Last week, three celebrations took place for Blessed Carlo Acutis. On 31 May, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Westminster, led Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for young people at Farm Street Church, after Blessed Carlo’s mother, Antonia Salzano, spoke. On 1 June, Corpus Christi Church, Covent Garden, hosted Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, on 2 June there was Mass with veneration of his relics at Our Lady of Dolours Servite Church where Blessed Carlo was baptised. Antonia Salzano talked at each of these celebrations about her son’s life, faith and passion for the Church.
Bishop Hudson gave us his reflections on the event at Farm Street.
“Not I but God.” Those were the first words from Blessed Carlo Acutis that we heard uttered in Farm Street on Wednesday 31 May. Alongside us was Blessed Carlo’s mother, Antonia Salzano. We had invited Antonia to come and share with this great gathering of young people the experience of raising Carlo and seeing the love of Christ take root in him.
The evening had been organised by the Westminster Diocesan Youth Ministry. Carlo is patron of the Diocese’s ‘Looking to Lisbon’ group, the group of young adults who will be going to World Youth Day in August. This World Youth Day group have committed to a year’s formation in youth ministry; and helping with the Farm Street event had been part of their training.
The Jesuit church was packed: more than five hundred people had filled the nave and side-chapels. All eyes were on Antonia as she began to speak to us of her son. She drew from what she had seen grow in him during his fifteen-year life – to encourage every one of us to deepen our own faith and practice. She described the way he would take a short piece of Scripture every day and pray with it, so he could “reason like Jesus”; how he set up a ‘domestic Caritas’ with containers full of clothes for the poor; how he stood up for anyone being bullied at school; how essential he regarded prayer before the Blessed Sacrament; his conviction that “the Eucharist is (our) highway to heaven”, that “the more we receive Jesus the more we become like Him”; the need for regular Confession, because venial sins are like sandbags which prevent the soul from being like a hot-air balloon rising to God; that the Rosary is the shortest ladder to heaven, never failing to keep his daily “appointment” with Our Lady; how he would say, “to be united with Jesus, this is my programme of life”, urging us to make it our programme too.
Most moving was to hear how just five days had passed between Carlo’s entry to hospital and his death from leukaemia. Still, his mother told us, he never lost his smile. He offered his suffering spontaneously for Jesus, the Church and the Pope. He promised his mother he would be sending signs that he was with God: the sight of Farm Street church filled with youth seemed like a sign itself of how many people Carlo is calling into relationship with God.
“Not I but God” we could imagine him saying as we settled down, en masse, to worship Jesus present and exposed in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, urging us to believe that “without Him I can do nothing.” It was easy to imagine him praying alongside us, encouraging us to believe that “the Eucharist is truly the heart of Jesus”, urging every one of us to say in our own way to the Lord, as he used to say, “Jesus, come right in, make yourself at home!”
As I walked home I found myself recalling the faces of the many young people who had told me, that evening, that they felt Carlo had mysteriously “found” them. My fervent prayer was that Carlo would indeed stay with each us who had been a part of this event, helping us make our home in Jesus and lead others into relationship with Christ.
Blessed Carlo Acutis, the Italian teenager who used the internet to spread his faith, is on the path of becoming the first millennial saint of the Catholic Church.
Blessed Acutis was born May 8, 1991, in London. A few months after his birth, his parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano moved to Milan. He died aged 15 of leukaemia in 2006.
Blessed Acutis’ cause for canonisation began in 2013. He was designated “Venerable” in 2018 and “Blessed” in 2020.