This representation of Carlo Acutis in an Italian church reminds us that holiness is closer than we think
The church of San Giuseppe in Molfetta, Italy, has already installed the first stained glass window depicting Blessed Carlo Acutis, the 15-year-old beatified last year on October 10 by Pope Francis.
His image—in jeans and sneakers—clashes with the traditional stained glass windows to which we are accustomed, and shows that holiness is closer to us than we think.
The window, inaugurated last May by Bishop Domenico Cornacchia, depicts the 15-year-old Carlo walking in jeans, sneakers, a red windbreaker and a backpack. He smiles, and his expression shows joy and approachability. He’s instantly recognizable to those who are familiar with the photos of the young man which have become ubiquitous on Catholic internet.
It’s striking to see such an image decorating the church, because we’re used to seeing stained glass windows with traditional colored decorations including geometric shapes, animals, or the image of the Virgin, the evangelists, or Jesus Christ himself.
We’ve never seen anything like it: the image of a contemporary adolescent, a blessed who transmitted the Gospel through social networks. This representation of Carlo Acutis reminds us that holiness is closer to us than we think.
Surrounded by great saints
The church of San Giuseppe of Molfetta is built on the floor plan of a Latin cross with a nave on either side. It has four chapels. The church contains images of saints and blesseds who have incarnated the Salesian message, which were commissioned to an Italian artist, Maria Bonaduce. The stained glass windows are made with old-fashioned mouth-blown colored glass.
The windows of the chapels on the left represent three saints: St. Philip Neri, St. Francis de Sales, and St. John Bosco. The chapels on the right depict three blesseds: Carlo Acutis, Chiara Badano and Pier Giorgo Frassati.
The design chosen for Acutis shows him walking a curved path that indicates his painful journey. He wears a backpack in which he carries a laptop computer, his tool for giving testimony. He is illuminated by the Eucharist that guides him like a sun.
A contemporary saint
This young Italian died in 2006 of acute leukemia. During his life, Carlo Acutis was a great fan of video games, and created a website where he promoted Eucharistic miracles. He was beatified on October 10, 2020, in Assisi.
He’s credited with the miraculous healing of a Brazilian boy who suffered from a congenital malformation of the pancreas.
Pope Francis mentioned him last March 25 in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit. In it, the pontiff writes:
Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity. Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.
Thus, as his image in the window shows, Acutis also has a message for young people. In the midst of today’s mindset that invites us to worry only about ourselves and encourages us to satisfy all our desires, whatever they may be, Acutis says that “happiness is looking towards God and sadness is looking only towards oneself.”
“God’s influencer,” as he was known, used social networks to send a completely different message from the one that usually circulates through them. “Why do people care so much about the beauty of their body, and don’t care about the beauty of their soul? A life is truly beautiful only if we come to love God above all else and our neighbor as ourselves.”