Friday, 8 February 2008

World Day for the Sick: Chiara Luce Badano

I am posting the following testimony with an eye to the World Day for the Sick on 11th February. Chiara Badano was a teenager active in the Focolare movement in her home town, near Turin. Some of the dialogue in this testimony reflects the spirituality of the Focolare.

One of the customs in the Focolare is that, when a person makes a commitment in the movement, they receive a new name from the President of the movement (Chiara Lubich), the name being chosen to reflect the particular character or charism of the individual concerned. During her illness, Chiara Badano was given the name "Luce"("light"). This was because of the reputation of her smile, which seemed to be maintained throughout her illness.

Chiara died of a particularly painful form of cancer in 1990, aged just eighteen. Two days before Christmas, Chiara was taken into hospital for an emergency blood transfusion. This is how her mother tells the story of Chiara’s last Christmas.

“She had prepared presents for the family and her friends. But the white blood cell count fell rapidly and her fever returned. On the telephone, her doctor asked questions urgently, and wanted to know how long it would take to reach the hospital in Turin. The ambulance was there, but Chiara did not want to go: ‘I do not want to spend Christmas in hospital,’ she said; ‘If I am going to die, Jesus, I want it to be at home’.

“I whispered in her ear that it was the will of God to go to the hospital. She accepted, but did not say one word during the journey, she suffered terribly. At the door of the hospital the doctors…were already waiting for the blood transfusion.

“The following day, Christmas eve, I said to her when I came in to her room: ‘Here is every one with Christmas presents in their arms, but no-one looks you in the eye, no-one says good morning. Jesus is very near and no-one sees him.’ After she had overcome a moment of difficulty, I continued: ‘Let us light the fire of Jesus among us, which warms the whole world. You must light it because my heart is giving little heat.’ She replied: ‘Let us do it together, mother’.

“That afternoon, the Archbishop of Turin visited the hospital. He noticed the look on Chiara’s face. He came in to her room and asked her: ‘You have a wonderful light in
your eyes. How do you do it?’ After a moment of shyness, she replied: ‘I try to love Jesus’.

“The same day, one of the hospital volunteers was suffering a crisis of faith from seeing so many children in the hospital dying of cancer. While I went down to the bar for a drink, she sat with Chiara. I do not know what they said to each other, but this lady affirmed, having recovered all her courage, that this Christmas was the most
beautiful of her life. For us, too, it was the same thing.”

[my own translation, from Michel Zanzucchi Un sourire de paradis p.56-58.]

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