Blessed Edward Poppe is a contemporary saint. He died at the young age of 33 in 1924.
Poppe was one of 11 children born to a modest, pious family in Belgium. He was an energetic child and an excellent student. His mischievousness saw him often knock things over, even putting himself at risk of being harmed. He was also quite stubborn and never left his sisters alone, though his sisters would often get back at him and would muss up his hair when he was caught combing in front of the mirror. He was also a big eater and liked to devour treats from his father’s store. But in 1902, he received his First Communion and Confirmation and this made him more serious; jokes and teasing became rarer.
In the spring 1904, his father introduced him to his business plans and had hoped to see his son begin a baking apprenticeship. Poppe remained silent at first, though his resolution to become a priest led him to tell his father as much. Not long after, a priest friend of his parents gave a favorable opinion of Poppe’s vocation, to which his father told his mother: “Let’s not be selfish. God has not given us our children for ourselves.” But Poppe’s father died when Edward was 16 years old, and he thought he should take on the family business.
He was drafted to the military in 1910 and served as a battlefield nurse during World War I. His prayers to St. Joseph during that time led to the miraculous freeing of several prisoners of war.
He was finally ordained in 1916 at the age of 25 and served as associate pastor, focusing his ministry on the poor, children and the dying. He also taught catechism and founded Eucharistic associations.
Always a man with a weak constitution, he was transferred to rural Belgium during his priesthood. In 1919, he suffered a heart attack. During his convalescence, he spent most of his time studying, praying and producing thousands of writings against Marxism and secularization.
He also developed a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux and adopted her spirituality. He had another heart attack in January 1924, and died of a stroke only six months later, at the age of 33. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1999.
Catholic News Agency