Saint Augustine often said that “love makes us beautiful”. It definitely made Chiara Luce Badano, the latest young adult to be beatified, radiant.
Born in 1971 in northern Italy, Chiara was the only child of a truck-driver, Ruggero and Maria Teresa. She came after eleven years of marriage. She had a normal childhood with its joys and misgivings. “One afternoon, Chiara came home with a beautiful red apple. I asked her where it came from. She replied that she had taken it from our neighbor’s orchard. I explained to her that she always had to ask before taking anything and that she had to take it back and apologize. She was reluctant to do this because she was too embarrassed. I told her that it was far more important to own up than to eat an apple. So Chiara took the apple back to our neighbor and explained everything to her.”
When she was nine years old, she attended a meeting of the young people of the Focolare movement, a Catholic ecclesial reality that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. She remained within their ranks until death. As she grew up, Chiara became ever more popular amongst her friends. She was good at sports – tennis, swimming, mountain-climbing. She was average at school; math gave her lots of problems. She wanted to be an air-hostess
God has a knack however to disrupt our plans with His better plans! While playing tennis one day, she experienced a very sharp pain in her shoulder. It was the beginning of the end. The doctors diagnosed she had osteosarcoma – one of the most painful forms of cancer. It is still sixth leading cancer in children under age 15.
“I’m young. I’m sure I’ll make it,” she initially thought. She did not! The cancer continued to spread. She did her best to live a normal happy life. She got a new name from Chiara Lubich, the initiator of the Focolare movement. Now she was called ‘Luce’ which means light.
When she could, she reached out. Setting aside her own need to rest, she spent time walking around the wards with a drug-dependent girl suffering from serious depression. This meant getting out of bed despite the pain caused by the huge growth on her spine. “I’ll have time to rest later,” she used to say.
She had to undergo surgery twice. The subsequent chemotherapy treatment caused her to lose her hair, which she was very proud of. As each lock of hair fell, she would say simply, “For you, Jesus”. Her constant reaction was “If you want it Jesus, so do I”. When she lost the use of her legs, Chiara said, “I no longer have legs, but the Lord has given me wings”. She refused to take morphine. “It reduces my lucidity,” she said, “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.”
Together with her mother, she prepared for her “wedding celebration”, her funeral. It was Sunday afternoon, October 7th that she was called to meet Him. Her last words to her mother were, “Mom, be happy, because I am. Bye.” She was eighteen years old.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.