Need some inspiration? Looking to feel old an unaccomplished? Just kidding… Here are 25 young people who walked the talk and made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
1. Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río (d. February 10, 1928)
Martyred during the Mexican Cristero War when he was just 14. He refused to renounce his faith and was made to march to the town cemetery after having the soles of his feet slashed. The Mexican commander offered to spare his life if Jose would declare “Death to Christ the King.” He instead replied, “Viva Cristo Rey!” and was stabbed with bayonets and shot. Before he died, he drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it. His martyrdom was portrayed in the 2012 film For Greater Glory and he was beatified by Benedict XVI in 2005. Awesome movie.
2. St. Agnes of Rome (d. early 4th century, Rome)
A number of apocryphal stories have developed concerning her martyrdom, but tradition holds that she was born to a wealthy family and had many suitors on account of her beauty and her family’s wealth. At the age of 13, she was condemned to be burned at the stake but was instead beheaded when the flames failed to kill her. She is the patron of chastity and betrothed couples.
3. St. Cecilia (d. 4th century, Rome)
Beheaded after being arrested for burying her convert husband along the Appian Way and refusing to renounce her faith. Her burial site was discovered in the 9th century and her remains were transferred to the Church of St. Cecilia in Rome. Her body was found to be incorrupt when her tomb was opened in 1599 and it inspired the now famous sculpture of her body by Stefano Maderno. She is a patron of musicians.
4. St. Maria Goretti (d. 1902, Italy)
Stabbed to death at the age of 11 after refusing the sexual advances of Alessandro, a boy her family lived with in Nettuno, outside of Rome. During the attack, she repeatedly warned Alessandro that what he was doing was a mortal sin. She was canonized in 1950 by Pius XII, with both her mother and a repentant Alessandro in attendance.
5. St. Reparata (d. 3rd century)
Tortured and beheaded for her faith during the persecution of Decius in Caesarea in Palestine. Her exact age is unknown but the Sainte-Réparte cathedral in Nice puts her age at 15. The Duomo in Florence, Italy (Santa Maria del Fiore) is built over the remains to a 5th century cathedral dedicated to St. Reparata.
6. St. Philomena (d. early 4th century in Rome)
Martyred around the age of 13 after refusing to become the wife of the emperor Diocletian. According to private revelation to Sister Maria Luisa di Gesù, Philomena was beheaded after miraculously surviving scourging, drowning, and arrows.
7. St. Pancras of Rome (d. early 4th century)
A Roman convert to Christianity, beheaded at the age of 14 under Diocletian. His head is contained in a reliquary in the Basilica of San Pancrazio in Rome.
8. St. Prisca (d. late 1st century in Rome)
Tortured and executed for the faith under the emperor Claudius. According to tradition, she survived burning, boiling, hanging on hooks, and the lion’s den before being beheaded at age 13. She is sometimes referred to simply as “the child martyr”.
9. St. Gabriel the Child Martyr of Poland (d. 1690)
Even by the age of 6, Gabriel was known for remarkable holiness, aptitude for prayer, and recognition of God’s providence. Kidnapped from his parents’ home, he died after nine days of torture.
10. St. Quiriqos (d. early 4th century in Tarsus)
Three year old Quiriqos and his mother Julietta were martyred by the governor of Tarsus. After Quiriqos scratched the governor’s face. Quiriqos was hurled down a flight of stairs while his mother had her side ripped apart by hooks. One story says that in a dream, Charlemagne saw himself saved from a wild boar by a naked Quiriqos. As a reward, Quiriqos asked Charlemagne to clothe his nakedness, which Charlemagne understood to be a request to repair the roof of the the cathedral of St. Quiriqos in Nevers, France.
11. St. Crescentius of Rome (d. 303 in Salaria, near Rome)
Born to a noble Roman family, he was beheaded for the faith at the age of 11. He is especially venerated in Siena, Italy.
