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The Internet Saint – Carlo Acutis

Image: Wikipedia 

In the city of London on 3 May 1991, a baby boy was born to an Italian mother and a father who was partly English.  His parents Antonia and Andrea were nominal Catholics who rarely attended Mass. Antonia came from a non-practising family and his father’s faith was lukewarm.

They might well have chosen not to baptise their son, or to leave the choice to him in his adult life.  However, on 18 May at the Church of Our Lady of Dolours on Fulham Road, in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a parish dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima he was baptised Carlo Maria Antonia.  How could Antonia and Andrea have imagined that 33 years later their son would be in line to become the first millennial saint?

A few months after his birth Andrea Acutis left his executive position at a London bank and the family moved to Milan.  In most ways, Carlo was a perfectly normal little boy growing up.   An only child, (his mother would go on to have twins four years after his death) at the age of four he began pre-school, which he enjoyed immensely since he liked the company of other children.  His summers were spent with his maternal grandparents in Cantola, a town in the southern region of Campania.  Here, he immersed himself in the beauty of the sea and nature.

A significant moment came when he visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompeii at the age of five.  His Polish babysitter, Beata, a committed Catholic, who looked after Carlo for four years, recalls his devotion to the Blessed Mother and how he consecrated himself to Our Lady of the Rosary at Pompeii, “He made us take him there to do the special consecration…and afterward all of us together recited the Rosary before the miraculous image of the holy Virgin.”

There Should be Queues

As he grew Carlo developed a passion for playing video games, Pokémon and PlayStation, but, with a discerning sense of the risks, he limited himself to doing so for not more than two hours each week, as penance and a spiritual discipline.  He played sports, loved animals (he had two cats, four dogs and lots of goldfish), played the saxophone and had a sweet tooth. He learned how to use the Internet at an early age and taught himself computer programming and graphic design.

Carlo always wanted to visit churches and would stay to pray before the Blessed Sacrament after daily Mass.  He often asked his parents to take him to the birthplaces of saints and the sites of Eucharistic miracles.  His whole life was animated by the Holy Eucharist.  Desiring that others would come to know the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as he did, he created a website cataloguing different Eucharistic miracles. For each miracle he created a web page that could be downloaded and printed; he also included maps, videos and a virtual museum on site.   Antonia recalls him saying, “There are queues in front of a concert, in front of a football match, but I don’t see these queues in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”

His devotion inspired his parents to practice their Faith and his mother became especially devout, enrolling in a theological course so that she could better answer her son’s religious questions.

Carlo’s love spilled over into concrete love and care of others, especially of the poor. He spent money he had earned on items for people experiencing poverty, such as a sleeping bag for a man without a home whom he had encountered on his way to church.  He would frequently defend schoolmates who were bullied.

He also sought to help elderly and disabled people in his community as well as refugees. He documented his spiritual progress by keeping a diary, in which he wrote down his “good marks” for good behavior and “bad marks” for when he fled to live up to his own expectations.

Death and Beyond

In October 2006, when he was 15 years old, Carlo fell ill with what was initially believed to be the fu.  However, his symptoms worsened, and he was taken to a hospital in Milan, where he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and offered his sufferings to Pope Benedict XVI and the Church.  He was transferred to a hospital in Monza and within a few days he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and fell into a coma; he was pronounced dead on the twelfth day of the same month.

His body was placed in the family tomb in Ternengo, Biella, before his remains were transferred to the cemetery of Assisi in 2007, in accordance with his own wishes.

The cause for his beatification and canonization opened in 2012 and received approval from the Holy See the following year.  On 5 July 2018, he was declared “Venerable” by Pope Francis.  The first miracle attributed to him happened in early 2020, in response to a Brazilian boy born with a malformed pancreas having been healed after praying to Carlos for his intercession and receiving one of his relics.  Pope Francis beatified him on 10 October 2020.

In a decree on the 23rd of this month, the pope recognized a second miracle attributed to Carlo. This involved the healing of a 21-year-old girl from Costa Rica named Valeria Valverde, who was near death after seriously injuring her head in a bicycle accident while studying in Florence.

This has paved the way for his likely canonization in 2025.

“Not I, but God.”

Written by Marie–Therese Cryan

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