Chiara was the only child of two loving and holy parents, Ruggero, and Maria Theresa, who tried for 11 years before conceiving her. Her mother said that, ‘Even though we were so immensely happy, we understood straightaway that this child wasn’t ours alone. She belonged to God first of all.’

When she was nine, Chiara to became involved in Focolare – a popular movement in Italy. This had a tremendous impact on her life. One year later, her parents also became involved in that movement and it transformed their lives.

Chiara was a lot like other little kids growing up – the tendency to be a brat sometimes not excluded, though it was clear even at a very young age that her faith affected and refined the way she acted. One time when she was nine her mom asked her to clear the table. She said ‘No’, and walked away. A moment later she came back and said, ‘Mamma, I’ve just remembered that story in the Gospel about the two workers who had to go and work in the vineyard; one said “yes” but didn’t go; the other instead said ‘no’… Mamma, give me that apron’. 

As a child, she kept a journal of spiritual sacrifices she was offering to God. One time she visited a friend who had scarlet fever and wrote: ‘My friend has scarlet fever and everyone is too scared to visit her. With my parents’ permission I decided to do my homework over at her place so that she wouldn’t feel lonely’. 

As a teen Chiara worked hard at school, but, like many teens, she struggled. Once she failed a class that she had tried to do well in and she took it really badly. But Chiara found comfort in her faith. While helping to give a retreat to children with Focolare she was uplifted by the retreat master’s talk. She wrote to her parents from the retreat: ‘This is a very important moment for me: it is an encounter with Jesus Forsaken. It hasn’t been easy to embrace this suffering, but this morning Chiara Lubich (the retreat master) explained to the children that they have to be the spouse of Jesus Forsaken.’

Other than her occasional struggle with grades, Chiara seemed to have everything going for her as a teen. She had a rock solid faith that was nurtured by retreats and youth ministry programs – and especially by her loving family. She was popular amongst her friends and was liked by boys. She loved to hang out in coffee shops. She was great at tennis, swimming, and mountain climbing. She loved singing and dancing. Her outgoing personality and adventurous spirit made her dream of becoming a flight attendant. Chiara had a bright life ahead of her.

One day while playing tennis Chiara experienced sharp pain in her shoulder. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma – one of the most serious and painful forms of bone cancer.

When she was diagnosed, Chiara sat quietly for a long time. With her regular brave determination, she said ‘I’m young. I’m sure I’ll make it.’ Her father, who was with her later said, ‘We were sure that Jesus was in our midst in that moment and he gave us the strength to accept it.’ 

Chiara knew that her strength wasn’t coming from herself, but from God – and that strength came in many ways. She was once taped talking about how she got through a very painful procedure. She said: ‘When the doctors began to carry out this small, but quite demanding, procedure, a lady with a very beautiful and luminous smile came in. She came up to me and took me by the hand, and her touch filled me with courage. In the same way that she arrived, she disappeared, and I could no longer see her. But my heart was filled with an immense joy and all fear left me. In that moment I understood that if we’re always ready for everything, God sends us many signs of his love.’

When treatments caused her hair to fall out (and like any teen, she loved her hair), she simply said, ‘For You, Jesus’ with each lock.

As her struggle wore on, Chiara’s joy remained undimmed. This is because the source of her joy was bigger than life and death itself. A friend from her youth group who visited her later said, ‘At first we thought we’d visit her to keep her spirits up, but very soon we understood that, in fact, we were the ones who needed her. Her life was like a magnet drawing us to her.’

During one of her many hospital stays she would take walks with a very depressed, drug dependent girl – despite the pain it caused her to walk because of a huge growth on her spine. When she was encouraged to stop doing this and rest she said,I’ll have time to rest later.’

Chaira saw her bright future disappear as final CAT scans revealed that she was not going to make it. Although this gave rise to times of intense inner struggle, Chiara’s never stopped seeing everything in the light of her faith. She knew that her life and death somehow fit into the master plan of a loving God. She’d frequently say, ‘If this is what you want Jesus, so do I.’ She wrote to one of her friends, ‘Previously I felt another world was awaiting me and the most I could do was to let go. Instead now I feel enfolded in a marvellous plan of God which is slowly being unveiled to me.’ 

Chaira consistently transformed everything she suffered into a prayerful offering to God. Refusing morphine, she said ‘It reduces my lucidity, and there’s only one thing I can do now: to offer my suffering to Jesus because I want to share as much as possible in his suffering on the cross.’ Referring to the intravenous drip attached to her arm, ‘These drops are nothing compared to the nails driven into the hands of Jesus.’ When she could no longer walk she said, ‘If I had to choose between walking or going to heaven, I would choose going to heaven.’ Her parents always supported and encouraged her in seeing suffering in light of the mysterious plan of God.

Chiara’s joy remained undimmed to the very end. Cardinal Saldarini visited her and said, ‘The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?’ Chiara’s reply was simple. ‘I try to love Jesus as much as I can.’ 

One time, after almost dying from a haemorrhage, she said, ‘Don’t shed any tears for me. I’m going to Jesus. At my funeral, I don’t want people crying, but singing with all their hearts.’ 

One of her doctors said, ‘Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.’ 

Chiara requested to be buried in a wedding gown. As she prepared for her funeral with her mom she said, ‘When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, “Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus”.’ 

On October 7, the Feat of the Holy Rosary, Chiara died at age 18. Her parents and friends were with her. Her last words were, ‘Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.’ Two thousand people attended her funeral; the mayor of Sassello shut down the town so people would be able to attend.

Chiara’s cause for sainthood was instigated by former Bishop of Acqui, Most Rev. Livio Maritano in 1999. She was then declared a ‘Venerable’ on July 3, 2008. In December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI recognised the miracle of a young Italian boy whose parents interceded to Chiara to heal him from his meningitis that was destroying his organs. His doctors could not medically explain his sudden healing.

Chiara Badano was declared a ‘Blessed’ in the Catholic Church on September 25, 2010 at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome. Thousands of people came for the event. Archbishop Angelo Amato, the head of the Vatican Congregation of the Causes of Saints, said that Chiara was a great example of how the short life of the youth could be lived out in great holiness and ‘today there are virtuous people, who in family, at school, in society do not fritter away their lives.’

 

Eddie Cotter Jr. – Dead Theologians Society


This article can be found in Mirror 0113.