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of God.

For Rios World Youth Day this summer, Pope Benedict XVI assigned 18 Saints and Blesseds as special patrons and intercessors for young men and women.  Let us take a closer look at the striking role models held up for young people today:

1)  Our Lady of Aparecida – Protector of the Church and families

In the year 1717, three fishermen, in their way to launch their nets to fish in the waters of the Paraíba River, found the image of Our Lady. Due to the many miracles and increased devotion She was proclaimed patron saint of Brazil in 1930 and years later it was erected in her honor, a great basilica which hosts millions of pilgrims every year.  The feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida is October 12 and since the basilicas consecration in 1980 by Pope John Paul II, it is also a public holiday in Brazil. The Basilica is the fourth most popular Marian shrine in the world being able to accommodate up to 45,000 pilgrims.  Pope Francis will visit Aparecida during his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day 2013.

2)  Saint Sebastian – Patron Saint of Soldiers and Athletes

Sebastian is a martyr of the early Church.  He preferred the fidelity to Christ before any civil or military honor.  He was expelled from the army and died during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 300 A.D. We can see highlighted in his life bold courage and deep love for Jesus.  Sebastian is the patron saint of soldiers and athletes.

3)  Saint Anthony of Santana Galvão – Herald of peace and love

Fr. Anthony from Santana Galvão is the first Brazilian-born saint. Born in Guaratinguetá, São Paulo in 1739 to a deeply religious family of high social standing, Both of Anthonys parents were known for their great generosity. At the age of 21, Anthony renounced everything and entered into the Franciscan order. In São Paulo, he served as preacher, confessor and porter. Within a few years he was appointed confessor to the Recollects of St. Teresa, a group of nuns in that city.  A herald of peace and love in word and deed, there are many miracles attributed to his intercession while he was still alive. Saint Anthony was known for his intense prayer and for the gift of healing at a time when there were scarce medical resources.  He was beatified in Rome on October 25, 1998, and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on May 11, 2007 during Benedicts apostolic visit to Brazil.

4)  Saint Therese of Lisieux – Patroness of the Missions!

St Therese of Jesus was born in France in 1873. At the age of 15 and with special Papal permission, she entered the Carmelite monastery in the Normandy city of Lisieux.   She lived out her short life with humility, simplicity and total trust in God. Thérèse was proclaimed Patroness of the Missions in 1927 because of her deep desire to be a missionary and her willingness to offer everything for the good of others.  During the World Youth Day in Paris in 1997, Pope John Paul II announced that he would proclaim Thérèse a Doctor of the Church later that year.

5) Blessed John Paul II – Friend to the youth

Pope John Paul II founded World Youth Day in 1984 in Rome. Considered as the Pope of the Youth, he spent his life in dialogue with them, and invited young people to recognize their place and mission in the Church. His extraordinary pontificate of nearly 27 years marked the Church and the world.  He was a witness to hope, to lasting justice and peace among the nations, and a strong believer in the dignity and sacredness of human life.

6) Saint Rose of Lima – True to the will of God

Isabel Flores was born in Lima, Peru in 1576. Rosa was her nickname because of her beauty. She was the first saint of the Americas and is especially noted for her intense life of prayer and penance. Although she experienced many difficulties in her life, she maintained an extraordinary serenity, imitating the suffering Christ. 

7) Blessed Chiara Luce Badano Joyful Witness

After praying and hoping for a baby for more than 10 years, Ruggero and Teresa Badano of Sassello, Italy, welcomed a little girl in 1971 whom they named Chiara.  Even at a very young age, Chiara invited less fortunate people into the familys home for holidays and visited the elderly at a retirement center. When other children were sick and confined to bed, Chiara visited them.  When she was 9, Chiara became involved with the Focolare movement and its branch for young people.  Chiara had many friends, played sports, and loved to sing and dance.  When she was 17, Chiara learned she had a very serious form of bone cancer. Treatments were painful and unsuccessful and left her paralyzed.  Despite her illness and being confined to bed, Chiara wrote letters and sent messages to other.  She inspired everyone who she encountered with her faith and love for others.  Chiara died in 1990. Within nine years, the bishop of her diocese began the work on her cause for canonization. Pope Benedict XVI declared her Blessed in 2010.  She was a normal, everyday girl, and possibly a normal, everyday saint. Chiaras brief life showed us how much one person can accomplish in Gods name.

