MANILA--When one thinks of Roman Catholic saints, the image that often comes to mind are those seen in church retablos, with figures in their beatific postures, flowing robes, and bright halos.
But soon the Catholic Church could have a saint donning a track suit jacket, jeans and a pair of running shoes. What's more, he's a computer whiz and social media savvy.
Meet Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who is set to be beatified or declared "blessed" on October 10. Pope Francis approved the beatification last February, attributing a miracle to Acutis' intercession after the healing of a young Brazilian boy afflicted with a rare congenital disease of the pancreas.
Ahead of the ceremony, Acutis' body was put on display for public veneration at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi, Italy. Upon the opening of the tomb, the body of Acutis was seen wearing a simple track jacket, jeans, and sneakers -- the attire people who knew him were accustomed to seeing when he was alive.
Church officials, however, clarified that Acutis' body is "not incorrupt."
Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, at the Mass following the tomb's opening, said Acutis' body was "reassembled with art and love."
"Today we see him again in his mortal body. A body that has passed, in the years of burial in Assisi, through the normal process of decay, which is the legacy of the human condition after sin has removed it from God, the source of life. But this mortal body is destined for resurrection," the archbishop said, as quoted by the Catholic News Agency.
The soon-to-be beatified body of the teenager will be on display until October 17.
Acutis, raised in Milan, was 15 when he died of leukemia in 2006. It was believed that he had a deep love for God and the poor, even at such a young age.
Before Acutis died, he said he offered his sufferings to the pope and the Church. The Vatican quoted him as saying: "I am happy to die because I lived my life without wasting even a minute of it on anything unpleasing to God."
Beatification, in the Catholic Church, recognizes that the deceased follower lived a holy life. In cases of martyrs, it's a declaration that the faithful indeed died for the Faith. Those who are beatified are called "blessed" or "beatus" and are now open for veneration, although not throughout the universal Church.
After this, canonization begins, which normally requires two miracles attributed to the blessed. After thorough investigations and studies, the pope declares with finality that the individual was indeed a saint and should be venerated by the whole Church.
WHO IS CARLO?
At a young age, Acutis supposedly exhibited a special bond with God. He went to Mass daily and often spent a considerable amount of time before the tabernacle, worshipping the Blessed Sacrament. He also had a special devotion to Mary, often praying the rosary. He also made sure to go to confession weekly.
But amid all these, he was still the typical young boy of his age. His mother said he loved playing video games, football, and being with friends and at school.
His official biography noted how his peers and adults with computer engineering degrees considered him a genius. He also had an interest in film editing, and comics editing and layout.
Using his talents, he created a website cataloging Eucharistic miracles across the world.
In an interview with EWTN, Antonia Salzano said her son used social media and the internet as an "influencer for God." She hoped that his son could teach young people today how to enjoy technologies like without falling prey to their pitfalls.
"Because he understood that they were potentially very harmful, very dangerous, he wanted to be the master of these means, not a slave," Salzano said.
Pope Francis hailed Acutis and mentioned him in his apostolic exhortation "Christus Vivit" (Christ Lives). It was the pope's message to the young people, and there he praised how the young Italian used technology to spread the gospel, and communicate values and beauty.
"Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity," the pontiff said.
"Carlo didn’t fall into the trap. He saw that many young people, wanting to be different, really end up being like everyone else, running after whatever the powerful set before them with the mechanisms of consumerism and distraction."