Last Saturday, September 25, Chiara “Luce” Badano - an Italian teenager whose short life showed extraordinary holiness - was officially beatified in a ceremony outside of Rome. In his latest video for Catholic News Agency, Archdiocese of Denver youth and campus ministry director Chris Stefanick describes the life and witness of “the first member of Generation X” to be considered for sainthood.
Chiara was her parents' only child, a long-awaited daughter born in 1971 after 11 years of their marriage. She and her parents were strongly involved with Focolare, a movement with Catholic roots that promotes world peace.
As a teenager, she took great joy in life, and seemed poised for a promising future. “She had a bright life, a beautiful face - all the boys loved her,” Stefanick recounts. “She would go to coffee shops, she was into mountain climbing and tennis.”
The young woman wanted to work as a flight attendant. Instead, as Stefanick describes, her life took a course that most would consider to be tragic: “One day when she was a teenager she was playing tennis and got an excruciating pain in her shoulder … After that, she was diagnosed with a very rare, painful form of bone cancer.” Her resolve to fight the cancer was contradicted by the results of repeated tests.
Her response to the negative prognosis was to embrace God's will. “Jesus,” she prayed, “If this is what you want, so do I.” The Denver youth minister describes Chiara's response to her progressing disease: “When her beautiful hair fell out, she would hold it up in the air and say: 'For you, Jesus'.”
Stefanick explains in the video that the young woman showed a rare determination to offer her suffering for the good of others, both through prayer and penance – including the refusal of painkillers - and by continuing to perform works of mercy and encourage others while hospitalized.
When friends came “to try to lift up her spirits,” Stefanick notes, they found there was no need, rather, “they would leave all uplifted by her joy.” Despite being told to rest, she counseled other patients who were experiencing difficulty and depression. Her reported response was: “I'll have time to rest later.”
The Archdiocese of Denver's youth director enthusiastically quotes Blessed Chiara's own description of her attitude toward death: “Previously I felt the most I could do was let go. Instead, now I feel enfolded in God's marvelous plan, which is slowly being unveiled to me.” He recounts how “she died on October 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary,” with the words: “Be happy, because I'm happy.”
“What an awesome saint for Generation X,” the youth minister reflects, “a generation that tends to be consumed with materialism, consumed with self … prone to despair.” The demographic group in question, children of the post-war “baby boomers,” have been characterized at times as cynical or adrift, partly due to the profound cultural shifts into which they were born during the years 1961 to 1981.
Stefanick concludes by invoking the intercession of Bl. Chiara Luce Badano. “May many of our generation, follow you to the altars,” he prayed, expressing a hope for his contemporaries to pursue the road to beatification and sainthood.