Carlo Acutis loved the homeless, St. Francis of Assisi, and souls in purgatory

CNA 5b3f9bd666512 145157 Venerable Carlo Acutis. |

Ahead of Carlo Acutis' beatification this week, people who knew the young computer programmer shared their memories of his love for the poor. 

"With his savings, he bought sleeping bags for homeless people and in the evening he brought them some hot drinks," Antonia Salzano, Acutis' mother, recalled at an event in Assisi Oct. 5.

"He said it was better to have one less pair of shoes and able to do an additional good work [with money not spent on shoes]," she remembered. 

The Italian teenager, who loved soccer and video games, also spent his time volunteering at a soup kitchen in Milan run by the Capuchins and Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.

"From childhood he showed great charity towards others. His love was extraordinary, first of all for his parents and then for the poor, the homeless, the marginalized and the elderly abandoned and alone," Nicola Gori, the postulator of Acutis' cause, has said. 

"He used the savings from his weekly pocket money to help the beggars and those who slept outdoors. He organized fairs in the parish to help the missions with the funds raised." 

Acutis will be beatified in Assisi in the Basilica of St. Francis Oct. 10. He was buried in Assisi in 2006 at his request because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor.

"Carlo had a special bond with Assisi. He had Assisi in his heart. He said it was the city where he felt happiest," his mother said.

One of Acutis' favorite spots to pray in Assisi was the Porziuncola -- the small fourth-century church now located inside of Assisi's Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis heard Christ speak to him from a crucifix: "Francis, go and rebuild my Church."

Carlo liked this church "because he had a great devotion to the souls in purgatory. He liked to pray and apply indulgences to them," Salzano said.

The bishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, announced Oct. 1 that a soup kitchen for the poor would be opened in Acutis' honor not far from where he is buried. He said that the diocese also plans to provide annual support to charitable projects in developing countries in conjunction with this initiative. 

"Carlo Acutis, like St. Francis, had in common, in addition to love for Jesus and in particular for the Eucharist, a great love for the poor. This is why we decided that, in a circumstance like this, we had to leave a strong mark; and what better sign than that of charity?" the bishop said.

From a young age, Acutis seemed to have a special love for God, even though his parents weren't especially devout. His mom said that, before Carlo, she went to Mass only for her First Communion, her confirmation, and her wedding.

As a young child, he loved to pray the rosary. After he made his First Communion, he went to Mass as often as he could, and he made Holy Hours before or after Mass. He went to confession weekly. As he grew older he began to go to Mass daily, often bringing his parents along. 

"He had made the Eucharist the center of his life, and he directed towards the most needy the love that God poured out through him," Sorrentino said ahead of the beatification.

As a teenager, Acutis was diagnosed with leukemia. He offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying: "I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the pope, and the Church."

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Among his friends was Sr. Giovanna Negrotto, a missionary religious sister, who is now 86 years old and one of the people who shared her memories of Acutis at the event in Assisi.

She said that Acutis took great interest in her missionary work in India, asking to see photos of "my great leper friends."

She said the last question that Acutis had asked her was: "What do you think? Is God more pleased with a service like this to the least of the world, generous and tireless, or prayer?"

Referencing Acutis' parents, Negrotto said: "I will never forget that morning when you told me that Carlo had gone up to heaven and about how he offered his life for the pope and for the Church." 

"And then I realized that Carlo had already given the answer to his question. Service, yes, prayer, yes, but no one has a greater love than someone who gives his life for his friends," she said.

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