Saint Ignatius High School has been around since 1886, and literally thousands of young men have been educated by this famed alma mater over the past 134 years. That makes Ignatius seven years older than our brother school in Milan, Italy. But the Istituto Leone XIII
, or Institute of Leo XIII, does have one distinction that has yet to make its way to West 30th
Street. As of last Saturday they have a former student who is literally on his way to becoming a saint.
Carlo Acutis died of leukemia at the age of 15, but the exemplary nature of his life led to his beatification on October 10th in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, not far from where he is buried. The circumstances of his life would seem to mitigate against such an event, but his heroic virtue and sanctity speak for themselves and propose to all young people that there is great truth in the old adage that no time is so bad that a good person cannot live in it.
Carlo came from affluence, and his wealthy Italian parents had worked in both Germany and in London – where he was born – before returning to their homeland and the city of Milan. Despite living in a situation where it would have been easy to concentrate on the pleasures of this world Carlo, from a young age, devoted himself to the Eucharist and saw in the Blessed Sacrament the path to becoming as Christ-like as possible, stating that “the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus.”
His love of our Lord in the Tabernacle led him to a great love of those in need, especially among his schoolmates. He would stand up for those who were mocked and bullied because of their disabilities, and he would seek out and befriend those who were in difficult family situations due to divorce. In these actions he stood with those whose struggles were visible to the world as well as those who suffered behind closed doors.
Carlo also had a great passion for working with computers, and as early as age 11 he directed this interest to his devotion to the Eucharist by setting up a website dedicated to cataloging Eucharistic miracles from around the world (www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html
). He also created a website devoted to apparitions of the Mary and to Marian shrines around the world (www.themarianapparitions.org/en/avm/champion
). Considering all of the time that he could have spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and the rest, Carlo chose a different path and one that fulfilled his wish of making the Eucharist his “highway to Heaven.”
When young people grow up in an environment where all of their needs and pretty much all of their wants are taken care of, then there is a very real and very strong temptation for them, as it is for all of us, to become people who are both in and of
this world. The easier our lives are, the more we are drawn away from dependence upon God, and the more we see this world as an end in itself. To his great credit, and at least from the time of his First Communion at age 7, Carlo’s desire was to be in but not
of this world. This is a young man who went on record as saying that his life plan was “to always be close to Jesus.”
Even prior to his beatification, Carlo was being hailed as a patron of young people and of computer programmers. As we see what an overwhelming influence computers have on all of our lives, and especially young people, it certainly would seem appropriate to combine these two patronages into one important prayer. Let us ask Blessed Carlo for his intercession as we pray that those who are at the business end of technology always use their talents for the common good of all, and that they be aware of their special responsibility toward children and young people. Let us hope and pray that Carlo’s intercession will be a constant reminder to everyone that Jesus’ harshest words were saved for those who cause children to sin: “it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”