Who was Carlo Acutis? How was this young man really like? What is his spirituality? How can I live a life like Carlo Acutis? It may seem a bit biased on our blog that in recent months, I have been reviewing books about the life and spirituality of Bl. Carlo Acutis. The first book I reviewed was, Blessed Carlo Acutis – 5 Steps to Being a Saint by Mgr. Anthony Figueiredo, and last month came Carlo Acutis – The Boy Who Knew, a fictional story which recounts the life of Carlo Acutis by Corinna Turner. Today, I am reviewing a title that will be released on June 22, 2021 titled, Carlo Acutis – A Milliennial in Paradise by Fr. Will Conquer. The title was originally published in 2019 in French as Carlo Acutis: Un Geek au Paradis, and now translated into English by James Henri McMurtrie, published by Sophia Institute Press. The reason why I have been reviewing (and will continue to review) books on Bl. Carlo Acutis is because his is a Blessed and hopefully, a Saint for our times and his spirituality is ever so urgent for young people today. As a young adult, his life and spirituality is all the more relevant to me and my peers and as of his beatification last year, there were not many English books on this young man… that is, until now as English titles on the Blessed start to be written, or translated from other languages into English and published in the past months.
At first, I thought this was going to be a more biographical read on Carlo Acutis, similar to Eucaristia: La mia autostrada per il cielo. Biografia di Carlo Acutis (which I hope will be translated into English one day… I currently have the Italian version but unfortunately Duolingo is not sufficient in helping me understand the Italian texts!) but rather, it is a mix of a biographical and spiritual sketch of Carlo’s life with even a “nudge” for the reader in their spiritual life. The interesting thing is that there are pictograms that are available that divides the texts into various sections to facilitate the organization of these points: (1) historical events, (2) story from the life of Carlo Acutis, (3) key people in Carlo’s life, (4) a virtue drawn from Carlo’s life, (5) reflection questions, (6) Bible passage and (7) prayer. I think to get a better idea of the book, I will review each of these elements and in the end, tie them all together to how I think it speaks to the life of Carlo Acutis and the particular audience the book is intended for.
Historical Events – Let us recall that Carlo was born in 1991, 30 years ago. For me, that was ten years before my birth. When we read of people’s biography or life stories, how often do we forget to put their life story into the context of the particular time they were living in? Have you ever considered the historical context in which St. Francis of Assisi or St. Ignatius of Loyola lived in when reading about their lives? If you ever read of Carlo Acutis’ life, even just briefly, have you ever considered the historical events and technological advancements that were occurring during the period between 1991-2006? I know personally, until reading this book, I never really considered the historical context in which Carlo lived in. The time Carlo was born in were to say, interesting times. The world was adjusting to what seemed like a new reality in the political sphere, saw new advancements in technology especially in computers… this is the world that the young Carlo lived in. We often say, “Carlo is the first beatified millennial,” but what does that really mean without looking into the historical backdrop of the millennial generation? It is probably with this concern in mind that Fr. Conquer always speaks of the historical context of Carlo’s life in every one of his chapters before speaking of anything specific about Carlo’s life.
Carlo’s Life Story – I don’t know about you, but I always love reading about Carlo Acutis’ life. The main thing is, as I said earlier, I know he was ten years older than me – he was born in 1991, myself in 2001. Carlo’s life story is just so relatable and the more I read about him, the more amiable Carlo is. The more I read his life story and hear anecdotes on his life from his mother in interviews, the more I am exposed to the fact that holiness is for everyone and it is achievable. Yet, it takes courage, commitment and an open mind and heart. We go into our churches and see saints in their habits or old-fashioned clothing and think holiness is that. Saints can be found in the most ordinary of people like Carlo who had a sweet tooth, went on vacations, played video games and board games like chess and Monopoly, had good friendships even with girls, and wore ordinary jeans like many teenagers his age.
A point that I think was quite prominent in this book was the fact that Carlo was a single child. Being a brother with a younger sister, I honestly never really took into consideration the fact of Carlo being a single child had much influence on his life. He certainly had times when was detached from his parents from a young age, and had moments of solitude. But it was because of that “solitude” that he became acquainted to even the household worker of the Acutis family, and the beggars on the street.
It is probably this ordinariness that we see in Carlo and evident in his life story that Fr. Conquer beautifully unfolds in his book, that over 41,000 people came to Assisi to venerate the tomb of the Blessed during the days of celebration of his beatification in October 2020.
