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Chiara Luce Badano: First Communion/ Confirmation:

Recently I have been reading the story of a young girl named Chiara Luce Badano. As it is the time for First Communion, and Confirmation I thought I might share her story with you. In Italy they speak of the “Chiara Luce phenomenon”, when referring to the recently beatified teenager Chiara Luce. Her story attracted great attention not only in Italy, but around the world. Clips relating to her abound on U Tube. Websites carry her story along with interviews with her parents now in 70s. Pope Benedict has spoken of her on number of occasions. The Youth Forum at the 2012 International Congress in Dublin has been entitled the” Chiara Luce Youth Space”.

So why does she attract such interest? One reason probably is that she is very close to us in time. She died only twenty years ago on the 7th October 1990. So there are photographs of her in modern clothes, speaking on a mobile phone, going on holiday in the sun, acting the clown. We see her dressed in jeans, tea shirts, and sneakers. She was into U2. And yet in the everyday simple things, her holiness shines out. It would have to be added that in any account of her story, the listener cannot but be struck by the significance of her parents, relations and friends along her journey. She presents us with an example of community spirituality lived to the end.

During his visit to Sicily in2010, Pope Benedict invited young people to and families to get to know her because “her life was short, but it is a wonderful message”.

The last stage of Chiara’s life was marked by a severe and aggressive form of cancer. But her holiness began much earlier than that. It started early in life and was then built up in daily small conquests, and a growing realisation of the greatness to which we are called. Born on October 29th 1971 in Sassello, a remote town in the province of Savana, Italy she was the one and only child of Marie Teresa and Raggero Badano. They had been married seven years before she was born. The family background was of modest circumstances, her mother, a biscuit factory worker, and her father a lorry driver. From her father we are told she inherited a great love for truth, her search for justice, and her attentiveness to the poor. From her mother she learned gentleness, patient perseverance, and great faith.

In this homily I can only share some things from Chiara’s life. One day her mother suggested to young Chiara that she should give away some of the mountain of toys she had amassed. But the child replied: “No Mom they are mine”. Her mother left her at that and continued what she was at in the kitchen, Then she heard the child’s voice, this one, yes, that one, no, this one, no that one, no—The mother went to the room and found the child dividing out her toys, putting the new ones in a box. The mother exclaimed: “but the toys you are giving away are your new toys”. To which Chiara Lucy replied: “I can’t give broken toys to the poor”.

Her youthful dreams revealed a maturity well beyond her years. For instance in her first essay at school she wrote: “I dream of a day in which the children of slaves and their masters will sit together at the table of fraternity, just like Jesus and the apostles”. Amazingly at seven and a half years of age she wrote this reflective piece: “One day you are born, no one asked you if you wanted to live. But now you are living. Sometimes it’s nice for you. Sometimes instead you are sad. There are many things you don’t understand. You are alive, but why are you alive? With your hands you must help to reorder the world. With your mind you must learn to distinguish good and evil. With your heart you must love people, and help them when you can. There are many tasks that await you. They await our hands, our mind, and our heart”

As a gift for First Communion the local Parish Priest gave her a copy of the Gospel. It didn’t gather dust on the shelf. Admittedly, already as a young child she had been captivated by the stories of the Gospel. A simple episode indicates this. When Chiara was five years old, her mother asked her to help in the kitchen, and the young child promptly and decisively answered no. A short time later she returned to her mother asking her about the Gospel story about two brothers, one who had said “yes” but didn’t do what was asked of him, and the other who had said “no” but eventually did do something. On the basis of this story the young girl decided to give a hand in the kitchen. When she was nine she made a renewed decision to take the Gospel more seriously. She decided to learn to live the gospel just as you would learn to the alphabet, letter by letter, sentence by sentence. In 1985, she would write: “I discovered the Gospel in a new light. I have understood that I haven’t been an authentic Christian because I haven’t being living it deeply. Now I want to make of this magnificent book the only goal of my life. I don’t and I cannot remain illiterate of such an extraordinary message. Just as it is easy for me to learn the alphabet so likewise I must learn to live the Gospel”.

This commitment arose after she and her mother went to a Christian gathering organised by Focalare. They were struck by its atmosphere and decided to keep in touch. Chiara Luce now began to live the Gospel not only on her own but together with others. Through her teenage years she travelled to other towns to meet up with other friends who had decided to share their faith journey to God together. After her Confirmation she gave the money she had received to the poor. Once during a fund raising event she gave away her favourite watch because it was worth a lot. Her parents gave her another one, but that too was given away within a few days. Chiara was a great sports person, and one day while playing tennis she suddently experienced shoulder pain. Soon she was undergoing a series of intense tests that were to provide drastic news. She had osteosarcomia, a severe and aggressive form of bone cancer. Her mother tells the story of the day, tests made it clear how serious the situation was. It was June 14 1989 when Chiara once again was admitted to the hospital in Turin for a few days. Following a consultation with the consultant, she realised the gravity of her illness, and that there was little hope of recovery. Chiara’s mother recalls seeing Chiara approach the house where they were staying, walking slowly in pensive mood. As she entered the mother opened up a conversation, but Chiara stopped her, saying “not now”. The young girl went to her room in silence. The mother had the wisdom not to interfere. Twenty five minutes passed. And then the door opened and a smiling Chiara Luce reappeared saying to her mother: “Now mom Lets talk”. She had made her decision. She had said her yes and there was going to be no turning back.

Her mother noticed a new radiance in her face and words. She had now resolved any battle within her through a deep conversation with the Lord. During her illness she remained very close to her Focalare friends, and they to her. In her correspondence with them and her parents, we learn a great deal about her attitude to suffering. She accepted with great resignation all the limitations that suffering imposes. Each lock of hair that fell out because of chemotherapy she simply said: “For You Jesus”. She felt each day that God had a plan for her which she must follow. Her physical contact with her friends became less. To one of them she wrote: “I have gone out of your life like an instant. How I would have loved to stop the train and travel to you. But now I am enveloped in a splendid plan which is being revealed to me little by little. In another letter she wrote: “They have stopped my chemotherapy. Medicine has laid down its arms. Now only God can do something”. To someone else she said: “Don’t ask Jesus to bring me to heaven. Otherwise he might think I don’t want to suffer any more. He will come to take me when the time is right”. Her prayer was always: “Yes I repeat, if you want it Jesus, I want it.” In a note to young people just before a large youth gathering she wrote: “I offer my nothingness so that the Holy Spirit may pour out on the young people all the gifts of his love, light and peace so that everyone may understand what an immense free gift life is, and how important it is to live it in every moment in the fullness of God”. On the last day of her life many young people waited outside her room. She asked that the door be opened so that she could meet them. That afternoon she hugged her mother saying: “Bye Mum! Be Happy, because I am”. Then she died.