Pope Francis has announced that he will canonize 19-year-old Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, an Italian teen who lived a life filled with tragic losses and painful health problems, all of which he bore out of love for Jesus Christ.
The Catholic News Agency is reporting on the announcement that Blessed Nunzio will be canonized alongside the man who beatified him – Blessed Paul VI – as well as Blessed Oscar Romero and several other saints on October 14.
During his beatification in 1963, Blessed 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’s life began in 1817 when he was born into a devout Catholic family in the Italian region of Abruzzo. Named after his grandfather and baptized when only a few hours old, tragedy struck just three years later when his father died. A few months later, his sister died as well.
In 1822, his mother remarried a much older man who treated Nunzio with contempt.
His solace quickly became his faith which he learned while attending school run by a priest. A pious child who attended Mass as often as possible, he came to know Jesus Christ and sought to follow His example as well as that of the great saints of the Church.
Tragedy once again struck when his mother died in 1823. Nunzio was sent to live with his maternal grandmother who was an illiterate but very pious woman. The two frequently attended Mass together. These happy years didn’t last long, however. In 1826, his grandmother died and he was taken in by an uncle as an apprentice blacksmith.
This was the beginning of a very difficult time in his life. His uncle treated him harshly and often left him without proper nourishment, refusing to feed him if he felt that Nunzio needed some kind of correction. He would often beat him and send him on long errands.
According to an article on Catholicsaintsguy.com, entitled, “The Poor Kid Who Could Never Catch a Break,” Nunzio refused to despair. Instead, he would think of Jesus as he beat on the anvil and pondered how Our Lord had been beaten for mankind’s sins.
“As he suffered the ‘scourge’ of inhumane work and treatment, he thought of Christ suffering the scourging at the pillar during His sacred Passion. When he suffered, he offered these pains up to the One Who had mastered suffering in reparation for the sins of the world and so that he might more perfectly do the will of God and to be found worthy of entering into the Son’s rest.”
This harsh treatment eventually took a toll on his health. An untreated sore on his leg developed gangrene which was discovered only when Nunzio collapsed after running a long errand.
He was hospitalized but the sore on his leg would never heal. Instead, it oozed puss and forced him to clean it constantly. It was during his hospitalization that he met Colonel Felice Wochinger, known as the “father of the poor” for his great faith and charity. The Colonel took Nunzio under his wing, becoming like a second father to him.
Also during this time, he was prepared for confession and First Holy Communion. As the Catholicsaintsguy writes, “His confessor later related that ‘from that day the grace of God began to work in him in way that was outside of the ordinary, so that you could see him run from virtue to virtue. His whole person breathed love of … Jesus Christ’.”
Nunzio was also blessed during this time with a promise from St. Gaetan Errico, founder of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, that he could join his order when the time came.
Full of hope and promise, he continued to pray for healing and spent the next two years in a hospital and a spa in Ischia where he read, prayed, and taught children their catechism. He would tell the sick, “Always be with the Lord, because from Him comes all that is good. Suffer for the love of God and with joy.”
Even though there were occasional signs of improvement, Nunzio never recovered. He was soon diagnosed with bone cancer and even after his leg was amputated, he continued to deteriorate.
On May 5, 1836, shortly after making his final confession, Nunzio passed into the arms of his Beloved. One of the last things he said in this world was to the Colonel who had been so kind to him.
“Be cheerful. From heaven I will always be helping you.”
Nunzio’s cause for sainthood was launched in 1859 and he was proclaimed Venerable in 1891 after Pope Leo XIII confirmed that he had lived a life of heroic virtue. After two miracles were confirmed, Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1963. Fifty-five years later, on June 5, 2018, Pope Francis confirmed the final miracle that opened the door for Nunzio’s canonization.
Let us pray to Blessed Nunzio for the strength to bear the crosses God sends us in life and to help us remember that holiness is for everyone no matter what our age!
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