Today my friend Max told me the story of a turning point in his life.
It was summer vacation and he was a seventeen-year-old teaching English in Spain at a camp for boys.
During the camp, he came across this prayer card with a short description of Venerable Montse Grases, a young woman who “knew how to find God in the loving fulfillment of her work and study duties, in the small things of each day.”
Montse had been diagnosed with bone cancer as a teenager and, “throughout her illness, she never lost her infectious cheerfulness or her capacity for friendship.”
Max was totally struck by the fact that Montse died when she was 17 – the same age he was then.
“That someone my age had been declared ‘Venerable’ was amazing to me,” Max said. “Particularly because I could relate to her insofar as her family life and upbringing were almost identical to mine.”
Max told me that he was always being encouraged, “You can become a saint!” However, it was in learning the story of Montse that he saw real evidence for it and realized that a modern 17-year-old really could live a life of heroic virtue.
“The sanctity for which she was recognized was not miraculous,” Max explained, “but rather consisted in how she suffered. The word I kept coming across whenever I read anything about her was ‘cheerful.’ It was her example of faithfulness that drew people to God.”
The prayer card with the briefest biographical sketch had captivated Max.
I asked, “Can I keep it?” Max recalled with a laugh, since that was obviously what they were there for.
He carried the card with him for years.
Max was impressed by how Montse’s life is celebrated, even though she died so young.
He thinks that her life and death teaches us not to always be thinking about what we may be doing next or planning ahead too much, since this is the reason that we tend to mourn when people die young.
“But because they [people like Montse and also Blessed Carlo Acutis] truly took the time they had and transformed it through love and service, there is less to mourn and more to celebrate. The reason people are so happy talking about these stories is because of the heroic outlook and example of a fulfilled life lived profoundly.”
The impact of getting to know Montse’s story was transformative for Max.
He even told me, “Because I related so much to this girl, the possibilities and opportunities of my life opened up.”
“She had struggles as well,” he noted. “Yet, when I read her story, I realized that I could commit my life at the age of 17 and I was jolted to the realization that I don’t have to wait, nor should I.”
A short life can be heroic.