Blessed Sandra Sabattini. / Guido Rossi via Wikimedia (Public Domain).
Vatican City, Oct 25, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
The Catholic Church’s newest blessed is Sandra Sabattini, a 22-year-old woman who devoted herself to helping the poor and disabled before she was killed by a passing car in 1984.
She was beatified on Oct. 24 in the Cathedral of Rimini in northern Italy.
Originally planned for June 2020, the postponed beatification Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Sabattini’s holiness consisted of “opening herself up to sharing with the least, placing her whole young earthly existence at the service of God, made up of enthusiasm, simplicity, and great faith,” Semeraro said during the Mass.
The young woman “gave those who needed it hospitality without judgment, because she wanted to communicate the love of the Lord,” he added.
The young medical student had just stepped out of a vehicle on her way to a meeting of the Pope John XXIII Community when she and a friend were hit by a car. She was rushed to a hospital where she spent three days in a coma before dying on May 2, 1984.
Three days before the accident, Sabattini had written in her diary: “It’s not mine, this life that is developing, that is beating by a regular breath that is not mine, that is enlivened by a peaceful day that is not mine. There is nothing in this world that is yours.”
“Realize, Sandra!” the entry continued. “It is all a gift on which the ‘Giver’ can intervene when and how he wants. Take care of the gift given to you, make it more beautiful and full for when the time comes.”
Sandra Sabattini grew up on the Adriatic coast of Italy. She was baptized the day after her birth, on Aug. 20, 1961. When she was four years old, her family moved to the city of Rimini, to be in the parish run by her uncle, a Catholic priest.
She developed a love for the Lord while she was still a young child, and she often carried a single decade rosary in her small hand.
Recalling her when she was seven years old, one camp leader said: “Often I watched her when she entered the chapel alone, with a doll in one hand and a rosary in the other. She knelt in the last pew and bowed her little head. She stayed there a little, then she went out and happily rejoined the group.”
While she was still in elementary school, Sabattini was sometimes found in contemplation before the tabernacle, even in the middle of the night.
“She rose early, early in the morning, perhaps in the dark, to meditate alone before the Most Holy Sacrament, before others arrived in the church,” her uncle Fr. Giuseppe Bonini recalled.
“The first day of the year, from one to two at night, she stayed before Jesus in adoration. She loved to pray sitting on the ground, as a sign of humility and poverty.”
Besides doing well in school, Sabattini liked to paint, play the piano, and run track.
At the age of 12, she met Fr. Oreste Benzi and the group he founded, the Pope John XXIII Community, which emphasizes service to the poorest and weakest of society. Sabattini felt called to join in their activities to help people in need.
In 1974, she took part in a trip to the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy, where teens accompanied people with disabilities. The time spent in nature and helping those with disabilities left a big impression on Sabattini, who told her mother after the trip: “We broke our backs, but those are people I will never abandon.”
During high school, she continued to volunteer with the John XXIII Community and assist the poor, including from her own savings.
She also lived for a period in one of the community’s group homes, where members welcomed the marginalized, including the disabled.
“I can’t oblige others to think like me, even if I think it is right,” she wrote in her journal at age 16. “I can only let them know my joy.”
At 17, she met Guido Rossi, and the two started dating the year after. For their first date, Sabattini brought Rossi to a cemetery, so they could visit the graves of people who had been forgotten.
They attended the John XXIII Community’s youth group together. Four years into their relationship, Sabattini wrote that dating was “something integral with vocation.”
“What I experience of availability and love towards others is what I also experience for Guido, they are two things interpenetrated, at the same level, although with some differences,” she wrote in her diary.
After she graduated from her scientific high school with excellent grades, Sabattini was torn between leaving immediately to be a missionary in Africa, or starting medical school.
But with the help of her spiritual director, Sabattini decided to enroll in med school at the University of Bologna. It was her dream to one day serve as part of medical missions in Africa.
In the summer of 1982, as a drug problem began to explode in Italy, the 21-year-old medical student began to volunteer at a community for drug addicts.
The year before, she had written in her journal: “Sandra, love everything you do. Love deeply the minutes you live, which you are allowed to live. Try to feel the joy of the present moment, whatever it is, to never miss the connection.”
Sabattini was with her boyfriend, Rossi, and another friend when she was fatally hit by a car on the morning of April 29, 1984.
At her funeral, Fr. Benzi said: “Sandra has done what God sent her for. The world is not divided into good and bad, but into who loves and who doesn’t love. And Sandra, we know, loved very much.”
Sabattini was declared venerable by Pope Francis on March 6, 2018, and a miracle received through her intercession was confirmed in October 2019, which paved the way for her beatification.
Speaking to Vatican News on the eve of the beatification, Rossi said: “I am married and the Lord has given us the gift of two wonderful children. I felt a calling to the diaconate, which my wife, with great generosity, has indulged.”