Editor’s note: This is Bishop Douglas J. Lucia’s homily from the annual Back to School Mass on Aug. 31 at Holy Cross Church for teachers and staff from all diocesan schools.

So, I have been reflecting on something and the idea is simply this: “How do you and I help awaken Faith? How do you and I respond to the call to awaken faith in ourselves, but also awakening faith in our neighbor?”

As I have been reflecting upon these questions, I have been doing so in light of the last three weeks of our HOPE Appeal Celebrations of Gratitude around the Diocese (and of course, one of the purposes is to support Catholic education in our diocese). And the theme for this year’s appeal is, “You Strengthen the Fabric of Our Faith.”

And the image that is being used is that of a patchwork quilt, which I think many of you may agree with me is one of the most beautiful works of art. Like books, they tell a story —  recording or symbolizing life events. Yet, they also can bring great comfort! Isn’t that what the ministry of our diocese is meant to be all about! To bring the comfort and the character of Christ, to those around us — to awaken faith!

If we were to turn on the news, and we see all the headlines, sometimes we might begin to say, what happened to faith or who or where can I put my faith? Yet, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is inviting us to awaken that faith, and my summer reading has helped me to do so. This summer, I came across the biography of a young blessed who lived from 1991 to 2006. His name is Blessed Carlo Acutis. The biography titled, My Son Carlo, was written by his mother, Antonia Salzano Acutis, with the assistance of Paolo Rodari.

What’s interesting about Carlo is how in fifteen years of life, he would be a great influence not only on his peers, but also on the adults in his life, including his own parents, Antonia and Andrea. Carlo was a very “normal teenager.” It’s very interesting if you read this particular biography because his mother wrote about his spiritual journey. And it was this journey — the way Carlo lived out his life — that would eventually awaken the faith of his parents.

Let’s see the significance in this for you and me, today. Both his parents were Italian by birth and university educated. Carlo’s father was actually a university professor working abroad in London while his mother succeeded her father in the business world. They were a family of means and lived quite comfortably.

Carlo’s mother will readily admit that growing up, she went to church, basically, only when she had to. She didn’t receive the sacraments on a regular basis. The couple were married in the church more as a cultural practice. But as they will readily admit, it was Carlo from a very early age, who awakened their faith and invited them on a faith journey.

And so, for me two things: Again, what I’m thinking of is this, how Carlo brought his own family back to God, back to a deepening of the faith. How do we help our young people to do that today? How do we help our young people to share their faith in the family?

These are significant questions in light of statistics which suggest a lack of religious knowledge from my generation down. How much do parents today understand the faith? And yet, we see a young man who was able to bring his parents to faith! But there was, I will say, a catch; Carlo did have to be taught in order to grow in faith. And he did that through church, through catechesis, through going to a Catholic school — again, thinking of woven fabric and how it comes about.

Today, how can we help to lead faith into the lives of our young people? So that in turn, like a blanket, they bring it back home and allow it to cover their families, especially in the tumultuous times in which we live.

If you get a chance I invite you to listen to this year’s HOPE Appeal video. It is eight minutes in length. Beth (Hoey, HOPE Appeal director) keeps apologizing about that, but it’s a good eight minutes! I would like you especially to listen to the young people from Trinity Catholic School in Oswego. And hear what they say about the difference that faith makes in their lives.

I think it’s so important for us to recognize the beauty of faith; and when we talk about faith, it’s not some abstract idea! That’s why today we celebrate the Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist this year in the midst of the Eucharistic revival.

Carlo’s practice of the faith would be an inspiration to Rajesh, the young Indian housekeeper who worked in the Acutis household, leading him from his very worldly attractions to the Christian faith. It would also become evident in Carlo’s care for the poor and marginalized of Milan, and in his outreach to them.

What I want to share with you is how we need, especially in our Catholic schools, to focus on the Eucharist as the means of handing on the faith:

The first quote in his journal is actually from Francis of Assisi. It says, “Behold each day he humbles himself as when he came from the royal throne, into the Virgin’s womb; each day he himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of a priest. As he revealed himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so he reveals himself to us now in sacred bread. And as they  saw only his flesh, by an insight of their flesh, yet believed that he was God as they contemplated him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are his most holy body and blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with his faithful, as he himself says: ‘Behold I am with you always until the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).’”

In the second quote, Carlo goes on to reflect about the idea that the Eucharist is always about the “God who pairs himself up with us.” Think of it as a new classroom, a new agenda for your students — the Eucharist is all about God, pairing himself off with us. Carlo writes that it means “life together,” and “life together” means “cohabitation, co-partnership, collaboration, making plans together, interaction, organizational harmony, questions and answers, concerted actions, innate ideas, ideals pursued together, values lived together, values defended together, values improved together.”

“With you”: This is the understood tabernacle. Whether we’re talking about the tabernacle here, behind me right now, or the tabernacle that we become when we receive the Eucharist. “The Trinitarian plan for the rational being is clear: elevation to a supernatural state, adoption as a son or daughter, inheriting co-eternity.”

Carlo was considered an average student, although I think he was quite brilliant, especially if he knew how to use a computer and he was setting up his own websites, including some you may want in your classroom concerning the Eucharist and Mary.

However, one last idea to take with you:

If we truly reflect, we are much, much luckier than those who lived more than 2,000 years ago with Jesus in Palestine. The apostles, the disciples and the people of those times could meet him, touch him, talk to him, but they were limited by space and time. Many had to travel for miles on foot to meet him, but it was not always possible to approach him because he was always surrounded by crowds. Just think of Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to see him. All we need to do, however, is to go into the nearest church, and we have “Jerusalem” right outside our front door!

My sisters … my brothers … stay awake! Today I wanted to share with you the importance of awakening in faith. Because just like Carlo Acutis that faith can affect, can infect, families, communities and even us. It can strengthen the fabric of faith. And isn’t that what we need in our world more than ever today? Because when we strengthen the fabric of faith, we celebrate once again, our true identity and God, that each and every human person is God’s work of art. This year, let us help our young people to know that and through them, help their families to also know their relationship, their specialness to God.

Amen.


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