Teen was ‘influencer for God,’ mother says on eve of son’s beatification

A woman takes a smartphone image of the body of Carlo Acutis in the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 9. The Italian teen, who had a great love for the Eucharist, will be beatified Oct. 10 in Assisi. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) — In early October along the pristine medieval streets of Assisi, a city ubiquitous with references to St. Francis, posters bore the image of a different modern saint-in-the-making: Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old Italian tech whiz.

Before his death from leukemia in 2006, Acutis was an average teen with an above-average knack for computers. He put that knowledge to use by creating an online database of eucharistic miracles around the world.

For Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, the heartbreak that all parents experience over the loss of a child has been mingled with serenity and joy as she prepared to see her son beatified Oct. 10 at the Basilica of St. Francis.

“It’s unusual for parents to (be present at) the beatification of their son or daughter,” Salzano told Catholic News Service Oct. 9. “It’s very unusual because normally it takes a long time. But instead, for Carlo it took 14 years to have the beatification.”

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

Acutis’ beatification, she said, is “an important step for us because we have so many devotees of Carlo all around the world. I think it’s a big sign for them, a great consolation.”

“It’s very, very important that we have this recognition from the church,” Salzano added.

As part of the sainthood process, Acutis’ body was exhumed and transferred to a place suitable for public veneration, the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi.

Placed in a glass case, his body was dressed in jeans and a track suit jacket — the attire he was accustomed to wearing and what is seen in many of the photos taken of him during his life.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

The lifelike silicone mask placed on his face also sparked a debate as to whether the teen’s remains were incorrupt, prompting the Diocese of Assisi to issue a statement Oct. 1 that his face and hands were reconstructed in order to exhibit his remains “with dignity for the veneration of the faithful.”

Acutis’ body, Salzano told CNS, “was found intact. We cannot say incorrupt because the bishop doesn’t like it, because he says the only (ones who are) incorrupt are Jesus and the Virgin Mary.”

“Intact means that the body was like it was when he died. The only thing is that the skin became a little bit darker. For example, if you go to visit the body of St. Rita in Cascia or St. Catherine in Bologna,” a 15th-century Poor Clare whose body is believed to be miraculously incorrupt, “you see that the body is intact but the skin is darker,” Salzano explained.

She also said that his organs also were found intact and his heart was removed and placed in a reliquary that will be displayed at the beatification Mass.

While looking at his body makes it seem almost like he is still alive, Salzano told CNS she didn’t have “a particular reaction” to seeing his body again because she feels she has ” a real, spiritual relationship with my son.”

“He makes himself very much close to me. He gives a lot of signs. Sometimes I dream of Carlo, sometimes I hear inspiration. And, also, he gives a lot of signs to a lot of people around the world. I mean, I don’t really feel the lack of Carlo because he’s a silent presence, but he makes himself heard through many people,” she said.

In his exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”), Pope Francis said Acutis was a role model for young people today who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.”

While Carlo created digital content when YouTube and Facebook were in their infancy, his life and example remain relevant in today’s fast paced age of social networking, Salzano said.

One of Acutis’ most famous quotes, cited by the pope in his exhortation, was, “We are all born original, but many die as photocopies.”

“I think that Carlo was a bit of a prophet of his time,” she said. “Because, of course, a saint is somebody who goes a little bit against the mainstream, the mentality of most people.”

Carlo also worried that often-obsessive reverence for movie and music stars were becoming “a sort of idolatry,” she said. “Carlo used to say, ‘You see queues in front of a football match or an actor or rock singer, but you don’t see a queue for the tabernacle where there is the real presence of God, God that lives among us.'”

As someone dedicated to the “good side” of the internet, Acutis’ beatification during the coronavirus pandemic, in which many must follow the beatification online instead of traveling to Assisi, “is a little bit of sign,” she said.

“I must say that the internet is incredible. It’s a gift. Of course, the internet has a dark side” when misused for pornography, bullying and selling drugs, Salzano told CNS. “But Carlo showed the good side of internet. And we know that the light is stronger than the darkness.”

Carlo, she said, “is an influencer for God.”

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Many are wondering after the lack of response by the Vatican to questions raised about what Pope Francis actually said about civil unions.
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 24, 2020
Saying that his parents "taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age," Trump went on to say that "Melania and I have gotten to visit some amazing churches and meet with great faith leaders from around the world."
Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist, was beatified in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 10, 2020. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Carlo Acutis)
Acutis’s beatification is a beacon to all those who live their lives, for better or for worse, increasingly online.
Mike SeayOctober 24, 2020
“The government doesn’t want to reunite the children with their parent...They don’t see it as their role.”
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 23, 2020