Friday, October 29, 2021

Chiara Luce: "If You Want It Jesus, So Do I"

October 29th commemorates Blessed Chiara "Luce" Badano, an Italian girl who died of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in 1990, a few weeks short of her 19th birthday. She was declared "blessed" in 2010. 

Chiara Luce was a young person of our own time. She had aspirations and plans for her life. She loved to sing, to play tennis, and to swim. She had a hard time with math in school. She cherished her family and friends. When she fell ill, it was very hard for her. She wanted to live. In the long odyssey of her cancer treatments, she knew the force of her own human hopes that she might be cured. 

But Chiara Luce was also a girl of great faith. Shaped since childhood by the charism of the Focolare movement, she recognized in her illness a deeper calling from her suffering Lord. She accepted and even embraced this new, arduous, painful path, and offered her life in union with Jesus's cry of abandonment on the Cross. She said:
"I offer everything, my failures, my pains and joys to Him, starting again every time the Cross makes me feel all its weight. The important thing is to do God’s will. I might have had plans about myself but God came up with this. The sickness came to me at the right time... [and] now I feel like I am wrapped into a wonderful design that is slowly unfolding itself to me."
She was able to endure beyond her own capacity for endurance, because she trusted in Jesus, because deeper than all the very real pain was the mystery of relationship with Him.
"What a free and immense gift life is and how important it is to live every instant in the fullness of God. I feel so little and the road ahead is so arduous that I often feel overwhelmed with pain! But that’s the Spouse coming to meet me. Yes, I repeat it: 'If you want it Jesus, so do I!'"
I have written often about Chiara Luce Badano and the very special friendship that (I can't help putting it this way) she initiated with me in Christ, in the "communion of saints" nine years ago. I rely on her help, and I believe she has opened my eyes to recognize the extraordinary courage that the grace of God has engendered in some apparently "ordinary" young people in the present time.
Even in the tumult and complexity of today, the young generation remains a reason for hope. Youth are made for heroism, and if we try to love them, guide them, and prepare the ground for them, we should not be surprised by what God can accomplish in their hearts. It is encouraging to realize that Christ can bring them so far beyond our poor, flawed efforts as parents and educators. 

But it is not only for this that Chiara Luce is my friend. She also shows me the truth about my own destiny. But I am no longer young. I have grown old and complicated. I have woven badly many threads of my life and there are lots of knots. 

Chiara Luce amazes me, and, quite frankly, scares me in some sense. I find myself dizzy and powerless, gasping for air in the atmosphere she inhabits. But I am also drawn in my heart, fascinated and filled with longing even in front of these things that seem frightening and incomprehensible.

I acknowledge that I am far from God, broken, and above all proud. Only the humility that trusts in the transforming presence of Christ in my life can change me. I don't know how to "imitate" a saint like this. I can only beg for the grace of Christ to awaken and deepen in me the awareness that the circumstances of my own life are His gift through which He draws me to Himself. 

Blessed Chiara, pray for me. Pray for us.


This text is an unofficial (i.e. not from a liturgical source) English translation of the Collect for her feast day. My hope is that God's grace will indeed "transform deeply my soul" -- beginning with a greater attraction to this light of love, and a more efficacious desire to live with this serene trust.