12. St. Kitzito (d. 1886, Uganda)
One of the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs. He was burned alive under King Mwanga II of Buganda and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
13. Saint Cessianus (d. early 4th century, Rome)
Martyred at the age of 8 during the persecution of Diocletian.
14. St. Paulus Lang Fu, Saint Maria Zheng Xu, Saint Andreas Wang Tianqing, Saint Anna Wang (d. 1900, China)
Ages 9, 11, 9, 14 respectively. These were among some of the younger of the named Martyrs of China who were martyred during the Boxerwere along with 30,000 other Chinese converts to Christianity. From the 11th century to the Boxer Rebellion of 1930, countless Christian converts, missionaries, and religious died at the hands of ruling dynasties, emperors, and movements hostile to the faith. Christians continue to suffer persecution in China.
15. St. Denis Ssebuggwawo (d. 1886, Uganda)
One of the Ugandan Martyrs, 16 year old St. Denis was a personal page to the Ugandan King Mwanga II of Buganda. He was handed over for execution following his baptism and was beheaded, his body being hacked to pieces.
16. St. Olivia of Palermo (d. 5th century)
Born to a noble family in Palermo, Sicily, she was known for her concern for the poor and for visiting prisoners during the reign of Genseric the Vandal. After refusing to renounce her faith, she was beheaded at the age of 15.
17. St. Fusca of Ravenna (d. 3rd century)
Tortured and martyred in Ravenna, Italy at the age of 15 for refusing to worship idols. She was martyred along with her nurse, also probably a Christian.
18. Bl. Laura Vicuna (d. January 22, 1904, Argentina)
Upon making her first communion at age 10 she wrote, ““Oh my God, I want to love you and serve you all my life…I give you my soul, my heart, my whole self.” She was beaten to death at the age of 13 while extremely ill by her step-father. She was beatified by John Paul II in 1988 and is a patron of abuse victims.
19. St. Dymphna (d. 7th century, Belgium)
Dymphna was born to a Christian mother and pagan Irish chieftan. Following the death of her mother when she was a teenager, Dymphna’s father’s mental health deteriorated and she fled to Belgium after he began making advances toward her. He eventually found her and killed her in a violent rage. She is a patron of mental illness.
20. Ulma Family Children (d. 1944, Poland)
Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, along with four of their seven children (one unborn…Wiktoria was almost full term) were executed for hiding Jews in their home. In 1995 they were granted the title “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Their beatification process is underway.
21. Japanese Martyrs (d. February 5, 1597, Nagasaki)
Of the 26 Japanese Martyrs, 3 were very young boys who were crucified during one of several persecution of Christians in Japan. They were canonized in 1862 by Pope Pius IX.
22. Bl. Andrew of Phú Yên (d. 1644, Vietnam)
Known as the “Protomartyr of Vietnam”, Bl. Andrew was an assistant to the jesuit missionaries in Vietnam. He was beheadedat the age of 19 after refusing to renounce his faith during a persecution of Christians. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
23. St. Justus of Beauvais (d. 287, France)
Beheaded at the age of 9 during the persecution of Diocletian for refusing to reveal the hiding place of his father and uncle. Tradition says that he picked up his head and continued to speak, converting pagan onlookers. He is one of several “cephalophores” or “head carrying” saints. The city of Saint-Jus-en-Chausee is named after him and situated on the supposed site of his martyrdom.
24. Eulalia of Merida (d. 304, Merida, Spain)
Her mother tried to raise her away from the cities because of laws requiring citizens to worship Roman gods. When Eulalia found out, she ran straight to a Roman court to declare her Christian faith and insult the Roman gods. She was burned at the stake at age 14, all the while taunting her executioners.
25. Bl. Albertina Berkenbrock (d. 1931, Brazil)
Born to humble and pious farmers, Albertina was attacked by one of her father’s workers, who tried to rape her when she was 12 years old. To preserve her chastity she attempted to fight him off, but he slit her throat. He later confessed to her murder and two others, as well. Albertina was beatified in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.