8) Blessed Frédéric Ozanam – Servant of the poor

Blessed Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam was born in Milan, Italy on April 23, 1813. He grew up in a family atmosphere of deep charity.  In love with existential and spiritual issues, he studied philosophy, where he found arguments supporting the social doctrine of the Catholic faith. He died in 1853 at the age of 40, having founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We invoke him as a servant of the poor.

9) Blessed Adilio Daronch – Friend of Christ

Born in October 1908 to a family of modest means in an isolated town in the interior of Brazil, Adilio Daronch from early childhood loved to pray and serve at Mass. At the age of 16, he was killed alongside Fr. Manuel Gomez Gonzalez, when revolutionaries met them on the road during a trip to visit with distant Christian communities.

10) Saint Teresa of the Andes – Contemplative lover of Christ

Teresa of the Andes (or Juana Enriqueta Josefina de los Sagrados Corazones Fernández y Solar) was born in Chile in 1900 to an upper class family.  Early in her life she read the autobiography of Thérèse of Lisieux. At the age of 19, Juana entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in the township of Los Andes, at which time she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. Within a few months of her admission to the Order however, she contracted typhus, which was diagnosed as fatal. She was three months short She died as a professed nun of the Order on April 12, 1920, three months short of her 20th birthday.

Teresa of the Andes was always aware that her prayer and sacrifice were able to improve and purify the world. An estimated 100,000 pilgrims visit St Teresa’s remains each year in the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada in the township of Los Andes, near Santiago. She is Chile’s first saint, and especially popular among women and young people. Inscribed on her tomb are the words: “Love is stronger.”

11) Blessed José de Anchieta – Apostle of Brazil

José de Anchieta was born in 1534 on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  Anchieta first went to study in Portugal when he was 14 years old at the Royal College of Arts in Coimbra. Intensely religious, he felt the vocation for priesthood and sought admission in 1551 to the Jesuit College of the University of Coimbra. He entered the Jesuit Order and in 1553, when he was just nineteen years old, Anchieta was chosen to travel to the colony of Brazil.  Ordained in 1566, he served as the Superior of Communities and Principal of all missions in Brazil.  A highly influential figure in Brazil’s history, José de Anchieta is considered the first Brazilian writer. He founded both São Paulo, in 1554, and Rio de Janiero in 1565.  José de Anchieta died in 1597 whereupon he received the title of “Apostle of Brazil”.

12) Blessed Isidore Bakanja – Martyr of the scapular!

Blessed Isidore Bakanja was born in 1887 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then the Belgian Congo). He was baptized on August 15, 1909 at eighteen years of age through the ministry of Cistercian missionaries. Isidore was a very devout convert and catechist. He had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he expressed through recitation of the Rosary and by being invested with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. One day after discovering that he was Christian, Isidore’s employers ordered him to cease sharing the Gospel and to remove his scapular. Isidore’s refusal to comply with the demands resulted in him being beaten and chained. However, before dying from his injuries he said that he would pray for his persecutors in heaven. Isidore Bakanja is considered a strong witness to the grace of reconciliation.

13) Blessed Sister Dulce – Ambassador of Charity

Maria Rita de Souza Pontes was born in 1914 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. From a young age she showed a profound spirit of charity. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God at the age of eighteen taking the name Dulce after her mother. There she went on to found the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce, one of the largest and most respected charitable organizations in Brazil.  She was noted for the perseverance and her great care for the sick. She was recently named the most admired woman in the history of Brazil.

