By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, MARCH 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic lay Focolare movement will soon have its first beatified member. Chiara Badano, who died just 20 years ago while still a teenager, will be beatified Sept. 25.
Bishop Pier Giorgio Micchiardi of Acqui, Italy, announced Friday the beatification, which will take place in Rome. Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, will preside over the ceremony.
Young people of the Focolare movement will that evening celebrate Badano’s beatification in Paul VI Hall. The next day, Sept. 26, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, will preside over a thanksgiving Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
Chiara Badano was born Oct. 29, 1971, to parents who had been awaiting a child for 11 years.
She first came in contact with the Focolare movement when she was nine. She and her parents attended a Focolare family festival in Rome, and the event made a decisive impact on all three.
Badano became extremely active in the Focolares’ Gen Movement (New Generation). She liked sports, dancing and singing. At age 16, she decided to consecrate herself to God.
Just a year later, while playing tennis, Badano experienced sharp pain. Doctors soon discovered bone cancer. As the disease progressed, Badano faced repeated hospitalizations and increasing pain. She often repeated, “For you, Jesus. If you wish it, so do I!”
Soon Badano had to endure one of her harshest trials: She lost the use of her legs. However, she confided to one of her friends: “If I had to choose between walking and going to Paradise, I’d have no doubt, I would choose Paradise. Now I’m only interested in that.”
Badano formed a close relationship with the founder of the Focolare movement, Chiara Lubich. Badano wrote her founder on July 19, 1990, to tell her that doctors had decided to halt treatments, since the cancer could not be reversed.
“Medicine has laid down its weapons,” she wrote. “With interrupting the treatments, the pains in my back have increased. I can scarcely move. I feel so small and the road ahead is so hard. … I often feel that the pain is suffocating me. It is the Bridegroom who is coming out to meet me, no? If I also repeat with you: ‘if you wish it, I also wish it’ … with you I am sure that together with him we will conquer the world!”
Lubich wrote back to answer her: “Don’t be afraid, Chiara, to say ‘yes’ to him, moment after moment. He will give you the strength, be certain of this. I also pray for this and I am always with you. God loves you intensely and wants to penetrate the depth of your soul and make you feel drops of heaven. ‘Chiara Light’ is the name I have thought of for you. Do you like it? It is the light of the Ideal that conquers the world. I send it to you with all my affection …”
During her illness, Badano wanted to prepare her funeral: the songs, the flowers, the hairdo, the dress, which would be white, a wedding dress for her “wedding feast.”
Her father asked her if she wished to donate the corneas of her eyes, and she answered with an approving smile.
The last words she spoke to her mother were: “Be happy, I am happy!” Badano died Oct. 7, 1990. Some 2,000 people attended her funeral.
Her process of beatification began in 1999. A miracle was approved for her beatification last Dec. 19: It was the cure of an Italian boy from Trieste who had meningitis and had been given only 48 hours to live.
Bishop Micchiardi spoke of Badano’s witness as “significant in particular for young people.”
“Holiness is needed also today,” he said. “It is necessary to help young people to find direction, a goal, to overcome their insecurities and loneliness, the enigmas in face of failures, pain, death and all anxieties.”
“This witness of faith is amazing — the fortitude of a young girl of today,” he continued. “It overwhelms a person, impels many to change their lives.”