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Reflections on the sufferings of Blessed Carlo Acutis, 13.10.23

Suffering of Blessed Carlo Acutis

Limits of talk: personal reflection on some aspects of CA’s suffering on basis of my limited knowledge and understanding of him.

  1. His parents’ lack of faith: a “deprivation” in earliest years. God worked it to his advantage through the believing nannies that came his way.
  2. Perhaps the fact of no siblings? Again God used it.
  3. School life: suffering of his empathy and compassion, of the mockery he received, of standing up for the bullied, the harassed girls, the Church’s teaching, his purity and devotion to Jesus (my life program is always to be near Jesus).
  4. Socially: he felt deeply for the suffering of the poor and the immigrants.
  5. Spiritually: self-denial (non io ma Dio) in self-discipline and in consistency and perseverance in living out his own originality (non fotocopia).

CA clearly underwent a gradual process of realising how different he was from others, not so much in externals as internally. This will have led to a certain inner solitude, humanly speaking. He will have felt misunderstood by others but himself have understood this misunderstanding of him: he will have seen that because they did not have the kind of relationship with Jesus which he had, they would not be able to understand why he acted as he did.

When Christ draws someone closer to himself it always involves a process of detachment from others and from self – not a detachment from loving them, but from attaching to his love for them a greater importance than the love for Christ. This detachment is the way of the Cross: it leads to a turning upside down and inside out of the priorities we humans usually have. When Christ captures the heart, it means a total reassessment of our lives.

  1. In a way known only to Jesus and to Carlo, there must have occurred a critical point of no return. At some point, Carlo realised that he was no longer just to be like Christ for others here below, but to become Christ for others from heaven above. We can only really become Christ for others when we realise we are Christ’s alone. In some way, it reminds me of St. Paul who told the Philippians that he would rather be gone and be with Christ, but that he would probably remain alive in the flesh for their sakes. In another way, of course, it is also true that we can do more for others from heaven than we can do on this earth.

How do we know that Carlo realised that a point had been reached in his life in Jesus that pointed to an early death?

Carlo recorded a video message two or three months before he died in which he explicitly says “sono destinato a morire”: I am destined to die. He wasn’t talking about some date in many decades’ time, because he had already intimated to his mother that he would die young and the exact cause of his death. Christ’s taking of Carlo to himself interiorly translated exteriorly into Carlo’s passion, the physical suffering that would transform him into the crucified Jesus.

  1. I want to approach Carlo’s final suffering by drawing some parallels with the Passion of Jesus himself. Obviously, it is not Carlo, but only Jesus who saves us and equally obviously the passion of a redeemed sinner is only a faint reflection of Christ’s own passion.
    1. Jesus predicted his passion no less than three times, according to the Gospel. “The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously.” Carlo did the same: twice he told his mother and, when he went into hospital he told her again, “I will not be getting out of here.” Then there is his video message in which he uses the word “destined”, to die.
    2. Jesus predicted with certainty how he would die, by crucifixion. Carlo told his mother that he would die of a brain haemorrhage.
    3. Jesus accepted his death in humble obedience to the Father. Carlo accepted his destiny in a similar way. There’s no protest in the video, but serenity and simplicity. Submission to a higher Will.
    4. Both Jesus and Carlo were young, good people, with, as we would say in our all too human fashion, “with their life ahead of them.” Incident in Assisi last week of young father who expressed sorrow that Carlo had died so young).
    5. Jesus describes his death as the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies and yields a rich harvest. The grain of wheat can easily be read as the Eucharist, which is the bread of life because the Lord died. Carlo’s faith in the Eucharist and deep and sustained love for and reception of it conformed him to Christ the Grain of Wheat. Carlo has died, and just look how rich already is the harvest he is yielding by Christ’s power.
    6. Jesus’ sufferings deformed him over night: “He seemed no longer human.” Carlo’s mother writes movingly and poignantly about her horror in seeing Carlo’s physical deterioration in the course of the short period he was in hospital. Looks are no match for the barbaric reality of our mortality.
    7. Jesus offered no resistance and made no complaints, but trusted to God. When the women of Jerusalem wept for him, His response was to deflect and reflect their compassion back upon them. When Carlo was asked about his pain in leukemia, he responded that there were many who suffered more than he. And when the nurse asked him if she should wake his mother to come to him in his final hour, he said to leave her alone, since she was very tired and would only worry more.
    8. Paul tells us that Christ sacrificed himself so that the Church would be spotless and holy. Carlo offered his sufferings explicitly for the Church and for the Pope, that is for the Mystical Body of the same Lord who sacramental body he loved so dearly.
    9. Christ poured out his last drop of blood for our salvation. Carlo’s death was not so bloody, yet it was a brain haemorrhage which took him in the end.
    10. Carlo died on a Thursday, the Day of the Eucharist. But Thursday contains the Friday, the Cross and the Sunday, the resurrection.
  2. An obvious difference between Christ and Carlo is that Christ’s tomb is empty. Carlo’s is yet to be emptied. That it will be emptied one fine day is the basic and certain hope we all have because of Christ. And Carlo knew it. He knew that from heaven he would be able to send signs to his mother. May be what he didn’t realise was the Christ would be sending him to bring so much hope and consolation to so many from one end of this broken world to the other, even to wee places like Fairlie, Skelmorlie, Millport and Largs.
  3. We all love Carlo’s phrase, “non io ma Dio”, not I but God. Now, “io” is IN “Dio”: i.e. who I am is in God’s great I AM. My story can only have meaning to the degree that it is IN God’s story. There is no other story. The story of every saint and of every human being who lives authentically is God’s story of love being told over and over again. That’s especially true of our suffering, as Blessed Carlo has shown us. He joins that immense army of men and women from across the ages who now stand before the Lamb who was slain. May it please the Lord, through Blessed Carlo’s intercession, to join us to them when our highway to heaven reaches its destination.                          Fr. Peter, 13.10.23