Sometimes holiness manifests itself early in a life cut short. Such is the case with Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, the 20th century teenager who is in line for sainthood.
Italian parents Ruggero and Maria Teresa Badano prayed for eleven years to have a child, and on Oct. 28, 1971, their prayers were answered with the birth of their daughter, Chiara. The family lived in the small village of Sassello, Italy, and Chiara was a typical child — an average student who loved sports, music, and hanging out with her friends. Her holiness began to shrine through during her childhood. It’s said that she loved to visit the sick and elderly, and as a four year old, she told her mother she wanted to give away her toys to the poor.
In the spring of 1981, nine-year-old Chiara attended Family Fest, the annual Focolare Movement festival in Rome, with her parents. The event changed her life, and she wrote about it later, saying: “I discovered that Jesus forsaken is the key to unity with God, and I want to choose him as my only spouse. I want to be ready to welcome him when he comes. To prefer him above all else.”
When she was 16, Chiara attended another Focolare event in Rome and connected with the organization’s leader, Chiara Lubich. Lubich gave her the nickname “Luce” which means light, and they corresponded for the rest of young Chiara’s life.
The Rome event was a spiritual turning point for Chiara: “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 explained to the children that they have to be the spouse of Jesus Forsaken.”
When Chiara was 17, she was struck with shoulder pain while playing tennis. After many tests, doctors discovered the serious diagnosis: osteogenic sarcoma with metastases.
Chiara suffered through her cancer treatments and her pain, offering it all up to the forsaken Jesus and never losing her joyful spirit. At times, she even refused the morphine that would have eased her suffering. All through her sickness, she remained prayerful; she was known for offering comfort toward other patients during her hospitalizations, even when she herself was in severe pain.
Eventually, she became so sick that there was no hope of recovery. When it came close to the time of her death, she and her mother planned her funeral as if it were her wedding day, saying that in death she would become a “bride of Christ.” Reflecting on those times, her mother said: “Thinking back today we have to admit that for our family those were the two years most blessed by God: because Jesus allowed us to live something truly extraordinary, so extraordinary that we’re not able to explain it.”
Chiara told her mother shortly before her death “Oh Mama, young people…young people…they are the future. You see, I can’t run anymore, but how I would like to pass on to them the torch, like in the Olympics! Young people have only one life and it’s worthwhile to spend it well.”
Chiara died on Oct. 7, 1990, shortly before her nineteenth birthday. Such was her reputation for holiness that the village shut down the streets on the day of her funeral. It was reported that as many as 2,000 people were in the town to bid her farewell. The future saint was generous to others even in death: despite her cancer, she was able to designate her corneas for organ donation.
Chiara’s cause for sainthood was presented to the Vatican by Bishop Livio Maritano of Italy. Her cause was furthered by the miraculous healing of a young boy who was dying of meningitis and whose parents prayed for her intercession. She was beatified on September 25, 2010 at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome.
Her feast day is Oct. 29.
The Focolare Movement is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. They focus on the image of the forsaken Christ to help get through hard times. Learn more here: www.focolare.org/en
Not many saints have a website like this. There is much more on the life of Chiara here: www.chiarabadano.org/?lang=en