If you ask children who they want to be like when they grow up, boys often name a football star.

In my experience girls will mention an author or perceived heroine of the past or present.

Sometimes, though, it is actually the young person who is the role model. Think of Louis Braille or Anne Frank.

I recently came across an Italian teenager, Carlo Acutis, who has greatly inspired me.

Carlo was born into a wealthy Milanese family in 1991. His parents were nominally religious. They were caught up in the world of finance and materialism.

Carlo was a happy child whom his mother soon entrusted to the care of nannies, including a Scottish one.

He learnt a great deal from them, including how to pray. In no time, it was he who was inspiring his parents, especially his mother, to take him to church.

It quickly became clear that Carlo was a very intelligent child. All his cleverness and interest in God didn’t stop him from being very popular with everyone.

People found him very “simpatico.” He loved his computer games, his numerous pets, and all the other things children and teenagers like.

But Carlo did not just go with the flow. He would defend other children from bullies in the school. He wouldn’t talk in ways which were unhealthy.

He would use his pocket money to help beggars or immigrants who were homeless.

Carlo’s secret was his friendship with Jesus.

In fact, the more time he spent on this friendship, the more time and energy he had for his many other friends.

Carlo developed his own little sayings by which he lived: for example, “not I, but God”; “happiness is looking upwards, sadness looking downwards”; “all people are born as originals but many die as photocopies".

Carlo died of a brain haemorrhage in 2006, aged fifteen.

A few months before he died, he had recorded a short video message, found only after his death, in which he said that he knew he was going to die soon.

He even said that he was happy to die because he had not wasted a minute doing anything displeasing to God.

His funeral overflowed with mourners, mostly unknown to his parents.

To me, Carlo models this truth: to live in friendship with God is to live a full life, however short or long it may be.