Do you ever feel as if all the saints are holy but unrelatable priests and religious who lived centuries ago? Even though there actually are quite a few outstanding lay saints in both the single and married vocations if you look hard enough, there definitely aren’t many whose day to day lives seem similar to our own here in the twenty-first century.
But a young man who was recently beatified (made one step below a saint by the Church) this month was actually born in 1991! Blessed Carlo Acutis is the first millennial to be beatified. If Catholic Twitter is a decent representation of young Catholics’ thoughts on Carlo, there are a lot of people who are pretty excited about him.
This excitement is for good reason. Carlo was a computer programmer and a jokester. He enjoyed video games and sweets. Carlo lived an extraordinarily holy life before his death at the young age of fifteen.
Read on to discover more about the life of Carlo Acutis and what Catholic singles can learn from him about striving for holiness in our ordinary lives.
His holy young example
Carlo was born in 1991 to Italian parents who were living in London at the time. They moved to Milan shortly after he was born.
Carlo was an only child, and he didn’t have the benefit of a strong upbringing in the Catholic faith. Instead, as his mother describes in an interview with Catholic News Agency, she was a fallen-away Catholic who did not go to Mass on any kind of regular basis during Carlo’s early years.
Somehow, Carlo began to grow in faith and in the desire to be holy, despite his family’s lack of involvement in Catholicism.
When he was seven years old, he received his first holy Communion. From then on, he attended Mass every day. His excitement for the faith drew his parents to return to the sacraments and to seek further instruction themselves.
Carlo strove for holiness in his daily life
Despite the unusual way Carlo began on the path to holiness, he was not some perfect, inhuman saint during his lifetime. Rather, he was a regular kid who went to school and who had friends and hobbies.
When Carlo learned of his friends’ parents divorce, he made a special effort to support those friends in every way he could. He was also known to defend classmates who were the victims of bullying.
Carlo loved sweets and video games, but despite his love for both of these things, he actively worked to grow in self-control. He even decided to limit himself to one hour of video games per week. He said, “What is the use of winning one thousand battles if you can’t beat your own passions?”
Carlo also made efforts to overcome his tendency towards disruptive behavior in class. He had a gift for humor, often making classmates and teachers laugh at his comments. But he realized that his remarks often annoyed others and disrupted the class, so he worked on growing in self-restraint in this area as well.
On one occasion, Carlo received a diary as a gift. He decided to use it to track his moral progress. He would give himself good marks when his behavior was good and bad marks when he did not meet his own expectations.
Carlo was also known for being charitable and generous. With the first money he ever saved up, he bought a sleeping bag for a homeless man whom he often saw.
Carlo picked several saints to be his models and patrons, including Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Bernadette, Saint Tarcisius, and Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
A passionate devotion to the Eucharist
Carlo had a deep love for the Eucharist. He firmly believed that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. People who weren’t eager to encounter Christ in the Eucharist confused Carlo.
He liked to say that the Eucharist was his “highway to Heaven.” Carlo often prayed before the Tabernacle before or after Mass. When he was eleven years old, he started researching the various Eucharistic miracles.
Carlo was skilled at computer programming. He decided to use these skills to create a website cataloging these Eucharistic miracles. He wanted to share these miracles with the world so that others could grow in their faith.
His early and holy death
As Carlo began the school year in 2006, he felt unwell. His parents suspected he had the flu, but it didn’t go away.
When his parents took him to the hospital, Carlo said, “I’m not getting out of here.” His words proved to be prophetic. Soon after, doctors diagnosed him with one of the worst forms of leukemia.
Carlo had hoped to make a pilgrimage to the sites of all the Eucharistic miracles that were known, but his disease made this impossible.
But he didn’t wallow in his sufferings or complain. “I offer to the Lord the sufferings that I will have to undergo for the Pope and for the Church, so as not to have to be in Purgatory and be able to go directly to Heaven,” he said instead.
One of his doctors asked about his pain, and Carlo said that there are people who suffer much more than he was.
Carlo died on October 12, 2006, at the age of fifteen. He remains for us a holy example of how to suffer, how to avoid the trap of settling for mediocrity, and how to strive for holiness in even the most ordinary of circumstances.
Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us!