· Vatican City ·

A youth of our time captivated by Christ

Beatification Mass of Carlo Acutis held in Assisi

In Assisi Cardinal Vallini presides on behalf of the Pope over the beatification of Carlo Acutis

16 October 2020

“The beatification of Carlo Acutis, son of the land of Lombardy, in love with the land of Francis of Assisi, is good news, a strong message that a youth of our time, one like many, was captivated by Christ and became a beacon of light for those who wish to know Him and follow His example. His life is an example, particularly for young people, not to seek gratification only in ephemeral success, but in the perennial values that Jesus suggests in the Gospel, namely: putting God in first place, in life’s large and small circumstances, and serving  brothers and sisters, especially the least”. These were the words pronounced by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Pontifical Legate for the Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, as he celebrated Mass in Assisi for the Beatification of Carlo Acutis (1991-2006) on Saturday afternoon, 10 October.

In his homily, the Cardinal outlined an effective portrait of the young Acutis who died at the age of 15. His “strength”, Cardinal Vallini said, was in  “having a personal, intimate and deep  relationship with Jesus” and in “making the Eucharist the loftiest moment of his relationship with God”. He was “an average, simple, spontaneous, likable young man — suffice it to look at his photograph; he loved nature and animals, played soccer, had many friends his age; he was attracted to modern means of social communication, passionate about information technology and taught himself how to build programmes “to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty”, as the Pope recalled in the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit (n. 105). He also had “the gift to attract and was perceived as an example”, Cardinal Vallini noted. And the secret to his spiritual journey lay in the fact that even “as a boy he felt the need for faith and turned his gaze to Jesus. His love for the Eucharist” — the Cardinal emphasized — “established and kept alive his relationship with God”. He often said, “the Eucharist is my highway to heaven”. He participated in Mass every day and spent a great deal of time in adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament, saying: ‘you go straight to heaven if you approach the Eucharist every day’. For Carlo, Jesus was Friend, Teacher and Saviour; He was his life force and the reason for everything he did”.

Receiving inner strength from the Lord’s presence, Carlo had an ardent wish: “to attract as many people to Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel first and foremost with the example of his life”, continued the Papal Legate, indicating that “it was precisely the witness of his faith that impelled him to successfully undertake the tireless work of evangelization in the environments he frequented, touching the hearts of the people he met and fostering in them the desire to change their lives and draw near to God. And he did so spontaneously, by demonstrating the Lord’s love and goodness with his manner of being and behaving. Indeed”, Cardinal Vallini continued, he had an “extraordinary ability to witness to the values he believed in, even at the cost of facing misunderstandings, obstacles and at times even being derided. Carlo felt a powerful need to help people discover that God is near us and that it is beautiful to be with him in order to enjoy his friendship and his grace”. Despite his young age, Carlo was equipped to communicate the Gospel, making use of various tools, “even of modern means of social communication, which he knew how  to use extremely well, particularly the Internet, which he considered a gift from God and an important tool for meeting people and spreading Christian values”. For the new Blessed, the Internet was not “only a means of escape, but a space for dialogue, getting to know others, sharing, mutual respect, to be used responsibly, without becoming slaves, and by rejecting digital bullying; in the boundless virtual world we need to know how to distinguish good from bad”. From this “positive perspective”, the celebrant observed, “Carlo encouraged the use of mass media as a means of serving the Gospel, to reach the most people possible and to introduce them to the beauty of friendship with the Lord. For this purpose he committed himself to organizing an exhibition of the main Eucharistic miracles that have occurred in the world, which he also used when teaching catechism to children”.

Carlo also had a great Marian devotion. In fact he recited the Rosary every day and consecrated himself to Mary many times, “to renew his affection and to implore her protection”. In this way, strengthened by the Word, by the Eucharist, by his friendship with Jesus whom he served with great charity in his neighbour, and by his filial love for the Virgin Mary, Carlo “experienced the illness he faced with peace”, until his death on 12 October 2006. He repeated: “I want to offer my suffering to the Lord for the Pope and for the Church. I don’t want to go to Purgatory; I want to go straight to heaven”. Carlo “never withdrew into himself, but was able to understand the needs and exigencies of people, in whom he saw the face of Christ”. Thus, his was “a luminous life offered completely to others, as Eucharistic bread”, Vallini said. Referring to the Gospel of the grapevine and the shoots, read on the solemn occasion, the Cardinal said that “Carlo went and bore the fruit of holiness, showing it as a destination that can be reached by all and not as something abstract and reserved to the few. He witnessed that faith does not separate us from life, but immerses us more deeply in it, showing us the concrete path to live the joy of the Gospel”.

Cardinal Vallini was joined by many concelebrants, including Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, and other members of the Episcopal Conference of Umbria, including: Cardinal  Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia - Città della Pieve and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference; Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Martinelli of Milan; Fr Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Sacred Convent; Fr  Massimo Travascio, Custos of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels; along with several Franciscan provincials and many priests. More than 3,000 pilgrims attended the ceremony, many via the jumbo screens set up in the squares of the Basilicas of Saint Francis, Saint Mary of the Angels, and Saint Peter, and of the Shrine of the Renunciation. There was a long round of applause when the tapestry with the face of the new Blessed was unveiled in the apse of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis, after which Cardinal Vallini read the Apostolic Letter with which the Pontiff included the Servant of God among the Blessed. In a procession, Carlo’s parents then carried the reliquary containing their son’s heart  to the altar, as the choir sang the hymn, O Carlo beato, composed by Fr Giuseppe Magrino. At the end of the celebration, Archbishop Sorrentino used the words of the Magnificat to express his gratitude and that of the Church in Assisi first and foremost to the Lord, “who did such beautiful things in the brief but intense life” of the new Blessed; next to Pope Francis, “who gave this gift to the Church, recognizing in Carlo a model of holiness especially for young people”; then to Carlo’s parents, Andrea and Antonia, “who welcomed into their lives  this gift from on high and respected and supported his journey of holiness”; and lastly to the Church of Milan. In conclusion, Archbishop Sorrentino prayed: “May Jesus, with Carlo’s example, help us to always take faith seriously. Above all may young people find the path of true joy, living the beauty of this earth without ceasing to look to heaven”.

Jean-Baptiste Sourou