Blessed Chiara Luce Badano: Joyful Embrace of the Cross
by Leila Joy Castillo, grade 11
“I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing! I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.” Blessed Chiara Luce Badano’s short life of 18 years unfolded on the theme of taking up her cross to follow “the forsaken Jesus.” Her entire life was an anthem of joyful discipleship of Christ, and she did not forsake this theme even when walking a difficult and painful road. By embracing the sufferings sent her by Our Lord, Chiara fostered a culture of life that positively impacted those around her. Chiara’s example attests that we can promote the beauty of life in carrying our crosses of suffering by inspiring greater faith, building extraordinary hope, and spreading the love of Christ in the lives of others.
Surrender to a divine plan involving suffering is a challenge requiring great faith, and one which I have often wrestled with accepting. However, looking to Chiara Luce’s example always gives me newfound strength, for not only did she comply unconditionally, but she gave a witness of faith to others. Faced with the agonizing diagnosis of bone cancer and well knowing the implications, Chiara nevertheless yielded in trust to God’s will, saying “For you Jesus. . . . If You want it, I want it too!” Despite excruciating moments, she never strayed from walking with Christ on the chosen path, but radiated peace and happiness. Due to her infectious joy through suffering, she was given the name “Luce,” meaning light. All who saw her experienced a resurgence of faith and marveled at her ability to bring them more cheerfulness than they did to her. Further, a testimony of her bishop points to the impact we can make on others by accepting our crosses, as he told Chiara, “If young people had even just a speck of your faith, the Church would be saved.”
The world views suffering as hopeless, futile, and meaningless and attempts to inoculate such lies into the minds of people, most especially youth. However, Chiara testifies that just as Our Lord’s passion was salvific and beautiful, our sufferings are also redemptive and significant most especially when united to His. Chiara’s joyful willingness in taking up her cross causes us to stop and re-evaluate the value of suffering; if a girl so young did not desist from walking the way of pain with her Lord, then suffering must be beautiful! Moreover, we can learn from Chiara the effectiveness of suffering in redeeming and benefitting the whole Church. She valued the sacrifices that others offered for her, and through these spiritual ties felt unity and communion with them. Chiara herself offered up her painful medical treatments for others, doing so with such enthusiasm that her parents themselves felt serenity and strength. Chiara’s example helps us to find the extraordinary hope and see the immense meaning and even sweetness in bearing life’s crosses. Taking up our crosses also creates a culture of life by building bridges of love in our lives. First, suffering increases our love for God, who offered Himself up in suffering for us, and
then that love overflows to others and augments our charity toward them. Chiara experienced this intensification of love for Christ when, after a brief inner battle of the will, she courageously said “yes” to His plan and never wavered in her acquiescence. Such ardent, unconditional love is the making of every canonized saint, and if Chiara attained such devotion and is now even revered as blessed, we most certainly can succeed according to her example! What Chiara further did with that love was exactly as commanded by Mother Teresa: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” The radiance of her love for Christ, for suffering, and for others continues to inspire us who look to her now, after her death, as it encouraged those who saw her living witness.
Having lived as a teenager in the late twentieth century, Chiara is a powerful example for my generation of seeing the beauty, value, and dignity of life especially through the lens of suffering. We can learn from her example that denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ (cf. Luke 9:23) deepens the faith, establishes resurgent hope, and communicates the love of God to all. Now, after her death, Chiara Luce Badano reminds us that we contribute to the culture of life when, instead of avoiding a burden or sorrow, we walk with our forsaken Lord who also suffered pain for our salvation. She will accompany us also, bringing us to Jesus and helping us build a strong civilization of love and life, encouraging and reassuring us with her own words: “I feel so small and the road ahead so hard, I often feel overwhelmed by pain. But it’s my Spouse who comes to visit me.”
© 2018 Leila Joy Castillo. Published with permission.
Gillet, Florence. 15 Days of Prayer with Blessed Chiara Badano. New York: New City Press, 2015.