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Doctor, surfer, seminarian, and on his way to sainthood!

Venerable Guido Vidal França Schäffer surfing

Guido Vidal França Schaffer/Facebook

Ricardo Sanches - published on 06/02/23

The Brazilian doctor-turned-seminarian died in a tragic accident while surfing. He was declared venerable on May 20, 2023.

Holiness should not be something distant from us. Since the start of Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate, the Church has recognized more saints than ever. This serves to highlight the sanctity present in all ranks of the faithful and to inspire more people to realize that holiness is within the reach of everyone.

In fact, on May 20, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints recognized the heroic virtues of 9 more people, including priests, nuns, and laity from around the world, thus declaring them venerable. Among them is a young Brazilian, the now-venerable Guido Vidal França Schäffer.

This man has captured the attention of people around the world with his youth, enthusiasm for life, and relatability for young people today, reminiscent of Pier Giorgio Frassati or Chiara Badano

Soon after the announcement of the decree recognizing his virtues, a social media post with an image of the young man surfing and with the words “Guido Schäffer is now venerable” (in Portuguese) flooded the social networks. In fact, the thousands of shares are just a sample of the love and affection that Brazilians and people around the world feel for the “surfer angel.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Guido Schäffer (@guido_schaffer)

Who was Guido Schäffer?

Guido Vidal França Schäffer was born on May 22, 1974, in Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The son of fervent Catholics, from a very young age he was encouraged to follow God’s ways. He graduated from medical school in Rio de Janeiro and worked at the Santa Casa de Misericórdia Hospital. He practiced medicine for eight years. During that time, he mainly dedicated himself to the care of economically disadvantaged patients and people with HIV/AIDS.

The year after participating in the Meeting of Families on the occasion of the visit of Saint John Paul II to Rio de Janeiro in 1997, he started the Fire of the Holy Spirit (Fogo do Espírito Santo) prayer group in the parish he attended. Inspired in part by that experience and a trip to Europe in 2000 for the beatification of the protomartyrs of Brazil, he decided to enter the seminary. He left his profession and broke up with his girlfriend to give his life completely to God’s service.

He died on May 1, 2009, shortly before he was supposed to be ordained a priest. He was surfing at Recreio dos Bandeirantes beach when he was hit on the back of the head by a surfboard. Guido suffered a concussion, lost consciousness, and drowned.

Venerable Guido Schäffer holding a statue of Padre Pio
Guido Schaffer holding a statue of St. Padre Pio

The cause for beatification

The beatification process for Guido Schäffer was opened in January 2015. The diocesan stage ended in October 2017 and all documentation was sent to the Holy See. On May 20, 2023, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints recognized the heroic virtues of Guido Schäffer, who thus became venerable.

The decree of recognition of virtues is an important step in the cause for beatification and later canonization. Now, for Guido to become Blessed, the Holy See must verify a miracle that occurrs through his intercession. This can still take a long time.

“With this decree Guido receives the title of Venerable. We will continue to publicize Venerable Guido Schäffer with the same commitment, asking for his intercession and waiting for us to have a miracle recognized so that he can become Blessed,” posted the Guido Schäffer profile on Instagram.

An example for the world

Guido Schäffer’s example of life is proof that holiness is for everyone, regardless of age, social class, lifestyle, or profession. Saints are those who sow love, mercy, and the teachings of Jesus wherever they go.

Alongside Carlo Acutis, Guido Schäffer can prove that, yes, it is possible to be a “saint in jeans” (and even in a bathing suit or wetsuit — why not?). After all, as Chesterton said, “Every saint is a man before he is a saint; and a saint may be made of every sort or kind of man.”

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