A model for young people

Blessed Carlo, the tech whiz

Last Saturday, Pope Francis declared Carlo Acutis “blessed,” the last step before canonization as a saint. The beatification Mass took place in Assisi, Italy, and celebrated by the pope’s representative, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal legate for the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi.

During the Mass, Cardinal Vallini read an apostolic letter from Pope Francis proclaiming Acutis as “blessed.”

What makes the beatification of Blessed Carlo Acutis noteworthy is his age and his background. Blessed Carlo, who grew up in Milan, Italy, was 15 years old when he died from leukemia in 2006. He was known as a technology whiz who spent his time glorifying God through the use of the internet.

According to news reports, Blessed Carlo put his technology skills to use by creating an online database of eucharistic miracles around the world.

“He learned on his own how to animate 3D cartoons on a computer. He never even took a course on how to use Photoshop,” his mother, Antonia Salzano, told Catholic News Service. “He would sit on his bed, download instructions on the internet and he was able to understand all these computer programs.”

Blessed Carlo also created short videos focusing on religious topics, including one that explored transubstantiation (the “changing of substance” of bread into the Body of Christ and wine into the Blood of Christ at the consecration during Mass) in layman’s terms.

According to a website about his canonization process, Blessed Carlo placed the Eucharist “at the center of his life” and called it “my highway to heaven.” A reliquary containing a first-class relic of Blessed Carlo, carried by his parents at the beatification Mass, was engraved with the quote, “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”

Using technology and social media for good is something Pope Francis recognized in Blessed Carlo. In “Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”), a papal exhortation on young people published in March 2019, Pope Francis called Carlo Acutis a role model for young people who are often tempted in the digital world by “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.”

“Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity,” the pope wrote. “Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.”

Before his death in 2006, Blessed Carlo offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI, who had been elected supreme pontiff in 2005, and for the church.

One of Blessed Carlo’s  favorite axioms included a moral message with a technology twist for young people: “Everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies.”

In the world today, following a path of sin is as easy as following the wrong “influencers” on social media. Blessed Carlo understood these dangers and kept his eyes on the Lord as he peered at his computer screen.

Blessed Carlo was living proof that technology can bridge the gap between heaven and earth. He offers the youth of today a roadmap to follow as they navigate the digital world. Pray for his cause for sainthood and ask for his intercession.