Carlo Acutis' canonization news leaves U.S. devotees 'over the moon' with joy

Antonia Salzano Acutis, mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, prays in the shrine dedicated to her son at St. Dominic Church in Brick, N.J., Oct. 1, 2023, the day it was dedicated by Bishop David M. O'Connell of Trenton, N.J. Pope Francis formally recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Acutis, a 15-year-old Italian teenager whose birth in 1991 will make him the first "millennial" to become a saint. (OSV News photo/Mike Ehrmann, Diocese of Trenton)

(OSV News) -- News that an Italian teen could soon be canonized -- the first from the "millennial" generation -- has enthralled his devotees in the U.S.

On May 23, Pope Francis formally recognized a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, clearing the way for him to be formally recognized as a saint of the Catholic Church.

Along with Acutis, the pope also advanced the sainthood causes of a group of Franciscan martyrs, six men and one woman in the same promulgation.

Acutis -- who is credited with interceding for the 2022 healing of a head injury in a young Costa Rican woman -- died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15, having lived a brief life of extraordinary holiness that was marked by a profound devotion to Christ and the Eucharist. Acutis' desire to foster awareness of the Blessed Sacrament, along with his formidable computer skills, led him to create a database of eucharistic miracles throughout the world.

The sunny-faced teen -- who was born in London in 1991 and grew up in Milan, Italy -- displayed an early attraction to the spiritual life, reciting the rosary and attending Mass daily, serving as a catechist, volunteering at a church soup kitchen and tutoring children with their homework. At the same time, Acutis was known for his enthusiasm for typical teenage interests, such as video games, pets, soccer and music.

"Blessed Carlo Acutis is an inspiration and intercessor for all young people, but especially for those who are drifting away or alienated from the church or who are skeptical about religion," Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, told OSV News. "He demonstrates that having a clear reference point in Jesus Christ opens up the possibilities of a joy-filled and creative mission, but also and most importantly imparts a holiness through which the meaning and purpose of life is revealed."

"Carlo really was a regular kid," said Michael Norton, president of the Malvern Retreat Center in Malvern, Pennsylvania, which is home to the Blessed Carlo Acutis Shrine and Center for Eucharistic Encounter.

The center, which is seeking to attain diocesan shrine status, contains a permanent exhibit featuring 100 Eucharistic miracles as well as a Blessed Carlo Reading Room and a permanent altar for group Eucharistic adoration during scheduled events.

In October 2023, the center hosted the teen's mother, Antonia Acutis, who shared her reflections on being the mother of a saint who speaks especially to the younger generation.

Norton told OSV News he is "over the moon" about Acutis' pending canonization -- as is Malvern board member Mary Bea Damico, who was what Norton called the "visionary" for the Acutis center at Malvern.

Damico told OSV News that the evening prior to the Vatican's announcement, she and religious directors of education from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had gathered at the Acutis shrine for "a very joyful night" that proved to be "prophetic."

"And then I got a message in my inbox before 6:30 a.m. this morning (about the canonization)," she said. "I can't even tell you the joy."

Both Norton and Damico said that Acutis models how holiness is attainable, even in a world where it can seem more impossible than ever.

"If you look at some of the pictures with him and his friends, he looks like any other normal teenage kid. … He's in blue jeans with sneakers on and with a backpack and a computer," said Norton. "These kids are saying, 'Wait a minute, I'm just like him. … The kids can just look at him and say, 'I can be strong in my faith and I can lead a normal lifestyle. … I can do this.'"

Acutis inspires kids and teens "to live in hope," said Damico, helping them to "understand that we were all created to be saints, and sainthood isn't just something that's for other people. It's for each and every one of them. I talk to (teen visitors to) the shrine, and it really brings me to tears, because you should just see how they're so open to that. They're so hungry for a message of hope."

The announcement of Acutis' impending sainthood also has thrilled Catholic schools named in his honor.

"We prayed this day would come, but never dreamed it would arrive less than two years after opening Blessed Carlo Acutis Academy, an online, Catholic school for students in grades 5-12" located in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, said Michael Lancaster, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, in a statement to OSV News.

The diocese's assistant superintendent, Therese Milbrath, said she is "looking forward to changing the name of our online high school to St. Carlo Acutis Academy upon his canonization.

"His life of faith and his devotion to the Eucharist are incredible examples for teens," she told OSV News in a statement. "We have a first-class relic of Blessed Carlo in our Catholic schools office to remind us that, no matter a person's age, we are all called to holiness."

Lancaster noted that the diocese had named the school for Acutis (who beat out St. Isidore of Seville, patron of the internet) as "a natural fit" and "someone to whom our students could more easily relate."

He added that it is "no coincidence" the school's opening and the advancement of Acutis' sainthood have occurred within the three-year span of the National Eucharistic Revival.

"The Holy Spirit is at work!" said Lancaster.

For Blessed Carlo Acutis Catholic High School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the canonization's timing is especially ideal, since construction has only just begun and the name can be easily updated from "Blessed" to "Saint."

"We chose Blessed Carlo Acutis as the namesake for this school so that our students could easily see themselves living out their faith in this modern world," said Sandra Palazzo, board chair of Edmonton Catholic Schools, a publicly funded school division in Edmonton. "He was a shining example of sharing the love of God. We look forward to having the students of Edmonton Catholic Schools journey alongside Carlo Acutis on the path to sainthood."

But inviting more young people on that journey "depends on us," said Father Francesco Maria D'Amico, pastor of St. William Parish in Philadelphia and a friend of Antonia Acutis, whose 2023 U.S. speaking tour he coordinated.

Father D'Amico, a native of Asssi, Italy -- where Acutis' body lies in entombed in the Church of St. Mary Major -- told OSV News "it's important" to make the teen's life and legacy known in order "to show the world" that sainthood is attainable.

He added that he'd had "no doubt" that Acutis would one day be declared a saint.

Asked if she plans to travel to the Vatican for Acutis' canonization, Damico said, "One hundred percent. I'm going; there's nothing that will stop me."


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