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When we think about saints, we don’t usually think about teenagers who failed math class, stayed out late drinking coffee with friends, and loved listening to the latest pop music sensations. Yet, that describes Chiara Badano, an 18-year old soon-to-be canonized saint.
Badano was born on October 29, 1971, in a small village in Italy. She had a loving family and clung to her Catholic faith from an early age. Her generosity toward the less fortunate was already evident at age 4 when Badano would give away her toys to poor children and eagerly visited the nursing home to comfort the elderly.
At 9 years old she joined a youth group associated with the Catholic lay Focolare movement and was an avid disciple of their spirituality. As she grew older and entered high school, Badano was a popular girl in her class with lots of friends. She frequently played sports, sang, danced and stayed out late with friends. From the outside, she was just an ordinary teenager who loved to have fun.
Then at age 17 Badano felt a sharp pain in her shoulder that was eventually diagnosed as an aggressive bone cancer called osteosarcoma. It spread quickly and she was soon paralyzed, with the likely chance that she would die.
In the midst of the pain Badano possessed a supernatural joy and instead of seeing it as a curse, offered it all as a sacrifice to God. She continually said, “For you, Jesus, if you want it, I want it too!” Badano refused morphine, saying, “It reduces my lucidity, and there’s only one thing I can do now: to offer my suffering to Jesus because I want to share as much as possible in his suffering on the cross.”
Many of her friends visited her in the hospital and said about the experience, “At first we thought we would visit Chiara Luce to keep her spirits up, however, we soon realized that in fact, we were the ones who needed her. Her life was like a magnet drawing us towards her.” One of the doctors said about her, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.”
Near the end of her short life she said to her mother, “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.” She also asked to be buried wearing a wedding gown, symbolizing how she would be forever united with Jesus in heaven.
Chiara Badano left this world on October 7, 1990, just short of her 19th birthday. She departed to meet Jesus with the words, “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.“
The cause for her canonization was officially opened in 1999 and she was declared “venerable” in 2008. Shortly thereafter Pope Benedict XVI recognized a miracle attributed to her intercession and she was beatified on September 25, 2010. One additional miracle is necessary to pave the way for her to be canonized as a “saint.”
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