A boy kneels in prayer before an image of Blessed Carlo Acutis during eucharistic adoration April 7, 2022, at St. Rita of Cascia Church in the South Bronx, N.Y. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Truly a saint for his time

  • May 30, 2024

Carlo Acutis loved playing Pokémon and Super Mario on his PlayStation. He kicked the soccer ball around with his friends. In the most frequently seen photo of the young man, he is pictured in a red polo shirt. 

“It’s a really exciting time for our Church,” said Pamela Clerigo, 27, the youth minister of St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham, Ont. “He’s somebody that looks and dresses like most of us in the youth and young adult age demographic, and he simply just loves the Lord. I think his model shows people of my generation and the people I get to minister that sainthood is very possible.”

On May 23, it was announced that the London-born, Italian teenager, who passed away of leukemia at 15 years old in 2006, will become the first “millennial” saint. He will likely be canonized before the end of 2025. 

Pope Francis paved the way for this declaration by attributing a second miracle linked to Acutis: In 2022, on the same day her mother prayed at Acutis’ tomb in Assisi, 21-year-old Valeria Valverde began a rapid recovery from a devastating bicycle accident.

James Cyfko visited Assisi’s tomb this past April. The 27-year-old, a seminarian at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto, said it was “very moving” to see Acutis resting in his tomb and said, compared to other saints, “it is a lot easier to relate to Blessed Carlo because of his proximity and the simple life that he led.”

Though Acutis engaged in pastimes very familiar to young people who are in their teens, 20s and 30s, Cyfko said it is important to reflect upon how the teenager stood out in his faith.

“One (question) I was thinking about was, ‘what made him different from every young person who plays video games?’ Unlike most young people there was something that made him an example, and that something was his love for God. It is amazing how attractive that is. When young people see that they’re like, ‘I see something that there is something giving him a joy that does not come from the video games he was playing.’ He could live a life immersed in the world, but not consumed by the world.”

Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, has told media outlets that her son limited himself to one hour of video games a week because he was wary of its addictiveness. He was also mindful of the “dangers of the Internet.” 

“God’s influencer” sought to beautify the World Wide Web during his brief life. He created a website cataloguing each of the reported Eucharistic miracles and documenting a list of Marian apparitions approved by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Motivated by a desire “to transmit the faith,” Acutis worked on this labour of love for over two-and-a-half years. The website was unveiled on Oct. 4, 2006, eight days before his death.

Fr. Joshua Roldan, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth, said Acutis’ fervent passion to evangelize others is what stands out about his online efforts.

“The Internet just happened to be the means he used,” said Roldan. “St. Paul used letters; St. Thomas Aquinas used books. It is not necessarily about the use of technology, the (important) aspect is that he was so excited and joyful about sharing the love of God that he experienced.” 

Pierre O’Reilly’s five years as executive director of NET Canada has shown him that “young people are the best evangelists of other young people,” and that Acutis inspires youth by how he lived and loved.

“I think it is a good witness for young people to see how they can make an impact just by — I don’t know how else to say it — being normal,” said O’Reilly. “He was known for being into video games and computers, which are such normal things. We challenge young people all the time to be in the world, but not of the world. You can do the things that other people do but in a different way that witnesses to how God has made a difference in your life. Elevating Carlo, who was able to do that in our modern age, is an exciting thing for the Church and young people.”

NET Canada team supervisor Lucy Starkie, 26, has read books about the millennial saint and even visited a replica of her fellow London native during a trip to Monaco. She admired how Acutis brought his family deeper into the Catholic faith. 

“One beautiful thing about Blessed Carlo is that his family was just kind of nominally Catholic when he was born and brought up,” said Starkie. “He was the one who brought his family into the Church and to the Eucharist. It is possible for literally anyone to become a saint. You don’t have to have a super crazy holy family.”

Starkie added that Acutis’ canonization is “a beautiful testament that the Holy Spirit is at work today. He moved in Blessed Carlo’s life and He is going to move in all our lives.” 

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.