There are a lot of candidates for the most cyberpunk event of 2020. How about a drive-thru strip club with gas masks to protect the dancers from a pandemic? Or maybe covid-19 testing sites sponsored by Pepsi. Or a president shifting his duties to social media as he’s quarantined with an infectious disease. The list just gets longer. Case in point: It’s time for a cyber-saint.
Carlos Acutis died from leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. Since then, his notoriety among Catholics has grown, and on Saturday he was beatified at a ceremony at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The boy was known in the church as a whiz when it came to navigating the modern world and the internet. He helped Catholic organisations maintain their websites and worked on various personal development projects, the most prominent being an online catalogue of miracles. Now, he’s on track to become the first millennial saint.
Being tech-savvy isn’t enough to get the church to grant a person sainthood. The story of a saint’s life requires mythical qualities that speak to the great beyond. His mother, Antonia Acutis, has told reporters that she wasn’t very religious before Carlos was born and that it was her son that pulled her closer to the church. According to his mother’s account, he was drawn to the churches the family passed on the street when he was just three years old. He loved to pray the rosary and one of his unfulfilled wishes was to travel to all of the sites of Eucharistic miracles in the world.
His obsession with the Catholic faith dovetailed with his love of technology in his early adolescence, and Acutis began his work spreading the gospel through the tubes of the internet. His list of good works includes defending fellow students from bullies at school and setting up a support network for various friends whose parents were going through divorce.
After his death, calls for the beatification process began, and Acutis cleared the first step of becoming a “Servant of God” in 2013. In 2018, he was proclaimed “Venerable,” and following the weekend’s ceremony, he has been given the title of “Blessed.”
Usually, to become a saint, the church must recognise two miracles attributed to the candidate. Earlier this year, the Pope approved one miracle in which a boy in Brazil was said to have been healed of his chronic condition causing serious abdominal pain after a local parishioner acquired a relic from Carlos’s mother and asked the congregants to pray for Acutis to intervene. More reports of miracles could come to fulfil the standard saint criteria, but according to NPR, Pope Francis could also intervene and waive the requirement.
According to Catholic News Agency, Acutis has become a hero to younger Catholics who might find other saints off-putting. “Carlo puts flesh on what a saint who plays video games and goes on the internet looks like,” one of Acutis’s fans told CNA. “He challenges me to examine my conscience and say, ‘OK, I’m called to be a saint who uses the internet too. Am I using it to make God’s love known?’”
Following the beatification ceremony, Acutis’s exhumed body will lie in repose in a glass tomb for pilgrims to visit and venerate until Oct. 17. The body is reportedly displayed wearing the style of jeans and Nike sneakers that the boy favoured in life.