“Blessed Carlo’s witness shows today's young people that true happiness is found by putting God first and serving Him in our brothers, especially the least. Let's make a round of applause for the new young Blessed.”
– Pope Francis
The day after our son Peter was diagnosed with brain cancer, a kind woman at our parish texted my wife to introduce us to Blessed Carlo Acutis. Mary Bea promised her family would be praying through his intercession and encouraged us to do the same. Since December 12, 2020, we have kept him close to our family. We have been overwhelmed by friends from all over the worldwide Church that have sent us prayer cards, texted us selfies or prayers from Blessed Carlo’s tomb in Assisi, and shared articles or events about him. Even Peter’s letter to the Pope telling him that he was finished with chemotherapy and that Carlo prevented him from the worst of the side effects got a response! So, when we heard that Blessed Carlo’s mother, Antonia, would be visiting a retreat house in our backyard, we were sure to save the date.
Before we knew it, Sunday arrived. We had hoped to purchase some special seats, but we just couldn’t get our act together. All weekend, Peter was asking me what he should say when he met Carlo’s mom. Trying to lower expectations, I kept reminding Peter that he probably wouldn’t meet her, that there would be so many people, and that he should just get ready to give a hardy wave. Domestic chaos ensued and we almost didn’t make it into the minivan on time. We arrived later than we wanted, only to find the 500-person tent already filled to capacity. We spread out a blanket behind the tent.
As we waited, Peter clasped his Blessed Carlo prayer cards asking every five minutes when she would arrive. Bells rang and a Eucharistic procession began with Antonia Acutis at the front. The procession path went right past where we were seated. The same friend who had introduced us to Carlo also helped to organize this event. She was walking arm in arm with Antonia. Mary Bea spotted Peter from a distance and waved him to come forward. I wept as my son embraced the mother of the soon-to-be-saint we have been praying with for more than two years. After adoration, Antonia Acutis spoke about her son to the nearly 1,000 people gathered. She shared that Blessed Carlo used to mention often how much more fortunate we are today than the people of Palestine who physically met Jesus when He walked the earth. Blessed Carlo’s reason: because we can be near Him any time we want, simply by praying in front of him in the Eucharist.
I couldn’t help but think about Peter, me, and the 1,000 other people who gathered in that field on Sunday. We were desperate to be close to someone who was close to holiness. We wanted to hug someone who had hugged a saint. I am so grateful to God and Mary Bea for that moment. I will remember it all my life. But I also need to remember that I have the absolute privilege to be that close to holiness every day. I have the chance to be filled with the divine every day. What makes Blessed Carlo holy, what makes him a saint-in-waiting, is not how special he was, but how special the Lord was to him. In my discipleship, am I answering the call, like Blessed Carlo and Antonia, to make the Lord the most special person to me, the center of my life?
Antonia Acutis assured us that Blessed Carlo wasn’t perfect, and in many ways, he was like any other kid. But as I looked at my four children sitting on the blanket, my prayer was that, like Antonia, I might cultivate the gift of faith in them, and one day people might want to hug me, because I once hugged them, and they were that close to the Lord.
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