On what would have been her 10th wedding anniversary, diocese officially begins to look at possibility of canonizing wife and mother
The Diocese of Rome announced that the cause for the beatification and potential canonization of a young mother, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, has now been opened. Chiara died in 2012 after she postponed medical treatment that would have endangered the health of her unborn child.
The cause opened on September 21, 2018, with a ceremony presided over by Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome, at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the episcopal see and cathedral of the pope.
This is the date on which Chiara and her husband Enrico would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. Now, Church officials will carefully study the life of Chiara Corbella Petrillo to establish if and how she lived the Christian virtues to a heroic degree, taking into account the new criteria used by the Church.
Heroic Christian virtues
In light of the Apostolic Letter Motu Propio “Maiorem hac dilectionem,” On the Offer of Life, promulgated by Pope Francis on July 11, 2017, the Congregation for Saints’ Causes has new criteria for establishing the holiness of a person who has offered his or her life for another person out of love. They look at how that person lived the Christian virtues in the course of ordinary life and how their heroic virtue was made manifest by offering their own life for another in imitation of the love of Christ who said: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
“The cause for Chiara’s beatification could be opened according to the criterion of the ‘offer of life,’ but instead we chose to open it based on evidence of the heroic nature of her exercise of Christian virtues,” said Carmelite Father Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the Cause. “This will allow us to better highlight the normal path of growth in faith and in holiness during the different phases of her youthful life in such a way that her whole life can be presented as a model for a life of holiness that is possible for all.”
Chiara was a laywoman and a mother who died at the age of 28 on June 13, 2012, in Pian della Carlotta in Manziana, Italy. After her marriage, she faced the sorrow of the deaths of her first two children, each shortly after birth. During her third pregnancy, this saintly young mother was diagnosed with cancer. The most effective treatment would have been dangerous for the child she bore in her womb. Although she knew that delaying treatment would reduce its effectiveness, she chose to risk her own life and hold off on the treatment until after giving birth.
“This woman decided to complete her pregnancy [before treatment]. Her self-sacrifice remains as a shining light of hope, a testimony of faith in God, the Author of life, an example of love greater than fear and death,” reads the edict announcing the opening of the cause by the Diocese of Rome.
Furthermore, the “fame of holiness” or reputation that surrounds the testimony of Chiara’s life was an additional motivation for the ecclesial authorities to initiate the cause of canonization of this woman now known as a “Servant of God.” The Diocesan Court of the Vicariate of Rome (Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 6-00184 Rome) is available to people who have information useful to the cause, be it favorable or contrary to the reputation of holiness of the Servant of God.
The miracle of life: Francesco
Chiara Corbella Petrillo for a time worshipped alongside other Catholics in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and after her engagement nurtured her spirituality and lived her Christian life alongside the Franciscan Friars in Assisi. In a testimony written in January of 2011, she shared some of the difficulties she faced in her life, her courtship with Enrico, and their marriage: “In our marriage, the Lord wanted to give us special children: Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, but He asked us to accompany them only until their birth and allowed us to embrace them, baptize them, and then deliver them into the hands of the Father in serenity and joy.”
Then came that most challenging and decisive moment: “Now, He has entrusted to us our third child, Francesco (Francis) who will be born in a short while. But He has again asked us to continue trusting Him despite a tumor that I discovered a few weeks ago and this tempts us to fear the future; but we still choose to believe that God has great things in store for us.”
Chiara met with Pope Benedict XVI in May of 2012, a month before her death, carrying in her arms a little miracle, Francesco, their newborn son who continues to grow healthy and strong.
“A Light for Life”
Speaking to Aleteia, the Cause’s postulator, Father Gambalunga, pointed out that Chiara’s life was quite normal up until her death at age 28: she wasn’t born a saint, but became one, day by day. One gesture after another, she gave evidence of being a person enlightened by the presence of Jesus and Mary – a presence she “sought and loved” and shared with relatives and friends, giving testimony of this presence to everyone she encountered.
For their part, this past September 9 the “Francis and Clare” Center for Life Assistance awarded the Third International “A Light for Life” Award to the Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo (in memoriam) at the Domus Pacis of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, Italy.