31 May 2021, The Tablet

Relics of teenage saint arrive in England

Relics of teenage saint arrive in England

Cardinal Vincent Nichols presents the relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis to Fr Alan Robinson, Rector of the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane.

Two relics of the Blessed Carlo Acutis have been sent to parishes in the diocese of Westminster.

They were received by Cardinal Vincent Nicholas, Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Fr Pat Ryall, Parish Priest at Our Lady of Dolours Servite Church, Fulham Road and Fr Alan Robinson, Rector of the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, who gathered at Archbishop’s House to share a moment of prayer. 

The two parishes receiving the relics have close connections with the recently beatified saint, as Carlo was born in London in 1991 and baptised at Our Lady of Dolours. The other relic was sent to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament as a reflection of the centrality of eucharistic adoration and devotion to the life of the saint. 

Carlo Acutis is very much a saint of the digital age, born to immigrant parents, and a keen amateur computer programmer. At age 11 he took it upon himself to start assembling an online database of all the reported Eucharistic miracles in the world. His life seemed freely to interweave the ordinary and the extraordinary, with signs of holiness ranging from his receiving a vision of the soul of his maternal grandfather at age 7, to his defending of disabled friends from bullying at school. 

Friends and family noticed his special charisma and unusual warmth and kindness. He would invite friends over whose parents were divorcing to offer support, and he volunteered with the homeless in his free time after school, but like any young boy he enjoyed films, video games, comic books and travel. 

The busyness of his young life seems to have reflected an intuition that Carlo possessed that he would die young, one that proved sadly correct when in 2006 he contracted leukaemia at the age of only 15, dying in October of the same year. During the swift onset of the terminal disease, Carlo said: “I offer all the suffering I will have to undergo for the Lord, for the Pope, and the Church.” Carlo was already being hailed as a saint at the time of death, was proclaimed a Servant of God in 2013 and in 2019 a miracle in Brazil was confirmed, when a young boy called Mattheus was healed of a serious pancreatic defect. 

The boy’s mother said of the healing: “Before, I didn't even use my cell phone, I was averse to technology. Carlo changed my way of thinking, he was known for talking about Jesus on the Internet, and I realised that my testimony would be a way to evangelise and give hope to other families. Today I understand that everything new can be good, if we use it for good.”

Of the relic of the young saint returning to the site of his baptism, Fr Pat Ryall, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Dolours, said: “The internationality of our parish is further enhanced and developed by the presence of Blessed Carlo. He was, as we know, Italian, and his parents were in London at the time and were attached to our parish. And it was there that, it was to our church, they came and arranged for the Baptism to take place. I do feel that there was a naturalness about the manner in which they gradually integrated themselves into the parish community, and, above all, I feel that Carlo really contributed very much to the growth in faith of the parents by his encouragement and his love of the Eucharist.

“He is very welcome and we are delighted to have him back. We hope that, as he left an indelible mark with us on his first visit, we hope that also, he will continue to make his presence felt during this new time.”

Fr Alan Robinson, Rector of the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, spoke of Carlo’s devotion to the eucharist: “He’s someone that we can refer to, point to, as an example. A wonderful example of how young people can have this incredible relationship with the Lord if they’re prepared to make that effort, to actually offer themselves to him.

“I think Carlo would be very happy in Corpus Christi, it’s very much about his life. It’s about our Lord in the Eucharist. And I hope, I pray, that through his intercession and his encouragement that it will be a home for many more young people. Young people often think they’re invincible, they’re going to live forever. And Carlo is this example of saying: that’s not necessarily true. But the one thing that will continue forever is our relationship with the Lord, in the Eucharist, both in this world and then with our Lord when our earthly life comes to its end.”

Reflecting on the occasion, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “This afternoon is a very lovely moment as I have the privilege of being able to present to Fr Pat from Fulham Road and Fr Alan from the Corpus Christi Shrine, these relics of Blessed Carlo. Each of these churches is very beautiful, and each of them is worthy of a visit for its beauty, but even more so for the importance that each stands for of these two crucial sacraments in the life of the disciple of Jesus, and the life of the Catholic: Baptism and Eucharist. And we hope and pray that the example of this young man, who was baptised at Fulham Road, and who lived his life in the close embrace of Jesus in the Eucharist, will help us all to have the right priorities in life.”

Bishop Nicholas Hudson spoke of how Carlo was an example for young people of the diocese, as he was only 15 when he died, saying: “He really is a model of young people evangelising their elders. By his mother’s own admission, her son really evangelised her ... meanwhile, he was also evangelising his friends as well.

“He had an intuition that he would die young and I think in some ways, as well as teaching young people how they can evangelise their elders, he taught all of us as well how to die. When he was just approaching the end of his days, he decided he would offer all his suffering for the Pope, for Jesus himself, and for his Church.”

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