By Greg Hardesty
Being three minutes late was all it took to change Patrick Magat’s life.
Magat and seven other members of his church group had made it to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi last September during a tour of Italy, but they were turned away at 7:03 p.m. from viewing the body of Blessed Carlo Acutis.
Closing time was 7 p.m. sharp.
Rather than leaving with the rest of the church group, Magat and his aunt stayed overnight in Assisi to venerate Acutis the following day.
“Something told me that this was about more than a visit,” Magat recalled.
Turns out that it was.
Magat, who oversees livestreaming of Sunday Masses at Christ the King Church in Hollywood, had become interested in Acutis’ life after Pope Francis beatified him on Oct. 10, 2020.
That and Magat’s experience in Assisi inspired him to bring an exhibition to Christ the King that is based on a website Acutis created that catalogs the 100-plus eucharistic miracles recognized by the Catholic Church.
Much as Acutis’ faith grew during his brief life, the exhibition has caught fire and will be traveling to more than 30 other parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles through next spring, fueled by growing interest in Acutis’ life at a time when the National Eucharistic Revival is in full swing.
“We never expected so many parishes to say yes to hosting the exhibit — that was something surprising to all of us,” said Father Juan Ochoa, pastor of Christ the King and director of the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship.
But maybe it’s not so surprising considering Acutis’ life story.
After Acutis was beatified, interest grew in a website he created that catalogs eucharistic miracles throughout the ages and around the world.
Acutis, a gamer and computer programmer born in London and raised in Italy, was 15 when he died of leukemia in 2006. He was devoted to serving the poor, and his deep faith led to the conversion of his family and sent him on pilgrimages to the birthplaces of saints and the sites of Eucharistic miracles.
Acutis asked to be buried in Assisi because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor. The teenager was known for buying sleeping bags for the homeless and giving away what money he had.
And Acutis was passionate about the holy Eucharist.
“The more often we receive the Eucharist,” Acutis wrote on his website, “the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this Earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”
The eucharistic miracles Acutis chronicled consist of unexplainable phenomena such as consecrated hosts bleeding. Some Catholic saints reportedly survived for years on nothing but the holy Eucharist.
Although the exhibit has already been hosted at more than 3,000 parishes worldwide, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is believed to be the first diocese in California to host it, Ochoa said.
The exhibit debuted on June 11 at Christ the King, and will be featured in July at St. Columbkille Church and nearby Nativity Church in South Los Angeles, then at St. John Chrysostom Church in Inglewood before moving on to other parishes.
Acutis is nicknamed the “millennial saint” because of his youth and computer skills. Although he loved to play video games like “Halo” on his PlayStation, he reportedly limited himself to an hour of gaming a week.
Ochoa believes the timing of the Eucharistic Revival and Acutis’ youth is a reason for his rise in popularity.
“He’s a teenager, which means our youth can relate to him so much easier,” Ochoa said. “Usually when we speak of religion we are relating to adults. Many times, it’s difficult to relate to teenagers.
“At our exhibit, I asked people, ‘Do you realize the person who put this together was a teenager between the ages of 12 to 15 years old?’ It’s so difficult to get younger generations to become active in the Church. This is an opportunity for us to speak to teenagers.
“And, of course, with the Eucharistic Revival, we are speaking about Eucharistic miracles. This exhibition provides an opportunity for Catholics to deepen their faith and recognize the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”
Parishes that want to host the exhibit, known as the Blessed Carlo Acutis International Exhibition of Miracles of the Eucharist Across the World, can visit Acutis’ website and download the free PDF files they can enlarge for display.
Magat, 33, considers Acutis, who would have been 32 this year, a shining example of faith — especially to people his age.
He said he’s glad he was moved to spend the night last September in Assisi to pay his respects to Acutis.
“I want to return to Rome when he is canonized as a saint,” Magat said.