August 5, 2020
A few weeks ago I wrote about the young Italian boy, a wiz at computers, who used his skills to create an exhibition of Eucharistic miracles that has travelled around the world. He died of leukemia at age 15. His Beatification was postponed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Vatican has announced that Carlo Acutis will be beatified in Assisi on October 10. With that announcement more information about this very normal yet so amazing teen has surfaced. The new insights come from an interview given by his mother, Antonia.
Moms often have to drag their teenaged children to Mass and that with no little resistance. Carlo’s mom readily confesses that in their home it was the other way around. In the interview she said, “I was not the ideal model of a Catholic mother.” She relates that she was very much a cultural Catholic. Growing up in Italy she received her sacraments but never really was catechized so that she lacked even an elementary understanding of the Catholic Faith. In her own words, “I was quite ignorant in the faith things.” She went to Mass for her First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Wedding. This is something not peculiar to Italy but can be true anywhere. It is very possible to be a sacramentalized but not catechized Catholic. In my opinion this is one of the most common reasons individuals abandon the practice of the Catholic faith. They don’t reject the faith, they simply do not know it. Antonia found herself deeply challenged by her young son’s example. Antonia realized that Carlo’s holiness was centered in the Eucharist. She recalls that he used to say, “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.” Antonia needed help so a friend connected her with a priest. The priest in turn invited her to attend the parish adult formation classes to learn and grow. She attended the parish sessions and came to an adult understanding of her baptismal faith.
After Carlo made his first Holy Communion, Antonia recalls, he never missed daily Mass, even when the family travelled.
Antonia realizes that this spiritual rebirth and fervent sacramental life was all part of God’s plan preparing her for the great loss that was to come. Antonia said, “Jesus was preparing me and my husband because we got closer to the faith and the sacramental life and he prepared us for this moment for the death of Carlo. Without the faith, I don’t know how we could accept the death of a child – an only child.”
What a powerful and consoling grace it was for Carlo’s parents to accept their only child’s passing at so young an age without anger and bitterness. This in itself seems to be a miraculous
grace they would not have had, if they had not grown closer to Christ and the Church. But there was another miraculous gift in store for Carlo’s parents. On the fourth anniversary of Carlo’s death, Antonia gave birth to twins. She calls this a miracle and credits it to Carlo’s intercession from heaven. The twins came into the world on the exact date that Carlo had left it. Each year when the Acutis family sings “Happy Birthday” (well actually, “Buon Compleanno”) they celebrate the twins birth and Carlo’s birth to eternal glory.
Carlo’s story is a reminder of how powerful our influence on one another can be – especially within our own families – and how crucial the lifelong process of deepening our understanding of the faith truly is.
Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer