PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) — The mother of an Italian teen on the road to sainthood recently toured several U.S. parishes to kindle increased devotion to the Eucharist, which was “the center of life” for her late son.
Antonia Salzano Acutis, mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, spoke at gatherings in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Texas during a Sept. 28-Oct. 4 tour organized in part by Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia and one of his priests, Father Francesco Maria D’Amico. The priest happens to be a native of Assisi, Italy, where Carlo Acutis is entombed.
Among the stops on the tour were Immaculate Conception Church in Tuckahoe, New York; the Marian Shrine of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Stony Point, New York; St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in New York; the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Acutis’ presentation was part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Eucharistic Congress; St. Martin of Tours Parish in Philadelphia; St. Dominic Parish in Brick Township, New Jersey, where Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton dedicated a shrine to Blessed Carlo Acutis; Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, Pennsylvania, home to a permanent shrine and center in Carlo Acutis’ honor; The Catholic University of America and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, both in Washington; and Christ Central Camp in Beaumont, Texas.
At each gathering, Antonia Acutis echoed her late son’s call to draw close to Christ in the Eucharist, which was “the most important thing” for the teen, who in 2006 died at age 15 from acute promyelocytic leukemia, having offered his sufferings for the pope, the church and his own deliverance from purgatory. He was declared venerable in 2018 and beatified in 2020.
“I am happy to speak about the Eucharist,” Antonia Acutis told some 400 people assembled at St. Martin of Tours in Philadelphia for an Oct. 1 presentation. “It was the most important thing for Carlo. It is his holiness; his sanctification was in the Eucharist.”
Acutis — who recounted her son’s life, death and ministry in the 2023 book “My Son Carlo,” co-written with Paolo Rodari — said that although she and her husband had been indifferent Catholics, Carlo manifested a keen and ardent interest in the Catholic faith from an early age.
Born in 1991, Carlo “made his first Communion when he was 7 years old,” she said, speaking in Spanish, English and Italian, with Father D’Amico translating. “And he began to go to Mass every day, (and) every day to Eucharistic adoration.”
Writing of his first Communion, Carlo reflected that he wanted “to be always, always united with Jesus, saying, ‘This is my life’s goal,'” Antonia Acutis said. “And from that moment, he was faithful to his meeting with Jesus every day.”
By age 11, Carlo began to serve as a catechist, she said.
“He was very, very prepared,” said Antonia Acutis. “He was a bit of a genius. … He had an extraordinary memory. He committed the Bible (and) the Catechism of the Catholic Church to memory; it was a gift God had given him.”
However, her son was perplexed that while “there were queues of people for the concert and the soccer match,” he did not “see a line of people in front of the tabernacle,” she said.
To encourage devotion to the Eucharist, Carlo created an exhibition of Eucharistic miracles, using his formidable computer programming skills.
Yet even in researching and traveling with the exhibit, “he was always concerned about where the closest church was to the hotel,” said Antonia Acutis. “The vision of Carlo was a daily encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist.”
That same encounter is open to all, she said.
“The desire that Carlo had (was) that all would love the Eucharist, that all would comprehend the importance of having … God with us, in his Real Presence,” she said. “God promised, ‘I will be with you until the end of the world’ (Mt 28:20). And Jesus is truly with us, in his presence (in the Eucharist).”
She noted that Carlo even said that those who experience the Eucharist have an advantage over those who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry.
“Carlo would say that we are much more fortunate than those who lived with Jesus more than 2,000 years (ago),” she said. “Yes, those people could see Jesus on the streets of Palestine and talk with him. But it was very, very difficult to talk with Jesus, because around Jesus was a crowd of people, and so it was not always possible. And for us it is much different. … For us, it’s enough to go out of our home and go to the closest church.”
Carlo “called the house of God ‘Jerusalem,'” and would remind others “we must visit the tabernacles with the same fervor that we have when we make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” she said.
Acutis said her son had “anticipated Twitter” with his memorable maxims to describe his Eucharistic spirituality, such as “holy Mass, holy me,” and “the Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”
“We know that Jesus is love,” said Antonia Acutis. “And what is the purpose of our life? It is to be made holy. … Each one of us has a different fingerprint, and this means each one of us is special. Everybody is called to holiness.”
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina.