By Mike Mastromatteo | OSV News
Two recent releases on the life and work of Blessed Carlo Acutis bring very different perspectives yet tell us similar things about faith and holiness. In this case a little repetition becomes a helpful thing.
Carlo Acutis, beatified by Pope Francis in 2020, is the 15 year-old Italian millennial who is almost single handedly leading his generation into Eucharistic appreciation; his fascination with miracles associated with the Holy Eucharist becomes a moving witness to the truth that a Christ-centered life is available for the asking.
Blessed Carlo died of leukemia in 2006 but not before convincing just about everyone who came into his life of the beauty of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and their understated importance in extending divine grace to believers.
With “My Son Carlo,” Acutis’ mother Antonia Salzano Acutis outlines how her son’s humble example not only rekindled her faith and her spiritual practices, but also influenced those fortunate enough to encounter him. “It was he who brought us close to God. It was not that we were opposed to faith. We were just used to living without it,” Antonia writes. “The arrival of Carlo in our lives was like a prophecy, an invitation to look at things from a different angle, to be different, to dive deeply.”
The Acutises were materially well-off, able to provide good schools and frequent travel opportunities for their spiritually precocious son. Antonia relates how the young Carlo developed an immediate love for the daily Mass, and — from an early age — seemed to stand apart from his contemporaries. Like another Italian young man from a prosperous family, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Carlo eschewed material possessions, often organizing collections for the poor and homeless in his neighborhood.
A mother’s recollection is always moving. However, additional remarks from priests, religious sisters and church authorities who knew her son slow down the pacing of the story. This is remedied, though, by the inclusion of the beato’s own written commentaries that give insight into this young man’s surprisingly mature, nuanced spiritual imagination, and reveal the communication skills of an emerging saint. Calling the Eucharist a “second Incarnation,” he writes, “In other words, Jesus is with me, and I with him, as an extremely personal, individual fact.”
Antonia believes her son began interceding in the lives of suffering followers almost immediately after his death. “I am deeply convinced that Carlo, in imitation of Jesus, was God’s chosen victim for the salvation of many,” she says.
A second new release, “Blessed Carlo Acutis, A Saint in Sneakers,” by Courtney Mares, is a more dispassionate look at a remarkable and inspiring life. A Vatican correspondent for Catholic News Agency, Mares skillfully weaves together the facts of Carlo’s upbringing and his development into the first-ever “millennial saint.” She describes how the teen used technology to research and connect people to the supernatural realities of our lives, in which miracles are possible because God — in the form of the Eucharist — is truly present on Earth.
As an internet-savvy millennial, Blessed Carlo helped the Vatican improve its somewhat clunky website. He also designed a web-based exhibition of Eucharistic miracles throughout history that he had cataloged himself. This work has been seized upon by a worldwide audience desperate for reminders that this world is not all there is, and that the divine plan is for everyone.
“What Carlo had longed for in his lifetime was finally coming true after his death,” Mares notes. “More and more people were learning about Eucharistic miracles and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”
Mares describes Carlo as a “heavenly intercessor” — plugged into the lived-online lives of his fellow millennials as an advocate and guide. “Carlo Acutis will hopefully be not only the first millennial saint but the first of many future generations of Catholic saints who reached the heights of holiness while using computers and other new technologies,” Mares says in her reporting. “It is possible to use the information superhighway to spread the Gospel, just as the early Christians used Roman roads.”
Taken together, these two new releases detail the remarkably mature holiness of Blessed Carlo Acutis — a holiness that inspires wonder even amid suffering.
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Mike Mastromatteo is a writer, editor and book reviewer from Toronto.