BAYSIDE — Students at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy learned an important lesson this month: Candidates for sainthood don’t have to be pious adults who lived hundreds of years ago.
They now know that ordinary young people like themselves can one day also be beatified — just like Blessed Carlo Acutis, whose relic of hair they venerated Thursday, Oct. 7, during a Rosary Rally at Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Bayside, Queens.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio presided at the rally for the fifth- through eighth-grade students held in honor of the Italian teen who died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15. Pending a second miracle, he will become the first saint of the millennial generation.
The first-class relic was brought to the Diocese of Brooklyn at the request of Bishop DiMarzio to inspire the youth and deepen their faith. The Sacred Heart students were the first in the diocese to pray before it.
Bishop DiMarzio started the rally by leading the students in reciting the rosary. Oct. 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Church dedicates every October to the rosary.
The students watched a short film about Blessed Carlo and learned that he loved soccer and mined the Internet for stories about saints. But most of all, he loved the Eucharist.
Afterward, each student approached the reliquary and bowed solemnly.
“I think that he’s very similar to me and my other classmates,” eighth-grader Claudia Gilbert said of Blessed Carlo Acutis. “He did very similar things that I did — [played] Pokémon and Mario Kart.”
The student added that Blessed Carlo inspired her.
“He teaches other young Catholics and other young people to believe in God,” she said. “And he’s a very good role model.”
Carlo Acutis prayed the rosary and attended Mass daily from the age of 7, which strengthened the faith of his parents.
He is also known as a computer expert who built a website, “The Miracles of the Eucharist.” The database has compiled miracles associated with the consecration of bread and wine throughout the history of the Church and all over the world.
All of the world’s carnal offerings were at Blessed Carlo’s fingertips — literally, at his keyboard. But the teen chose holiness and urged others to do likewise.
He is famously quoted saying, “I am happy to die because I lived my life without wasting even a minute of it on anything unpleasing to God.”
Bishop DiMarzio reminded the students of another of Blessed Carlo’s quotes: “All people are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.”
Bishop DiMarzio urged the students to recognize that they are originals; through holiness and kindness they can avoid being “photocopies.”
The film noted that the Italian teen spent his own money to buy warm sleeping bags for the homeless, and he cooked meals for them.
Sixth-grader Hector Burgos also was impressed with Blessed Carlo, saying he was “pretty amazed” when he learned about him this year.
“I loved how he was a normal kid, and yet he accomplished the most difficult things in a short lifespan of 15 years,” Burgos said.
“He has the dedication, he has the actions, he has the personality, and he has everything, mentally and physically, to become a saint. I’d say his chances of becoming a saint are probably 95%.”
Bishop DiMarzio engaged the students. Moving up and down the center aisle, he fielded questions about Blessed Carlo from students eagerly waving their hands to be called upon, like in class.
Many wanted to know the teen’s hometown and the age when he died. A girl asked Bishop DiMarzio, “What is leukemia?” He explained it is a cancer that attacks blood cells.
Afterward, Bishop DiMarzio said the students asked good questions–especially the younger ones who are not afraid of being embarrassed.
“They understood the issue,” he said. “We want them to understand that goodness and holiness is available to them. It’s not something that’s out of the reach of people today; we can become better.”
Bishop DiMarzio said he liked the idea circulating among Catholics that Blessed Carlo could become the “Patron Saint of the Internet.”
“There’s a lot of temptations in the world today, especially for young people that take them on the wrong path that leads to a lot of unhappiness,” he said. “And we want to show them the path to happiness is … when we pray, when we follow our faith, and when we live with something beyond ourselves.”
Saints provide these examples, Bishop DiMarzio said.
“So we believe in the saints,” he said. “And we believe in miracles; they do happen when you have faith. If you have no faith, no miracles happen.
“And so today, these young children were exposed to the life of a saint who they could relate to somebody who was on a computer all the time, because they are, living on the Internet, while at the same time, living a life like people lived all these different centuries, understanding our faith, and special place of the Eucharist,” Bishop DiMarzio added.
Hector Burgos was not ashamed to admit that spirituality is mysterious to him.
“I have to be honest with you, I’ve never really known about sainthood that much,” he said. “Usually, I’ve never really focused on it, except in class. And I don’t know much about the relic either.
“But I do know that it’s here for good. It’s here for good purposes and good reasons. That’s all I know.”