The saint who wore Nikes: what we can learn from Carlo Acutis

by Katie Hoffman

North Texas Catholic

Blessed Carlo Acutis
Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who used his computer programming skills to spread devotion to the Eucharist, was beatified in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 10, 2020. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Carlo Acutis)  

When you think of the saints, you probably think of the big names — St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph, or St. Joan of Arc. Rightfully so, they greatly impacted the Catholic Church and provided awesome holiness to strive for.

During their lives, which they lived at least 600 years ago, they enjoyed a wide variety of things such as outlining military strategies, carpentry, and preaching to animals. Can you guess who did what?

These saints are incredibly holy and inspiring but are not the most relatable to people of younger generations.

Enter Carlo Acutis. A ‘90s baby who wore Nike tennis shoes, played video games like Super Mario Cart and Halo, and even knew how to code a website. Oh, and he is the Church’s most recent Blessed.

Carlo was born in 1991 and is the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church. He grew up in Milan, Italy, where he lived until he lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 15.

Since his beatification on October 10, 2020, he has garnered the attention of many young people across the world as a spiritual model they can directly relate to.

When speaking to the National Catholic Register, his mother, Antonia Acutis, noted that he had some relatable imperfections.

“He had the habit of talking a lot. He would do it… even when he was in school, he found this difficult. His teachers would correct him, and he found this was a difficult thing to overcome. He was also a bit of a class clown, very funny. He would write little cartoons, 3-D cartoons on the computer, to amuse his friends.”

This is a welcome shock to the system because for the first time, millennials are seeing someone like them who is on their way to sainthood. Even class clowns can be saints!

That is not the only thing young people can learn from Carlo Acutis. Here are four more things we can learn from our newest millennial Blessed.

You can love Jesus and enjoy things of the world too.

It has been widely noted that Carlo’s first love was Our Lord in the Eucharist, but he was also known to enjoy a game of Mario Kart from time to time. When his tomb was opened for veneration at the beginning of October, he could be seen wearing Nikes and jeans, the clothes he preferred in life.

Carlo shows us that we can enjoy things of the world, like modern technology or a pair of tennis shoes, while still pursuing Christ.

Blessed Carlo Acutis in tombBlessed Carlo Acutis in tomb
The body of Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006, is pictured at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 3, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Oftentimes, saints are thought to have spent their entire lives locked in prayer, frequently fasting, with no earthly possessions. While that is inspirational, it is important to know that we can strive for sainthood without forsaking all worldly goods. A love of God can be balanced with things of this world.

Your ministry does not have to look like everyone else’s.

The 15-year-old used his computer programming skills to build a website that showcased Eucharistic miracles. Carlo used the skills given to him by God, his love for the Eucharist, and his passion for bringing others to God to create his saintly ministry.

His mother spoke about his unique ministry to Vatican News, saying that Carlo knew the importance of the Eucharist and used the internet to help people understand it as well.

“His zeal for the Lord and his love for the knowledge of Jesus prompted him to make use of his talents to create a website on Eucharistic miracles and an exhibit on the same subject that has traveled around the world,” she said.

If Carlo would have been focused on trying to make his ministry look like someone else’s, he might not have done the things that brought him to sainthood. His story shows us that you can be a saint using the gifts that God gave you — you don’t need extraordinary things or circumstances to further God’s mission.

You do not have to be surrounded by saints to be saintly.

While it is important to have people in your corner to push you towards God, it is not required. Carlo’s parents rarely attended Mass, yet he pushed to receive his sacraments, attended daily Mass, and prayed the Rosary daily. He was the one who made them stronger in their faith.

In our society it can be difficult to strike out on your own and pursue passions that are not popular with those around you. Carlo reminds us not to diminish our passion for Christ to appease those around us.

Work to bring those around you to God.

This is taught to most Catholics from a young age, but Carlo paints such a clear example of bringing others to Christ through the way you live your life.

Carlo’s mother shared with the National Catholic Register that before her son, she had only attended Mass maybe three times in her life. He challenged her from a young age by asking her difficult questions and sharing with those around him the importance of the Eucharist.

“Carlo brought me closer to God,” she said. “He would ask questions that I would not know the answer to, especially in my own lack of catechism. So, I turned to learning more about my faith… He really lived what he preached, a witness.”

This young Blessed shows us that we need to live our lives in a way that leads others to Christ. It is not enough to live in a way that only gets yourself to heaven — make heaven crowded.


Blessed Carlo Acutis

When you think of the saints, you probably think of the big names — St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph, or St. Joan of Arc.