Katie Faley: Why modern saints are so important for young Catholics

Cause of Our Joy Katie Faley

A friend from grad school recently welcomed her first son and gave him the name Oscar.

No, my friend didn’t name her baby after the grouchy monster who lives on Sesame Street. She named him after one of her favorite saints, Oscar Romero.

St. Oscar Romero was an archbishop in San Salvador in the 1970s. He was a holy leader and vocal advocate for a stop to the military violence in the country. As an outspoken proponent for peace, he became a wanted target. In 1980, while celebrating Mass, St. Oscar was shot in the heart and killed. His canonization was celebrated in 2018.

My friend was inspired by his humility and pacifism, all for the Church.

St. Oscar Romero is just one of a new wave of modern saints, those who lived and died near or in the 20th century, making waves in the lives of young Catholics. One of my personal favorites is Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, an Italian teenager who died of cancer in 1990. She was beatified in 2010. Growing up, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was also a large part of my interest in the faith. Her “little way” made daily faith easy to understand and live out. She died in 1897 and was canonized in 1925.


Just looking at the young Catholic couples I know having kids, there are Fultons, Chiaras, Giannas, Oscars, Teresas, John Pauls, Kolbes, Zelies, and Caseys.

It’s an entirely different ball game when we have saints from modern times showing us how to be holy. These saints lived lives that we can truly relate to. . . . They know what kinds of struggles face us in the world today.

It’s obvious by the names that these young Catholic parents have chosen that young, modern saints play a major role in our faith formation. We’re moved by heroic stories of people living lives similar to our own. We came of age hearing the stories of these young saints living ordinary lives for Christ.

So many saints came out of the martyrdom of the early Church and the schism of the English Church in the Middle Ages. Those saints are inspiring and have almost certainly played a role in the faith formation of my generation. But we likely will never be called to battle like St. Joan of Arc, executed at the chopping block like St. Thomas More, or sentenced to the arena to be killed by wild animals like Sts. Felicity and Perpetua.

It’s an entirely different ball game when we have saints from modern times showing us how to be holy. These saints lived lives that we can truly relate to. They lived in the same type of houses we live in, worshipped at the same type of parishes we attend, played the same sports and did the same activities, went to the same types of schools we did, and so on. Some of them probably even got email updates from their parishes.

These saints get us. They know what kinds of struggles face us in the world today.


It’s so important to have these saints canonized. These are the saints that are inspiring a generation. They gave us examples of how to live in our modern society and still choose God above all. It may not be filled with the dramatics of the earlier Church, but they are crucial to showing us how we can become saints, too.

We have the unique blessing in the Diocese of Peoria that we get to call Venerable Fulton Sheen our own. For a young person, having an example of sainthood right here on our doorstep can be life-changing. I mean, Fulton Sheen was on TV. Most saints died hundreds of years before cameras were even invented! We can watch him on YouTube telling it like it is and then go visit his resting place at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria or sit in the pew of the parish where he celebrated his first Mass as a priest.

Who knows what the next generation of Catholic babies will be named? I wouldn’t be surprised if the name Carlo comes into favor among the next generation of Catholic parents after Blessed Carlo Acutis — the “internet saint.” Eventually there will be saints that made waves on social media. I just hope to see many more modern saints canonized during my lifetime.

KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at katiefaleywriter@gmail.com.


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