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Surfer Guido Schaffer Closer to Sainthood
Guido Schaffer, a seminarian, doctor, and avid surfer from Brazil, has been recognized for his heroic virtue by Pope Francis. In a decree issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Saturday, Schaffer, known locally as the "Surfer Angel" or "Anjo Surfista," was declared "venerable." His story showcases his dedication to his faith, his love for surfing, and his selfless service to the poor.
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The Church may soon recognize a surfer as a saint.
Born on May 22, 1974, in Brazil, Schaffer grew up near the sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana neighborhood. His parents, a physician father, and a mother actively involved in their Catholic parish's charismatic renewal movement, instilled in him a deep love for Scripture and prayer. As a student, Schaffer became an active member of the charismatic prayer group called Cancao Nova (New Song), founded by Father Jonas Abib. After graduating from medical school, he co-founded the prayer group "Fire of the Holy Spirit" with his girlfriend and a priest known as Father Jorjao.
During his medical residency from 1999 to 2001, Schaffer worked as a general practitioner at the Hospital Santa Casa de Misericordia. It was during this time that he began volunteering with a Catholic group providing pastoral ministry to the sick in the hospital. Inspired by a line from the Bible urging care for the poor, he prayed for forgiveness and asked Jesus to guide him in serving the needy.
Schaffer's life took a profound turn when he encountered Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. He started working alongside them, offering medical care to Rio's poorest neighborhoods. He recruited other doctors from his hospital and enlisted young volunteers from his prayer group and hospital ministry to join him. Sister Caritas, a member of the Missionaries of Charity, recalled how Schaffer not only cared for the physical well-being of those he served but also spoke to them about Christ and invited them to receive the sacraments.
In 2002, Schaffer began studying philosophy at the Sao Bento Monastery while continuing his medical volunteer work. Responding to a calling, he made the life-changing decision to leave his profession as a doctor and his girlfriend behind to pursue the priesthood. He enrolled at the Archdiocesan Seminary of SĂŁo JosĂ© in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, where he focused on evangelization and continued his medical volunteering and surfing.
Schaffer's love for the marginalized and his inner peace left a lasting impression on others. Big wave surfer Rodrigo Resende remarked on his deep respect for the poor and the remarkable tranquility he exuded. Tragically, on May 1, 2009, while surfing with friends off Rio's Recreio dos Bandeirantes beach, Schaffer suffered a fatal accident when he hit his head on his surfboard and drowned.
In recognition of his life and legacy, the beach where Schaffer met his untimely end was officially renamed Praia do Guido in 2019. Father Jorjao, who wrote a book about Schaffer's life, described him as a person of extraordinary faith who, despite his holiness, remained approachable and relatable. The Catholic Church now awaits the approval of a miracle attributed to Schaffer's intercession for him to be beatified, marking a significant milestone on his journey toward sainthood.