We all know the feeling: You’re watching TV or reading a book only to discover some real-life story of an extraordinary young person who has achieved more than you could ever dream to.
Whether it’s a savant who made it to college before they legally could drive, or a world-famous musician in her early 20s, stories of extraordinary talent inspire (and sometimes confound) us. Carlo Acutis is one of those kinds of figures.
He was known as a “computer geek,” and while he accomplished some extraordinary things in the digital world, he was even more extraordinary in the real one. Even though he lived a short life — he died of fulminant leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15 — the way he lived them has him on the path to sainthood.
Even with such a short life, Carlo has come to be known for his prowess in computer programming and his identity as a “computer geek.” The Italian youth (Carlo was born in Assisi, Italy) took on his most exhaustive work when he was just 11 years old. At that time, he decided he would digitally catalogue every miracle in the world that had to do with the bread and wine that is transformed in the Catholic Mass.
The project started when he asked his parents to travel with him to all the places where Eucharistic miracles took place — where the bread and wine of the Eucharist physically turned into flesh and blood, or where the Eucharist was preserved beyond natural means.
The Church recognized 136 of these miracles across five continents, which made the prospect of visiting each one rather slim. So Carlo did the next best thing: he took his technological skills and built a digital museum of these Eucharistic miracles.
When Carlo died at age 15 of fulminant leukemia, he had used the short time of his life to fulfill a very clear goal. At the start of his website endeavor, Carlo wrote: “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”
By building his digital museum, Carlo was working to bring more awareness of the Eucharist in order to make our lives seem more like a foretaste of heaven. And his work didn’t end just with his life: you can still see what he did on the “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World” website today.
The current webpage, translated into more than a dozen languages and including two Eucharistic miracles that have occurred since Carlo’s death, is itself a testament to the young computer geek’s legacy. With its founder gone, maintenance of the website has fallen to a group who gathered to continue his work and keep his memory and example alive.
Carlo’s own mother, Antonia Salzano, is a leader in that group — originally from a secular Italian family, Antonia’s life was changed by her son’s faith and inquisitiveness into the teachings of the Catholic Church: “Carlo was a very devout soul, even when he was very young,” Antonia said during an interview. She later added, “Having this son who insistently asked me questions about the faith forced me to reflect. That was the reason why I drew closer to the Church.”
Now, Antonia continues to promote Eucharistic miracles in imitation of her son, whom she calls her “little savior.”
Many more people are starting to look to the life of Carlo Acutis for inspiration and help. That’s one of the reasons he’s on the fast track to receive the highest accomplishment he could have imagined — sainthood in the Catholic Church, an honor that requires certified miracles to have taken place.
And a miracle is just what has happened. Just recently, the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to Carlo — they found that his prayers led to the miraculous healing of a gravely ill Brazilian boy. Now, all Carlo needs is the approval of the pope to be declared “Blessed,” the last step before being declared a saint.
If Carlo were still alive, he would be 28 years old today. Yet still he has accomplished more than almost anyone — even the teenage savant or the musical prodigy — by following a simple motto. Shortly before he died, Carlo said, “I’m happy to die because I’ve lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn’t have pleased God.”