“The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.” These were the words of Blessed Carlo Acutis, one of the patrons of the Eucharistic Revival in our country, who died of leukemia at age 15 in 2006. In Carlo’s original Italian, what we translate in English as “my highway” is “la mia autostrada” — in America, more like an interstate than a highway. Because of the Eucharist, Carlo was on the “fast track” to heaven — so much so that he achieved great sanctity in just 15 short years!
One would not typically expect a family like Carlo’s to produce a young saint who claimed the Eucharist as his highway to heaven. Carlo’s mother admits that, before he was born, she had attended Mass only three times in her life: for her first Communion, her confirmation, and her wedding. But we see the graces of Carlo’s baptism at work in that although he was born into a non-practicing family, he begged his parents to take him to Mass not only every Sunday, but even daily. Through his example, his own mother came to know the Lord and to live a vibrant life of faith.
Carlo always wanted to visit churches and would stay to pray before the Blessed Sacrament after daily Mass. His whole life was animated by the Holy Eucharist. Desiring that others might come to know the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as he did, he created a website cataloguing different Eucharistic miracles, still in existence today. And his love for the Eucharist spilled over to concrete love and care of others, especially of the poor, but also closer to home, of a classmate he knew was struggling with a difficult family situation.
At the small beginning signs of the illness that would two weeks later take his life, Carlo offered up his life for the Holy Father (at the time, Pope Benedict XVI) and for the Church. After suffering heroically, he fell into a coma, with a smile on his face, from which he never awoke. He was beatified in 2020 — the first millennial to be thus honored by the Church.
In only 15 years, Our Eucharistic Lord had shaped this child’s heart to be completely conformed to His. Carlo’s life revolved around the Blessed Sacrament — Jesus truly present with us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. American Catholic author Flannery O’Connor’s declaration about the Eucharist could equally have been his: “It is the center of my life. Everything else is expendable.”
What about for you? Is Jesus in the Eucharist the center of your life? Or do other things creep in to take His place? Is everything else in life expendable for you, or do you act sometimes instead as though Mass and the Eucharist were expendable? Does the Eucharist hold the place of just an hour on Sundays for you? Or is Jesus among us in the Eucharist your “highway,” your fast-track to heaven?
Only if we live our lives daily with the Eucharist at the center will we find peace and fulfillment, strength and joy. We must be able to proclaim, Jesus is everything to me. Circumstances can change. It is only God-with-us — and on this earth, with us specifically in the Blessed Sacrament — that is constant. May He truly be the center of our lives, for He alone is not expendable. May the Eucharist be for us, too, our “highway to heaven”!
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.