13 May 2024 Homily of Bishop McGuckian (Visit of Relics of Carlo Acutis)

Visit of the Relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis

to Ireland

Homily of Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ in St Nicholas Church, Ardglass

13th May, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima


The question that comes up for me again and again when I read the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis is ‘how did he know?’ How did this little boy, a child of the modern world, know about the things of God from such an early age?

The story of the Acutis family is a classic 21st century story, that every one of us can recognise, either in ourselves or in many people around us. A young Italian couple got married and they felt the world was their oyster. They had the advantage of being very wealthy people and headed off to London where they worked in a branch of the family business. Even though there was strong Catholic faith in their backgrounds, it had faded into total obscurity. Antonia, Carlo’s mother could only remember being at Mass three times; for her First Holy Communion, her Confirmation and her wedding. Carlo’s father, Andrea had a little bit more practice of the faith in his growing up but not much more, and the couple had no intention of taking their religion seriously or of creating a faith environment for their child to grow up in.

How could it be that over the next 15 years, this little boy, in the midst of living a very 21st century childhood and adolescence would become a great saint. He developed a passion for computer games along with a deep admiration for Steve Jobs the founder of Apple. AND at the same time he become a great saint who when he fell suddenly ill with  a catastrophic and deadly  case of Leukaemia immediately said; ‘‘I offer what I will have to suffer for the Pope and for the church and to skip purgatory and go straight to heaven.’


In spite of their personal indifference the parents did their child the inestimable favour of bringing him as a baby to be baptised. By the power of the sacrament he became a new creature in Christ. He was given a new life in the Holy Spirit and we must remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit blows where he wills and cannot be held down.

Carlo’s Polish babysitter used bring him into churches for a visit when she took him for walks and he came to realise the truth that Jesus was truly present. Beata, the babysitter must have told him about Mary, the Mother of Jesus who was his Heavenly mother too. With an awesome openness to and aptitude for holy things Carlo, as a five year old demanded to be consecrated  to our Lady of the Rosary at the Sanctuary of Pompei and insisted that his whole family say the rosary together. At around the same time he wanted to be brought to daily Mass. How did he know that Jesus, God, the Infinite one, was present in the Mass in a special way? How did he know? The Spirit blows where he wills.

Carlo starts asking questions of his mother for which she has no answers. Antonia realises that they are not childish questions. Her  baby has an authority that takes her breath away and she has to consult friends of hers, people of faith who point her towards a holy priest who could guide her. Carlo knew that he was ready to receive Holy Communion earlier that his classmates and so he did. He had the experience in his own heart that the Eucharist is the highway to heaven. He knew deep in his heart, with an intuition that flies directly in the face of the blindness of our modern age that each one of us is made for God, for the infinite, and he was certain that the Eucharist will bring us there.

In some ways the things I have said sound like a throwback to the Medieval Period, to Saints Francis and Claire who meant so much to Carol; in ways he sounds to me very like the Jesuit boy Saint, Aloysius Gonzaga of the 16th Century. He has the same gift of clarity about the things of God that they were given AND he is thoroughly rooted in the 21st Century. He could see the amazing power of Information Technology and was determined to harness it to spread the truth of the Faith. He loved computer games but realised that too much of them is not  good for our souls.  He is a marvellous example to us all of the need for discipline and the place of self-denial and penance in our modern lives. He was not naïve and he knew about the abuses of the Internet. Carlo as a young boy understood the truth of all the Church teaches about chastity, about sex and its proper place within marriage. He knew that it is essential for modern believers to be both participants in the World Wide Web and people who are grounded in the beautiful and demanding call to live lives of purity. He understood the beauty of the Sacrament of Confession and its importance in our journey towards God.

I visited Assisi last October for the first time and was very moved to see Blessed Carlo laid out, dressed in his jeans and sweatshirt. He reminded me of how the perennial truth of the Gospel of Jesus is meant for every age; it is so very much needed in our age. Ours is the age of disinformation, ‘fake news’ and confusion about what it means to be a free and happy and fulfilled human being.

Carlo Acutis is a beacon, a shining light for our time. Saint Augustine when he was converted as a grown man cried out; ‘Late have I loved thee, oh beauty every ancient ever new.’  By comparison to Augustine, Carlo, when he was little more than a baby, was drawn irresistibly to the ‘beauty ever ancient, ever new’. Though it was irresistible, it cannot have been easy; he knew that he needed to be in regular communion with Jesus in the Eucharist; he knew that he needed to confess his sins and begin again regularly. The heroism with which a fifteen year old faced death, readily offering his sufferings up ‘for the pope and the church’, must surely have been tested in the fire of the daily struggle to be good in his boyhood and adolescent years. Carlo’s life does not suggest that the journey towards God is easy but his story makes it seems attractive.

I can’t get away from my question; how did the little boy know so clearly about the wonderful things of God? The answer: ‘The Spirit blows where he wills’.  We are not Carlo Acutis but each one of us is baptised as he was, we are new creatures with the New Life of the Risen Lord in us. Wherever we are in our lives the same Spirit is blowing, inviting, challenging and calling us back onto the highway towards the God for whom we are made.


Holy Spirit alone ,…

PF ‘The Lord asks everything of us and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He want us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.’

‘You too can be a saint. But you need to want it with your whole heart and, if you do not yet desire it, ask the Lord for it with insistence.’

Loved Pokemon and PlayStation but limited himself to one hour a week as a penance and spiritual discipline.


Frequent reception of the Eucharist


Eucharistic Adoration

‘Sadness is one’s gaze turned towards oneself; happiness is the gaze turned towards God. Conversion is nothing more than lifting your gaze upwards from low to high, just a simple raising of the eyes.’

A Spiritual guide and regular confession.

Carlo wanted to grow in love; realised that it involved self-sacrifice, dying to himself.

Holiness is not a question of adding but of subtraction; less of me in order for there to be more of God.

A hot air balloon needs two things; it needs the hot air to be blown into it and our souls get this by the grace of confession; it also needs to shed everything that weighs it down; this is ridding the soul of all the venial sins that weight it  down or hold it back.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints.

Francis, Claire and John the Beloved Disciple

SFX ‘What does it profit a man, Francis, if he gain the whole world?’

St John Bosco; ‘Idleness, the Holy Spirit tells us, is the father of all vices. Keeping occupied fights it and conquers everything.’


Ready to face death, with peace and without fear.

Carlo was centred on God, as the centre of his life;  the gaze fixed on God, not on self.