On this day which is her memorial on particular church calendars and which would have been her 45th birthday, I have been thinking about and talking to my friend Blessed Chiara Luce Badano.
I have only met her "in faith," a generation after her death in 1990 at the age of 18 and about a year and a half after her beatification. But I cherish her as a very real companion in the Lord, and I don't credit any initiative on my part to discovering her. The Communion of Saints is deeply mysterious, brilliantly awesome, gently intimate, and entirely human. She introduced herself to me, discretely, with something like a tap on the shoulder.
She is close to me and to many others, helping us from her special place within the heart of Jesus.
But I think she wants us to know that she is not the only "modern" teenager or young adult who is with Jesus now in the Father's house, and who prays for the rest of us. There is a cloud of young witnesses, a multitude of kids whose lives and sacrifices are not well known to us, whose days were very ordinary and hidden, or who may have been known to some but appreciated by very few. But they are no less heroic in their love for God, their willingness to embrace Christ.
They may not all have the kind of remarkable "coherence" that marks the Catholic saint, but the Lord made them ready to come to Him, bravely, in answer to His call, in circumstances that often seem to us to be "too soon" and perhaps even incomprehensible.
But their young lives were not wasted. Quite the contrary. The Lord has a plan, and the young people who have gone before us in love are especially vigilant in leading the way and being a light to the elders they have left behind. They strengthen our hope in the midst of all our struggles in this poor world.
Thank you, dear Chiara Luce for "tapping me on the shoulder" a few years ago and offering to be my friend. Thank you for praying for me, listening to me, helping me to see the goodness and share the suffering of others, introducing me to new friends in places I never would have looked, and for the surprises: when you tap me on the shoulder and say, "Look. There! There is the light of Christ. There is the love greater than death!"
Some words of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano (1971-1990):