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Today we celebrate an extraordinary 22-year-old modern saint

Blessed Sandra Sabattini

Wikipedia | Public Domain | Altered by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/04/24

Certain saints capture our hearts in a special way, helping us see that we can follow their example. One of these is Blessed Alessandra Sabattini.

Certain saints capture our hearts in a special way, helping us see that we can follow their example and become saints too. One of these, for many young people, is Blessed Alessandra Sabattini, who died 40 years ago on May 2, with the liturgical celebration of her feast falling on May 4.

Sabattini was a holy Italian woman whose life was somehow both familiarly normal and wildly countercultural. The Church declared her venerable just 34 years after she died. On October 2, 2019, Pope Francis approved a miracle through the intercession of Sandra, and she was beatified on October 24, 2021.

Alessandra, or “Sandra” as most people called her, was born in Riccione, Italy, in 1961. She grew up in a devout Catholic family, living close to her mother’s brother who was a parish priest for most of her childhood. 

She kept a journal as a child that revealed her love for God from a young age, once writing, “A life lived without God is just a way of passing time, whether it’s boring or fun, time to be filled in, while waiting for death.”

A life-changing encounter

In her teen years, Sandra met a holy priest, Servant of God Oreste Benzi, founder of the John XXIII Community. She benefited from his spiritual guidance through the youth groups he organized. Soon after, she participated in a summer program for teenagers to care for people who have severe disabilities. 

The experience changed her life, giving her a sense of purpose in serving and caring for the vulnerable. She told her mother, “We worked till we dropped, but these are people I’ll never leave.”

After graduating from high school, Sandra began her studies at the University of Bologna, with the goal of eventually becoming a medical missionary in Africa. She spent her weekends and summer vacations volunteering to care for drug addicts in rehabilitation centers. 

Despite her packed schedule, she made it a point to spend time before the Eucharist early every morning.

Dreams for the future

While at the university, Sandra became friends with Guido Rossi, a fellow student who also attended Oreste Benzi’s youth group, the Community of Pope John XXIII. He shared her dream of becoming a medical missionary in Africa. 

Before long, the two had fallen in love and became engaged to be married. Their decision to live a chaste engagement, which they openly shared with their friends, stood out in the university and youth culture around them.

Sandra spoke of the need for holy men and women to strive not only to avoid evil but to aim for greatness: “Today there are too many merely good Christians, while the world needs saints.” 

An unforgettable legacy

Sadly, her own dreams of medical missionary work were not realized. She and a friend were struck by a car on April 29 in 1984. Her condition was sever and she went into a coma, dying some days later, on May 2. She was only 22. 

We can only imagine how heartbroken her friends and family were, especially her fiance, but her legacy lives on: Her life continues to inspire countless people today. 

There is so much to learn from her as she showed the world what it looks like to serve others, love deeply, and live for God.

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