Key People – Carlo did not grow up being holy all by himself, but many people have influenced his spiritual formation and vice-versa, he in turn influenced others around him. In Pope Francis’ message for the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, he said, “Still today, the Christian community is always present in the discernment of vocations, in their formation and in their perseverance (cf. Apost. Ex. Evangelii Gaudium, 107).” In other words, we are influenced by the community, including our family, parish, school and other communities of which we are a part in and that shapes our discernment of our vocation and formation in the spiritual life as well. It is within a community that we receive encouragement to lift us up in hardships and stumbling blocks and thus, for anyone, there are key individuals that assist us in these various aspects of life. I was surprised by the figures featured here because I never knew the influence that these figures had on Carlo. While I have heard much of Rajesh Mohur and the two-way mutual relationship Carlo and Rajesh had on each other’s spiritual formation, I never knew that Carlo’s maternal grandfather or nonno had such profound impact on Carlo. These sections also at times feature the way Carlo had in others, including his peers in school and his friends. These sections serve as a supplement to Carlo’s life story, in order to better understand the life of this young man and the figures that formed him, and which figures were influenced by Carlo.
Virtue – So we hear of the life of a teenager, now what? How can we apply Carlo’s spirituality into our own lives and so, become holy? After reading the historical background of the times Carlo was living in, after reading some biographical episodes and the key people in his life, Fr. Conquer proposes a virtue which we can pull out from a the stories in that chapter. Fr. Conquer goes into this section speaking not only how we can live that virtue but recognizes even the challenges we face in today’s society in living out certain virtues.
Life Questions – Fr. Conquer recognizes in his introduction that these questions are similar to an examination of conscience. Upon reading these questions, I believe they are worth spending time on in prayerful reflection, possibly before the Blessed Sacrament and genuinely look at your own life. What I would suggest: record the answers to these questions in your spiritual notebook. You might want to write in some goals as well for your spiritual life. I heard once that if you write your goal down somewhere in a designated place, your would have a higher chance of actually pursuing such goal. Seven virtues, seven aspects to work on for your spiritual life. Like Carlo, the more you strive to virtuous, then the more of a desire you will have to be holy and that is achieved bit by bit, one virtue at a time.
Bible passage and Prayer – I will speak of these two sections at once because I think they go hand in hand (and they also appear together in the explanation of the sections in the introduction even though the Bible precedes the Life Questions portion in the chapters). Fr. Conquer beautifully weaves his chapter section by section, culminating in the Bible passage and prayer. The Bible passages fit its preceding texts beautifully and prompt further reflection. And like any Catholic act, we end with prayer… there is no better way to end an inspiring chapter than with a prayer of thanksgiving, contrition and resolution.
Piece all these sections together and you get a very well rounded account of the life of Carlo Acutis. The book will not tell you everything about Carlo but I am sure, will inspire you to live better Christian life, maybe a more conscious spiritual life… at least I know I have been inspired in such way. Are you left inspired after reading all seven chapters of the book digging through Carlo’s life? Well, you are not the only one – the end of the book gives you a testimony from someone very close to Carlo – his mother Antonia Acutis Salzano in the form of an interview with Fr. Conquer.
The book is ideal for everyone of any age, but may appeal more, I think, to teen and young adults. It may be read individually, possibly for private prayer. However, I think this book can be more effective if read with a couple friends. I suggest not reading through the book quickly, but rather just one chapter a day. If reading it with a group, one chapter a week, and allow time to discuss and examine oneself, holding each other accountable. This book would be perfect to use in a Catholic men’s group or Catholic women’s group which will spark discussion and conversation about one’s own spiritual life.
This review was based solely on an e-Book review copy of the book. As always, I much prefer a printed book since I like to take notes and record my thoughts and emotions as I read. If the hard copy review copy comes, I will certainly be re-reading the title and offering an update at the end of the post.
But once again, another beautiful english title on Bl. Carlo Acutis and well worth the time reading about a blessed of these times. Bl. Carlo Acutis, pray for us.
- To see a preview of the title, click here.
- To purchase the book in either e-book or paperback from Sophia Institute Press, click here.
- Read an interview of Catholic World Report with Fr. Will Conquer, the book’s author here.
Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of this book to provide an honest review of the title on our blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Sophia Institute Press for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the book.