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World Sept. 24, 2018

Heroic teen joining Romero, Paul VI canonizations

By Hannah Brockhaus

Salvadorans mark the anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador. He is one of seven blesseds to be canonized Oct. 14. (CNS photo/Oscar Rivera, EPA) 

VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News)—When Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador assassinated in 1980 while saying Mass, is canonized Oct. 14, he will have plenty of blessed company, including a 19th-century Italian teen who died from bone cancer.

Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio, who died at the age of 19, will be declared a saint Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.

The young Italian’s canonization will take place alongside six others, including that of Bl. Oscar Romero and Bl. Pope Paul VI, who presided over Sulprizio’s beatification.

At the beatification Dec. 1, 1963, Paul VI said that Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio teaches us 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.”

“He will tell you that no other age than yours, young people, is as suitable for great ideals, for generous heroism, for the coherent demands of thought and action,” the Pope continued. “He will teach you how you, young people, can regenerate the world in which Providence has called you to live, and how it is up to you first to consecrate yourselves for the salvation of a society that needs strong and fearless souls.”

Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, who died in 1836 at the age of 19 after facing physical suffering with patience and serenity, will be canonized Oct. 14 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/courtesy of Archdiocese of Pescara-Penne

Sulprizio said it was “God’s Providence” that cared for him during his short life, and would say, “Jesus endured so much for us and by his merits eternal life awaits us. If we suffer a little bit, we will taste the joy of paradise” and “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should I not suffer for him?”

Born in the Italian region of Abruzzo in 1817, Sulprizio learned the faith from a priest at the local school he attended and from his maternal grandmother.

He was orphaned before the age of six, and after the death of his grandmother three years later, went to live with an uncle, who took him on as an apprentice blacksmith, not permitting him to attend school anymore.

His uncle also mistreated him, sending him on long errands, beating him, and withholding meals if he thought things were not done correctly or the boy needed discipline. The young Sulprizio would take consolation in Eucharistic adoration and in praying the rosary.

While still very young, he contracted an infection in one of his legs, causing intense and constant pain, with a puss-oozing sore. Due to a lack of proper medical care, the boy developed gangrene, and was sent to a hospital in Naples. There he would unite his pain with Christ’s suffering on the cross, also helping his fellow patients.

During this time, Sulprizio was introduced to a colonel who treated him like a son and helped pay for his medical treatments. While in the hospital, the young man was visited by a priest who prepared him for his first confession and Holy Communion.

He also met St. Gaetano Errico, an Italian priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who promised him he could enter the religious order when he was old enough.

Though he experienced periods of increasing health, Sulprizio contracted bone cancer. His leg was amputated, but it did not help, and he died from the illness shortly after his 19th birthday in 1836. One of the last things he told his friend, the colonel, was, “be cheerful. From heaven I will always be helping you.”

Blesseds Paul VI and Oscar Romero will be canonized Oct. 14.  (CNS files).  

Besides Bl. Pope Paul VI and Bl. Oscar Romero, the other canonizations to take place Oct. 14 are Bl. Francesco Spinelli, a diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Bl. Vincenzo Romano, a diocesan priest from Torre de Greco in Italy; Bl. Maria Caterina Kasper, a German nun and founder of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Misioneras Cruzadas de la Iglesia Sisters.

The 2018 Synod of Bishops, a gathering of bishops from around the world, will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment.

SHARE YOUR STORIES
The B.C. Catholic will have stories of individuals whose lives have been touched by Archbishop Romero in an upcoming issue. If you have a story you would like to share about how Archbishop Romero has touched your life, please email [email protected], with the subject line Romero.