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Ciaran celebrates a missionary to the digital continent

Inspired by the beatification of the first ‘millennial saint’, Ciaran Losasso, leader of the diocesan Ignite team, explores the theme of digital evangelisation.

On October 12, the Church commemorated Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager who was born in London and is hailed by some as the first millennial saint, having died only in 2006.

Carlo was, in many ways, an ordinary 21st-century teenager who enjoyed video games and outdoor pursuits. What set him apart from many (though certainly not all) teenagers, however, was his passionate love of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. So great was this love that he made use of his technological skills to produce a website documenting instances of Eucharistic miracles.

Recently, while I was helping at a retreat for a Confirmation group, Blessed Carlo got a mention and a number of the young people seemed fairly surprised that someone who made websites could be a candidate for sainthood. Scrolling online is not what we imagine sanctity to look like. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that I spend a little too much time in front of a screen each day, but Carlo has left us a great example of how we can turn some of this time towards helping others encounter Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI once encouraged us to share our faith not just on every continent on earth but also on the ‘digital continent’, and it seems that in recent years no end of Catholic videos, apps and websites have appeared specifically aimed at spreading the Gospel message to each of us and to those who have not yet heard it.

Not all of us can set up something like that, but we can certainly join the good number of ordinary Catholics who simply share their day-to-day experiences of faith online. They mention aspects of their faith as naturally as they would mention other, less important, aspects of life and in that way, they witness to others. 

The power of online evangelisation cannot be underestimated. It really can convert hearts and minds. Jack, aged 21 from Norwich, shared this story with me: “One day browsing Reddit I came across someone’s post asking about where to go to Mass in my local area. I contacted him and we started talking about Catholicism. I directed him towards a church and got him in touch with one of the priests. Now he is regularly attending Mass and RCIA. Clearly this situation would be a lot more difficult without the internet.”

It’s not just personal encounters such as these that bear good fruit. Young convert Jonny from Norfolk shared the beautiful story of how he found the Church, having been an atheist as a teenager. “I saw someone mention Gregorian chant in the Facebook comments of a group I am in. I had no clue what that was, so I put it in YouTube. It’s safe to say I was absolutely blown away. Its beauty struck emotions in me that I had never felt before. I started watching more Catholic videos. What came from intrigue turned into a passionate obsession. I started going to Mass in July 2020 and I had to keep back the tears, I was so taken aback by it.”

It’s clear that our words and actions online have such power to spark curiosity and wonder in others. Let’s ask Blessed Carlo Acutis to pray for us that we might have the courage and the creativity to use our phones and tablets not just for aimless scrolling but to bring others closer to Jesus.

Pictured above is Carlo Acutis