14) St. George – Fighter of Evil

St George was a soldier in the Roman Empire at the time of Diocletian. When he converted to Christianity he was tortured and beheaded. Since the fourth century St. George has been venerated as a martyr for Christ. He is represented as one who faces the dragon, symbolizing his firm faith and triumph over evil forces.

15) Blessed Laura Vicuña – Martyr for Purity

Blessed Laura Vicuña is the patron saint of abuse victims. Born in Chile in 1891 to Chilean aristocrats, Laura’s father was a soldier at the time of the outbreak of civil war. When Laura’s father was killed, her mother Mercedes fled through the Andes into Argentina with her two daughters. In search of a way to finance her daughters’ education, she took a job in the Quilquihué Hostel. The owner of the hostel, Manuel Mora propositioned Mercedes promising to pay for Laura’s education, and in exchange Laura’s mother would live as his mistress. Laura attended the boarding school, and with the care of the nuns, began to take a deep interest in the Catholic faith.

Laura soon realized a call to religious life. However, when Laura returned home for the Christmas holidays, Manuel Mora beat her when she refused his sexual advances and his attempts to dissuade her from becoming a nun. She was forced to flee the house to avoid him. When the nuns at her school learned of the conflict, they gave her a scholarship.  Laura prayed to be spared the life her mother was leading, and offered her own life if her and her mother could escape from it. She joined the Sodality of the Children of Mary on December 8, 1901. In late 1903, Laura became severely ill, and returned to her mother. On January 14, 1904, in a drunken rage, Mora beat Laura unconscious. Though she recovered consciousness, Laura never recovered her health, dying eight days later from a combination of the disease and abuse. When Mercedes learned of her daughters offer to die for her, Lauras mother left Mora and returned to the Church.

16) St Andrew Kim and his companions – Martyrs of Evangelization

Fr. Andrew Kim was the first native priest in Korea, the son of converts. In fact, Andrew Kim’s father was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. During the early 18th century Christianity was suppressed and heavily persecuted in Korea, and Catholics had to covertly practice their faith. Andrew Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, Fr. Andrew Kim was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River.  On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized Fr. Andrew Kim along with 102 other Korean Martyrs.

17) Blessed Albertina Berkenbrock – Virtuous with values of the Gospel

Albertina Berkenbrock was born in Santa Catarina, Brazil in 1919. On August 16, 1928, she made her First Holy Communion; an experience she described as the most beautiful day of her life. She had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a model of purity and the patron saint of São Luís.  On June 15, 1931 Maneco Palhoça, one of her father’s employees, tried to rape her. She fought back but when the attacker realized he would fail, he killed her. Albertina Berkenbrock is considered a martyr in the defense of chastity. She was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on October 20, 2007.

18) Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901 into a wealthy, influential family in Turin, Italy. Athletic, full of life, and always surrounded by friends whom he inspired with his life, Pier Giorgio chose not to become a priest or religious, preferring to give witness to the Gospel as a lay person.  At the age of 17, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans and assisting demobilized servicemen returning from World War I. Pier Giorgio loved the poor. He gave what he had to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals.  Just before receiving his university degree in mining engineering, he contracted polio, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. His sacrifice was fulfilled on July 4, 1925.  Pier Giorgio Frassati was a young man who combined in a remarkable way political activism, solidarity, work for social justice, piety and devotion, humanity and goodness, holiness and ordinariness, faith and life.  Pier Giorgio was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1990.  He has become one of the principal patrons of World Youth Days. Blessed Pier Giorgios Feast day is today, July 4.

His mortal remains will be brought from Turin, Italy to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013. 

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On the NET:

Please see the following pages of the the Salt and Light Television <> to learn more about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

The following is the homily of Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB preached on Monday, July 14, 2008 during WYD Sydney at the Prayer Vigil and Eucharistic Adoration with the mortal; remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in St. Marys Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.

Music Video Frassati

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