Blessed Youth: Who Is Carlo Acutis, The First Millennial Saint?

Pope Francis announced that Carlo Acutis, an Italian teen who passed on in 2006, is on the road to sainthood—here’s what to know about the first millennial to hold the title. 

Sainthood seems like a position reserved for older figures, whether they be selfless martyrs or altruistic individuals who’ve dedicated their lives to God. Yet age isn’t always a factor, as anyone who is worthy can gain the title. A recent example of this is Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who passed on at the age of 15 in 2006 due to leukemia. The late teen made headlines as Pope Francis announced that he’s well on the way to becoming the first millennial saint. 

But who exactly was Blessed Carlo Acutis, and how did his life warrant the attention of the vatican?

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A Rundown of Sainthood

For those unfamiliar with the process of sainthood, it’s actually a rather specific one with its own set of criteria. According to the BBC, an individual can only gain sainthood at least five years after their death (though it normally takes an even longer time in some cases). Then a bishop of the diocese where the person died will examine the life of said individual, determining whether their actions are holy and virtuous through both research and testimonials: if they pass this phase, they gain the title of “servant of God.”

A shrine to Blessed Carlo Acutis at Covent Garden, Corpus Christi Catholic Church
A shrine to Blessed Carlo Acutis at Covent Garden, Corpus Christi Catholic Church/Photo by AndyScott via Wikimedia Commons

The diocese then passes the case to The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who continue to look into the life of the individual to see if their works and virtue have bolstered other people’s faith by example. If the Congregation approves this, the Pope then receives the case and makes the decision to give the individual the title of “venerable.”

Next is the stage of beatification, where an individual must have a verified miracle to their name. This happens when prayers that people direct to the individuals are actually granted. This serves as proof that they’ve ascended to heaven and work alongside God to help others. Once the Pope verifies these miracles, the individual gains the title of “blessed.” 

The final step is canonization, which requires a second verified miracle after a person has undergone the beatification process.The exceptions in this stage are martyrs who died for their faith, as they only need one miracle to their name. Once a person passes this stage, the Pope conducts a special mass to officially declare them a saint. 

A Devout Teen

One must first look at the life of Acutis to understand how he got this far into the sainthood process. The young man was born on May 3, 1991 in London, before his family moved to Milan, according to the official website of Little Flower Parish. Even at a young age, Acutis showed an immense devotion to God, which in turn strengthened his parents’ faith as well. 

He often stood up for peers who experienced bullying in school, especially those with disabilities. Though he was a particularly devout Catholic who often prayed the rosary, visited holy sites, and attended confession and mass frequently, he was still a regular kid who had many interests and hobbies.

Acutis was particularly fond of computer programming and video games, though he always turned to the latter in moderation, his mother tells Christopher Lamb of CNN. He played soccer, was a saxophonist, and enjoyed film editing, often making funny videos of his dogs. 

God’s Influencer

The official website of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops states that many of Acutis’ computer programmer friends were amazed by his understanding of coding. His level of competency in the subject was on par with individuals who possessed university degrees. Yet his mother reveals to CNN that he never used his skills to earn, but rather, “spread the Gospel [the message of Jesus Christ], to help people.” This is what garnered him the nickname “God’s influencer.”

A young Carlo Acutis with his dog
Carlo Acutis with his dog/Photo from the official website of Carlo Acutis

During his spare time, Acutis made sure to help as many people as he could, including the homeless in Milan, as he often gave his own pocket money to those sleeping in the streets, Lamb adds in his feature for CNN

Sadly, Acutis had untreatable leukemia, which took his life on October 12, 2006, reports Little Flower Parish. Yet the young man, despite his shortened time on the earth, didn’t hold any regrets when he passed on. “I am happy to die because I lived my life without wasting even a minute of it on anything unpleasing to God,” he once said, as The Synod of Bishops writes on their website

A Miraculous Boy

Acutis’ path to canonization began in 2013, and in 2018 he gained the title of “venerable.” By 2020, there was already one healing miracle to his name, which earned him the title of “blessed” on October 10 of the same year, according to Lucia Suarez Sang of CBS News

The recent news of Acutis’ sainthood came after Pope Francis verified a second miracle to his name. This happened when a university student in Florence, Italy, healed from a bleeding brain and head trauma, reports Tom Gerken of BBC. Though the Vatican hasn’t announced the date of Acutis’ canonization, many people are inspired and excited to see it unfold. 

Blessed Carlo Acutis in his glass tomb at the Sanctuary of Spoliation in Assisi
Blessed Carlo Acutis in his glass tomb at the Sanctuary of Spoliation in Assisi/Photo by Dobroš via Wikimedia Commons

When Acutis passed on, his family laid him in repose within a glass tomb in the Sanctuary of Spoliation in Assisi, where he wore the simple clothes of a teenager: a casual outfit of jeans and a pair of Nikes, as he was in life.

“For the first time in history we will see a saint dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a sweater,” Assisi’s rector had said, as Little Flower Parish reports. “This is a great message for us, we can feel holiness not as a distant thing but as something very much within everyone’s reach because the Lord is the Lord of everyone.”

Banner photo from the official website of Carlo Acutis.

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