A little over one year ago, the Ryckmans from Pennsylvania went on their own pilgrimage, taking a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis to various parishes in Northern Virginia. One of these locations was St. Veronica Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia. The relic was kept in a reliquary guarded by members of the parish’s Knights of Columbus. Although people came into the parish hall to view posters and the reliquary, likely few attendees really knew the whole story of this unique and blessed young man.
But his story is certainly out there: His saintly reputation has spread to five continents; Facebook pages from all around the world are dedicated to him; and he even has an official website. In addition, numerous books now tell the story of Carlo Acutis. Among these is A Millennial in Paradise by Fr. Will Conquer (English translation, 2021, Sophia Institute Press). As it turns out, the Ryckmans take along copies of this book when they hold Carlo Acutis exhibitions.
The author dug deeply into Carlo’s life, tracing his birth in London in 1991, where his Italian parents were working to his parents’ return to Italy shortly after his birth to his young adulthood’s tragic death from leukemia in 2006. Nannies tended to Carlo in his infancy and early childhood, but his love for Christ and the Eucharist became visible even then. He also spent summers with his maternal grandparents in a village near Naples, Italy. On one summer there, a nanny took him to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary in Pompeii. As the author notes, “Carlo loved the Blessed Mother, whom he considered his Mother, with all his heart.”
Carlo never had siblings, and in the beginning, he had little contact with other children, so when he started school, interacting with others was a challenge. He did not compete with them at sports, although when not at school, he did play different games, including soccer and skiing. And his grades did not rise above average despite his intelligence.
His teachers found him always charming and kind, smiling at everyone with cheer and love. Apparently, his friends found Carlo’s piety amusing but he was always respectful and caring of others. These others, including adults, were stirred by his pleasant personality and ability to relate to people with affection.
As the author wrote, “But what distinguished him, above all, was his smile. Carlo smiled at life. For if Carlo lived alone, he was not lonely. He knew all his cousins, classmates, and even all the people in his building — from the ground floor caretakers to the neighbor on the fifth floor. But how did he do this? It was simple. He smiled at them.”
His young life was filled with activities besides his regular attendance at Mass and prayers. He traveled around Europe and eventually became skilled as a gamer and with computer science and computer programming. He also spent time looking online for life’s answers, downloading photos of churches and images of miracles he had learned about.
Carlo took his computer talents to another level: For two years, he documented all the Eucharistic miracles reported throughout the world and putting them onto a website he created before his death. He spent two years documenting them, and an exhibit of these miracles started on October 4 at the Institute of Leo XIII. Because he was already hospitalized, Carlo could not attend, but since that date, the exhibit has traveled worldwide, touching the lives of many.
In the final chapter of the book, Fr. Conquer details Carlo’s final days—the agony he suffered, the doctors’ inability to stave off his demise from leukemia, and his parents’ sadness and despair when the doctor pronounced Carlo brain dead after a cerebral hemorrhage on October 11. He was declared legally dead after his heart stopped early on October 12. At his own request, Carlo was buried in Assisi because he loved St. Francis of Assisi. His canonization cause began in 2013 and in 2020 he was declared beatified.
Millennial in Paradise is available from Sophia Institute Press.