For a number of years I was able to be a part of the St. Phil Senior Class trip to Rome and Assisi. And the last year I went, during some free time in Assisi, when everyone had scattered, I visited St. Mary Major. It wasn’t part of our tour and I wanted to go in for a look and for some prayer and for some cool air. As I entered I saw a new grave, it was a simple mausoleum covered in notes and prayer requests that people had left in cracks and crevices. It was the grave of Blessed Carlo Acutis. And he had recently been moved from a cemetery to the Church. They say his body is incorrupt. I’d heard of Carlo Acutis but I had no idea he was buried in Assisi. It was a graced find. And so I added him to my litany of Holy Helpers, my own litany of Saints, my friends in Heaven, who I ask to pray for me. We should all make our own litany of saints, our own list of friends in heaven that we are always asking to pray for us.
Carlo was 15 when he died of leukemia in 2006. He’s known for being a computer genius and for creating a website devoted to 196 Eucharistic miracles. It’s still in operation today. Carlo was a great proponent of Eucharistic adoration. He once said, “To sit in the presence of the Sun you become tan. To sit in the presence of the Eucharist you become a Saint.” His mother Antonia told a reporter that Carlo had developed a devotion to Jesus at a very young age, such that he wanted to enter every church we walked in front of.
This devotion to Catholicism did not come from his parents; they were not practicing Catholics when Carlo was born. His mother readily admits that by the time Carlo was born, she had been to Mass just three times in her life. Carlo seems to have been introduced to Jesus by his Catholic Pre-School. What a difference a Catholic school can make. Carlo began asking his parents deep questions about God that they could not answer. His mom said, “He pushed me
to do research and to read. I began to take theology courses and reflect on life. I discovered the beauty of my faith. We are all on a journey in the spiritual life, but because of Carlo, I was inspired to start that journey.” “Carlo saved me,” she added.
Carlo lived in the presence of God. He knew that he lived in the presence of God. Wherever he went he knew he was in the presence of God. Do we live in the presence of God; do we know that we live in the presence of God? Now I bring up this story about Blessed Carlo Acutis, because he was one who realized he was a little one. Our Gospel said, “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – Amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” To be a little one is to be a disciple, to take Jesus at his word, to have simplicity of spirit, to be like children. This does not necessarily mean innocence, it mean incompetence. Little kids are not always innocent; they can sometimes lie, cheat, and bully each other. But, little kids they are incompetent. They are incompetent in taking care of themselves, they can’t take care of themselves, they need adults, they need someone to lead them.
In the spiritual life the little ones are the ones who know they are incompetent; they are incompetent in getting to Heaven on their own. They can’t do it. They cannot find their own way to Heaven. They know they need to be led there, to be led there by our Lord. They know they need Jesus. And so despite their sins, they are precious to our Lord because, unlike the clever and learned, they’re ready to take our Lord at his word. This is what thrills our Lord. The little one welcomes Him and since they welcome him he dwells with them. He lives in their heart and soul. And their lives begin to resemble His. The little one, the incompetent one lives in the presence of God, and knows it. And
on top of all of this our Lord rewards those who are good to his little ones.
If you haven’t yet realized your own holy incompetence, of not being able to do it on your own, pray for that grace, that grace of total dependence on God.
Pray for that holiness of being set apart for God, making the Lord #1 in your life, praying not just to be good, but to be holy. When we love Him above all we find ourselves loving mom, dad, sister, brother even more.
If this seems like a lot then maybe the best place to begin is sitting here in front of the Eucharist. Blessed Carlo Acutis often said, “To sit in the presence of the Sun you become tan. To sit in the presence of the Eucharist you become a Saint.”
“To sit in the presence of the Eucharist you become a Saint.”
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley