By Father Ed Dougherty, M.M.
Blessed Chiara Badano was born in 1971 in the northern Italian village of Sassello. At the age of nine, she joined the Focolare Movement, a Catholic organization dedicated to the brotherhood of all mankind. When she was 16, Badano journeyed to Rome, where she met the Focolare Movement’s founder, Chiara Lubich. In a letter to her parents, young Badano wrote, “This is a very important moment for me: it is an encounter with Jesus Forsaken...This morning Chiara Lubich explained to the children that they have to be the spouse of Jesus Forsaken.”
After her trip to Rome, Badano began to correspond regularly with Lubich. In one communication, Badano asked her to give her a different name to indicate the start of a new life. Lubich dubbed her Chiara Luce (meaning “clear light”), and wrote to her saying, “Your luminous face shows your love for Jesus.”
In the same year that she began to correspond with Lubich, Badano was diagnosed with a rare and painful form of bone cancer. In response to this diagnosis, Badano said, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.”
Throughout her illness, Badano constantly reached out to others and visited those in need. One story tells of how she would go on walks with another patient in the hospital, who was suffering from depression, despite the fact that walking caused Badano great pain. She donated her entire life savings to a friend who was doing mission work in Africa, saying, “I don’t need this money anymore. I have everything.”
A friend from Focolare 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.”
When Badano lost the ability to walk, she said, “If I had to choose between walking again and going to heaven, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would choose heaven.” Realizing she wasn’t going to beat the cancer, Badano began to prepare her parents for the pain of losing her, encouraging them to treat her funeral like a wedding, and saying, “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.”
Badano died in 1990 at the age of 18. On the day of her funeral, the mayor of Sassello closed the village for business so that everyone could mourn together. She was declared venerable in 2008 and blessed in 2010 after the Vatican confirmed a miraculous healing of a young Italian boy suffering from a deadly case of meningitis.
On her death bed, Badano shared with her mother that some of her last thoughts were of the young people of the world, saying, “Oh Mamma, 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.”
The torch Blessed Chiara Luce Badano wants to pass on to young people is the clear light that came to her in her love for Jesus Christ. It is a light that can sustain the soul through the darkest of storms; so let us share her story, entrusting young people to her intercession, and the clear light of Chiara Luce will shine as a beacon for them to follow throughout their lives.
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Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., is a member of The Christophers’ Board of Directors