By Eileen Jevis
“The prayers of the saints rise up before God, and then God acts on earth”
On Thursday, Aug. 26, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia commemorated the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord at St. Mary’s Parish and Shrine in Oswego. Along with several priests and a host of servers, the bishop celebrated Mass with an estimated 200 faithful in attendance.
The Bishop asked the congregation to offer special prayers to Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who is on the path to sainthood. Acutis, who was diagnosed with acute leukemia, died in 2006 at the age of 15 in Monza, Italy. During his illness, Acutis offered his suffering for Pope Benedict XVI and the Church. From a young age, Acutis had a special love for God and a deep devotion to the Eucharist. His unwavering devotion led to the conversion of faith for his family and others.
At age 9, Carlo began studying computer science and taught himself computer programming. During his illness, he created a website to spread his love of the Eucharist, of Mary and his profound faith. After his death, the Diocese of Assisi petitioned the Vatican to recognize Carlo as a saint.
The first step to be considered for sainthood requires the person to be recognized as a Servant of God. Acutis’ life and works were investigated, and he was officially sanctioned by the Pope and the Catholic Church as a Servant of God.
The Vatican committee, called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, examined, analyzed and contextualized Acutis’ life. The committee verified that there is substantial reason that Acutis might be a saint and he was given the next title — Venerable.
The Catholic Church requires two miracles be attributed to a candidate for sainthood. A young Brazilian boy was healed from a rare congenital disease of the pancreas after he came in contact with one of Acutis’ shirts. The Church acknowledges that the miracle took place through the intercession to Acutis. Through the Pope’s divine influence, Acutis was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020. His title is now Blessed.
Jimmer Szatkowski, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville, learned about Carlo Acutis through a series of conversations with Father James Schultz, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and Shrine, and Bishop Lucia. Szatkowski said he knows that Bishop Lucia has a special affinity for Carlo. “The Bishop suggested that we begin a movement in the Syracuse Diocese to pray for a miracle through Blessed Carlo,” said Szatkowski.
Szatkowski, diagnosed with ALS in 2021, is praying for a miracle. For people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), there is no cure. ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.
“This is a very hard journey,” said Szatkowski. “But it is a far greater spiritual challenge.” Szatkowski said that what drew him to Blessed Acutis was his faithfulness and obedience to God and the sacraments amid very challenging circumstances. “I felt that God chose him for me. Despite this really difficult diagnosis and circumstances, it’s undeniable that God is using this to bless me and glorify Him. I certainly don’t want this to be happening, but I’m grateful it is. My suffering has made me a better father, husband, friend, leader and son.”
Praying to the saints and blesseds in heaven, asking them to intercede on our behalf, exemplifies a core belief of our Catholic faith: our communion with the living and the dead. “Praying for a miracle for Jimmer is a reminder to all of an aspect of our faith,” said Father Schultz. “There are people besides Jimmer that might need a miracle and the Church encourages us to look for a Servant of God, a Venerable or a Blessed that can intercede for us so we can help that person get a miracle and become a saint.”
In his homily, Bishop Lucia talked about the profound impact Carlo made during his short life. “When his wake was held, his parents were amazed at who came to the wake and funeral. It wasn’t just his classmates; it wasn’t just townspeople; it was some of the very people whom he had helped along the way. Think of that. Think of the impression this young teenager made on people. Literally, he was an icon of Christ the deacon; of Christ the saint,” said Bishop Lucia.
Prayer cards are being distributed throughout the Diocese. The prayer to Carlo Acutis is also at https://stmarysoswego.com/bl-carlo-acutis.
Father Schultz is asking the faithful to say the prayer as a novena for nine days throughout the month of June. “It is important to recognize the inspiration that saints have on our lives and faith,” he said.
“Since I was diagnosed, I’ve had hundreds of little miracles in my life, which I am grateful for,” said Szatkowski. “Every once in a while, there are tears. But God never stops loving us and he hasn’t abandoned me. He is in complete control.”