Saint of the Day – 29 October – Blessed Chiara “Luce” Badano (1971 –1990) Laywoman – born on 29 October 1971 in Sassello, Italy and died on 7 October 1990 (aged 18) at the place of her birth. At age nine she joined the Focolare Movement and received the nickname “Luce” by the founder Chiara Lubich. When she was 16 she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a painful bone cancer. Chiara succumbed to the cancer on October 7, 1990, after a two-year battle with the disease. She was Beatified on 25 September 2010 at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome. Patronages – Youth.
n 1971, after praying and hoping for a baby for more than 10 years, Ruggero and Teresa Badano of in the small village of Sassello, in Italy, welcomed a little girl whom they named Chiara.
Even at the age of four, Chiara seemed aware of the needs of others. She would sort through her toys to give some to poor children and she would never give away just the old or broken ones. She invited less-fortunate people into the family’s home for holidays and visited the elderly at a retirement centre. When other children were sick and confined to bed, Chiara visited them. She loved the stories of the Gospel and loved to attend Mass.
When she was 9, Chiara became involved with the Focolare movement and it’s branch for young people. The group focused on the image of the forsaken Christ as the means to overcome difficult times. Chiara later wrote that, “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.”
While Chiara was a conscientious student, she struggled in school and even failed her first year of high school. She was often teased in school for her strong beliefs and was given the nickname “Sister” but, she was also very popular. She had a lot of friends, she played sports and she loved to sing and dance. But when asked, she said she did not try to bring Jesus to her friends with words. She tried to bring Jesus to them with her example and how she lived her life.
During the summer of 1988, when she was 16 years old, Chiara had a life-changing experience in Rome with the Focolare Movement. She wrote to her parents, “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.” After this trip she started to correspond regularly with Chiara Lubich. She then asked for her new name as this was going to be the start of a new life for her. Chiara Lubich gave her the name Chiara Luce. This was a kind of a play on words since in Italian “Chiara” is a common girl’s name, taken for example from the name of St Clare of Assisi but it is also an everyday word meaning “clear.” “Luce” is occasionally found as a girl’s name in Italy, though it is mostly secular rather than religious and it, too, is also an everyday word meaning “light.” So “Chiara Luce” means “clear light.” Lubich wrote to Chiara that “your luminous face shows your love for Jesus,” which is why she gave her the name Luce.
In this same summer of 1988, Chiara felt a sting of pain in her shoulder while playing tennis. At first she thought nothing of it but when the pain continued to be present, she underwent a series of tests. The doctors then discovered she had a rare and painful form of bone cancer, osteogenic sarcoma. In response, Chiara simply declared, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.”
Throughout the treatment process, Chiara refused to take any morphine so she could stay aware. She felt it was important to know her illness and pain so she could offer up her sufferings. 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 sufferings on the cross.” During her stays in the hospital, she would take the time to go on walks with another patient who was struggling with depression. These walks were beneficial to the other patient but caused Chiara great pain. Her parents often encouraged her to stay and rest but she would simply reply, “I’ll be able to sleep later on.”
One of her doctors, Dr Antonio Delogu, said, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” A friend from the FocColare Movement 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.”
While undergoing a painful medical procedure, Chiara was visited by a lady, “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.”
Chiara’s faith and spirit never dwindled even after the cancer left her unable to walk and a CAT scan showed that any hope of remission was gone. In response, she simply said, “If I had to choose between walking again and going to heaven, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would choose heaven.” On 19 July 1989, Chiara almost died of a haemorrhage. Her faith did not falter as 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.”
Cardinal Saldarini, Archbishop of Turin, Italy, heard about Chiara’s illness and visited her at the hospital. He asked her, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara simply replied, “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”
Before she died, she told her mother, “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.”
When Chiara realised she was not going to get better, she started to plan for her “wedding” (her funeral) with her mother. She chose the music, songs, flowers and the readings for Mass. She wanted to be buried in her “wedding dress” a white dress with a pink waist, because her death would allow her to become the bride of Christ. She told her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’“
During her final hours, Chiara made her final confession and received the Eucharist. She had her family and friends pray with her, “Come Holy Spirit.” Chiara Badano died at 4AM on 7 October 1990, The Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, with her parents at her bedside. Her final words were, “Bye, Mum, be happy, because I am.” 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 promoted by the Most Reverend Livio Maritano, the former Bishop of Acqui Terme, Italy, beginning in 1999. It was through this process that she was declared a “Venerable” on 3 July 2008. In December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the miracle of a young Italian boy whose parents interceded to Chiara to heal him from meningitis that was destroying his organs. His doctors could not medically explain his sudden healing. 25000 people attended her Beatification ceremony which was held at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love in Rome.
She was a normal, everyday girl and possibly a normal, everyday saint. Chiara’s brief life showed us how much one person can accomplish in God’s name.