30 Under 30: Saints

This post continues our 30 under 30 series. After listing 30 folks today that are making an impact in the Church and the world, we decided to list six saints who died before the age of 30 as well.

“How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been;
how gloriously different are the saints.” – C.S. Lewis

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Age: 24

Death: Polio. July 4, 1925

Country: Italy

For More Info: Frassati USA

Pier Giorgio was born into a wealthy and politically powerful family. He was a man of prayer, deep friendship, and social action. He often said, “Charity is not enough; we need social reform.”

He was a lover of the poor, and would sneak away to care for them, without his family’s knowledge or approval.

He was politically charged and outspoken against Mussolini’s fascism, attending rallies and even imprisoned briefly for doing so.

He was a complete prankster.

With evangelical zeal, he encouraged his friends to embrace their Catholic faith, oftentimes making bets and gambles, just to get them to attend Mass with him.

Yet, perhaps most compelling, was the “ordinary” quality to Pier Giorgio’s life. He loved the outdoors, including hiking and mountain climbing. He enjoyed drinking with friends and smoking a good pipe. He fell in love and had his heart broken. He desired to enter seminary, but his agnostic father forbade him. He died before ever “finding his vocation,” but this did not stop him from reaching sainthood.

Pier Giorgio contracted polio and died within days of his family realizing he was ill. Never discovering his visits to the slums, the Frassati family was shocked when thousands of Italy’s poor lined the streets for his funeral. The poor, not knowing he came from wealth, were just as surprised to find the rich there. Even in death, he left his legacy to live by: “To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live, but to ‘get along;’ we must never just ‘get along.’”

In 1981, over 50 years after death, his body was discovered to be incorrupt.

St. Joan of Arc

Age: 19

Death: Martyred. May 30, 1431

Country: France

For More Info: Joan of Arc Archive

At age seventeen, Joan was given charge over a small French army to help protect her wavering homeland against the siege of the English. She rallied the troops-casting out the prostitutes from their camp (by her sword, sometimes-according to eyewitness reports), requiring the soldiers to go to Mass and Confession frequently and to give up swearing.

Men, who had previously given up hope in the French cause, began to enlist under Joan as word spread that a saint now led the army. They enjoyed a series of military victories, including the siege of Orleans during which, Joan was shot in the neck by an arrow but continued to lead the army through the rest of the day’s fighting. She was betrayed at Compiegne and captured while her army was forced to retreat.

Once in prison, Joan was constantly defending herself against the rape-attempts of the guards. For this reason, she refused to give up her soldiers’ clothes in exchange for a dress. Eventually, she was convicted as a heretic for her cross-dressing, as well as an adulteress and a sorceress, and was sentenced to burn at the stake. Within 30 years, she was cleared of all guilt.

From Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain:

“She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honest was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; … she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; … she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

Age: 24

Death: Tuberculosis. Sept. 30, 1897

Country: France

For More Info: Catholic Online

“I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations… My vocation, at last I have found it… My vocation is Love!” – Therese of Lisieux

She is one of the most popular saints in the history of Catholicism. At the age of four, Therese lost her mother to breast cancer, and she grew up as an emotional, sensitive child. She was known to burst into tears at the slightest criticism.

Her “conversion” was simple—an act of swallowing her tears and overcoming her sensitivity at age 14. But it is fitting for Jesus’ power to work in the heart of this saint in such a seemingly small manner, for her spirituality was to become known as “The Little Way.” What makes Therese extraordinary is that she knew her littleness; her recognition of her weakness was the driving force behind her reckless trust in the Love of God.

Upon entering a Carmelite convent at age 15, Therese welcomed her small sufferings as a chances to grow in love for Jesus: every word, every glance, every false accusation, she would unite with the Cross for the sake of Christians around the world and missionaries “in the field.” Her sacrifices went largely unnoticed. Even as Therese lay dying of tuberculosis, another nun commented that there would be nothing significant to say about her. But death could not stifle her desire to love: “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens; I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”

St. Charles Lwanga & Companions

Age: 21

Death: Martyred. June 3, 1886

Country: Uganda

For More Info: Catholic Online

For only six years, The Society of Missionaries of Africa (the “White Fathers”) had been evangelizing and raising up converts in Uganda. In a model of Christian discipleship, many of the early converts, like Charles Lwanga, were already carrying on the work of evangelization and instructing others in the Faith.

Charles served as chief page in King Mwanga II’s court. The king was known to be violent as well as a pedophile, preying on the boys and young men of his court. Charles, who was newly baptized, took it upon himself to protect the young boys of the court from Mwanga’s advances.

Suspicious of his pages’ absence, the whole court was brought before King Mwanga in May of 1886. In a rage, he said, “Those who do not pray, stand by me; those who pray, stand over there.” With great courage, Charles led 24 young pages, ages 13 to 25, to proclaim their Christian faith. They were condemned to march 37 miles to their place of execution.

Along their march, they passed the home of the White Fathers—their first evangelists. The priests were awestruck at the sight. One, Fr. Lourdel, raised his hand in absolution as the boys passed by. One of the youngest said to him, “Why are you so sad? This nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to.”

Several died along the march; the rest were burnt alive. As the fires roared, they called out, “You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls.”

St. Perpetua (with her slave, Felicity)

Age: 22

Death: Martyred. March 7, 203 A.D.

Country: Ancient Carthage (North Africa)

For More Info: Catholic Online and The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity

From The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas:

“First the heifer tossed Perpetua and she fell on her back. Then sitting up she pulled down the tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, thinking more of her modesty than of her pain. Next she asked for a pin to fasten her untidy hair: for it was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.”

(Proof that human nature never changes: while dying, she asks for a hair-tie.)

“Then she got up. And seeing that Felicitas had been crushed to the ground, she went over to her, gave her hand, and lifted her up… then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat.”

The women, both mothers of newborns, had been led to the arena and scourged by a line of gladiators before a rabid cow was set loose on them. Finally, they exchanged the kiss of peace and were put to the sword.

Want to view all of the 30 under 30? Click here!

Kevin Cotter
Kevin Cotter
Kevin Cotter is the Executive Director of Programming at Amazing Parish. He previously served with FOCUS for 11 years as a missionary and Sr. Director of Curriculum. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Benedictine College and a master’s degree in Sacred Scripture from the Augustine Institute. He is the author of numerous FOCUS resources and Bible studies and several books, including Dating Detox with his wife Lisa and Called: Becoming a Disciple in a Post-Christian World. Kevin currently resides in Denver, CO with his wife, Lisa, and their children.

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