Getting to Know Young Saints
by Brian Rhude
“Through the holiness of the young, the Church can renew her spiritual ardor and her apostolic vigor.”—Christus Vivit, 50
When I arrived at The Catholic University of America as a first-year student, I had a very specific goal in mind: make friends. I know that sounds pretty common, but I was new to my faith, recently confirmed, and knew that I had to surround myself with a community of young people with whom I could share the journey of faith. I had mentors—older people who had walked with me as my faith was growing and who would continue to walk with me along the way—but there’s just something about being around people your age who share similar experiences and who you can relate to. In the same way, I’ve loved getting to know young saints who I can look to as models of faith and friends on the road. In recent years, I’ve grown in devotion to three young saints, each with different lessons to learn, who offer me a lot of inspiration in this journey of faith.
The first is St. Francis of Assisi who Pope Francis reminds us that, “while very young and full of great dreams, heard Jesus’ call to become poor like him and to rebuild the Church by his witness.” (CV, 52). I forget that Francis was a young person when he heard God’s call, but it makes his witness of humility, poverty, and charity so much more powerful. It’s easy for me to think that an older person can live humility, poverty, and charity in such a radical way, but as a young person in the midst of our individualistic culture, it just seems tougher. But there’s St. Francis, a young person who renounced his father’s wealth, faced rejection, and worked to change the world he found himself in.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was another young person born into wealth and success but chose to follow Christ in a life dedicated to the poor. He died in 1925 and so his experience seems a bit closer to mine. He lived the Beatitudes and constantly encouraged his fellow young people to live lives for Christ, wanting to reflect “the love of Jesus that he received in Holy Communion by visiting and helping the poor,” (CV, 60.). Frassati loved to climb mountains, something that you’ll definitely never find me doing, but it was like a lived analogy for him, climbing verso l’alto (to the heights) physically and in his life as a missionary disciple. I love how normal Frassati was and he reminds me that a life of holiness doesn’t require extraordinary acts, but a life of love.
The last is Blessed Carlo Acutis, who was beatified on October 10, 2020. Acutis died at the age of fifteen from leukemia. He loved computers and was very gifted with them, a reality that should resonate with young people today. More than he loved computers, he loved Jesus and his Church. Acutis helps us to remember that even the youngest of young people can be instruments of God’s love. Sometimes young people are thrust to the side, claimed to be too young with not enough experience, but Acutis proves that age isn’t a hindrance to evangelization and a life of charity. In his youth, he helped the Church to “renew her spiritual ardor and her apostolic vigor.”
I think we can learn a lot by forming relationships with these young saints. St. Francis reminds us that young people, in the midst of all of their struggles and the culture that tells them otherwise, they can live poverty, and charity, and humility in radical ways. Frassati reminds us that a holy life doesn’t have to be extraordinary, but that we can live radical holiness in everyday actions that help lead us and our friends to Christ. Acutis reminds us that we’re never too young to be saints! May these three, and all young saints, be inspirations of holiness that accompany us on our journey with Christ.
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Brian Rhude is the assistant director of summer programs and formation for the Lay Apostolate for the School of Theology & Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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