Oct. 2 at the Catholic University of America was no regular Monday night. A different glow filled many hearts.
Antonia Acutis, the mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an inspirational and much-beloved young man on the path to sainthood, was visiting campus. Carlo, who passed away at the tender age of 15, dedicated his life to God and to promoting the Eucharist. His devotion to the Church and his understanding of technology set him apart, making him a unique model of holiness today.
Earlier that evening, nearly 200 students, faculty and university community members packed the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel to join Bishop Roy E. Campbell, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, for a special Mass for the feast of the Guardian Angels. Now, Blessed Carlo himself had a great devotion to his guardian angel. But that’s not what he would have loved most. Blessed Carlo would have been thrilled to see so many coming together to see his great friend, Jesus, present in the Eucharist at every Mass.
Love for the Eucharist
As the evening progressed, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 packed the auditorium to hear Antonia speak. She was treated to powerful testimonies from three students who shared their love for Blessed Carlo and the impact he’s had on their lives. Each student noted Blessed Carlo’s devotion to the Eucharist, recalling his oft-cited quote: “The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.” Their devotion was genuine, the room electric. Laughter and smiles and joy lit the faces of everyone present.
As Antonia stood, students craned their necks to see her. Perched on windowsills and seated in aisles, they were so happy just to be near her.
Her talk was wonderful. It was “meat and potatoes” Catholicism from start to finish. Blessed Carlo was a catechist, and it’s clear his mother takes that work seriously, too. She wants people to know not only Carlo, but what he taught. Blessed Carlo’s life wasn’t about his own greatness; it was about his love of the Lord.
But saints can very often feel very far away. Antonia reminded us that Blessed Carlo would say that it was very often difficult for people to get to Jesus. Our Lord was so often surrounded by crowds. She reminded us of Zaccheus, who had to climb a tree to see Jesus (a story made incarnate as students strained for a glimpse of Blessed Carlo’s mother). But Blessed Carlo would remind us that we can run to the Lord in the tabernacle. Jesus is close to us in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
A glimpse of heaven
Saints help us to know and love the truths the Lord taught. And in Antonia Acutis, we have the mother of a young man on the path to sainthood, helping us to know and love her son. Not for his own glory, but for Christ’s, for the truth.
We were made for heaven, Antonia exhorted us. We were made for love.
I’m only a few years older than Blessed Carlo. A millennial, he reminds us that holiness isn’t measured by age or experience, but by devotion.
A joyful crowd of young people. Blessed Carlo’s mother. On the feast of the Guardian Angels. Urging us all to devotion in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
It was a glimpse of the light of heaven that night. That’s why the glow was different. Eternity and the infinite felt just a little bit closer.
Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor.