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surfing saint guido schaffer

Guido Schäffer died surfing in 2009. He was 34. Photos:

The Inertia

A Catholic seminarian who died surfing in 2009 is one step farther down the road to sainthood. Known as the “Surfer Angel” or the “Surfing Saint,” Guido Schäffer broke his neck while surfing off the coast of Rio de Janeiro when he was 34 years old. He hadn’t quite been ordained as a priest yet, but he was well on his way at the time of his death.

Schäffer, who was born in 1974, grew up in Copacabana. His father was a doctor and his mother was active in the church, which put him on his path to priesthood. He was also a doctor like his father. He taught surfing and provided medical services to those living in Rio’s favelas.

Becoming a saint, as you might imagine, is no easy task. The first step came five years after Schäffer’s death, when the the Archdiocese of Rio de Janiero issued the No Objection document that’s needed to start the path to becoming a saint. The next step comes when the Vatican grants something called a Nihil Obsat, which is Latin for “nothing hinders.” Then the person is deemed an official Servant of God. On May 20, Pope Francis “recognized the heroic virtue Schäffer” in a decree issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The last step in becoming an official saint — also known as beatification — is approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Schäffer was famously caring for those less fortunate. He spent as much time as he could working with them after a Bible verse struck him as particularly pertinent for those he saw around him. According to the National Catholic Register, it was from Tobit 4:7. “Do not turn your face away from any of the poor,” it reads, “so that God’s face will not be turned away from you.”


Rodrigo Resende, a Brazilian big wave surfer, noticed Schäffer’s dedication to the needy. “I have never seen someone treat the marginalized with such respect,” he told Veja Rio, a Brazilian publication. “The inner peace that he radiated was impressive.”


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