The Saint Who Failed Math

By Richelle H. Verdeprado

The author is a fourth-year Social Work major at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos (UNO-R) in Bacolod City and a frequent contributor to Misyon.

This was my first time to hear of the name Chiara Luce Badano. This was also my first time to write an article about a teenager who will soon be beatified.

I didn’t know Chiara – ‘Chiara’ is the Italian form of ‘Claire’ and means ‘clear’ - Luce personally and there’s no way for me to meet her now. Luce died a year before I was born. But a well-lived life is a life that is never meant to die. It is a life worthy of being shared with people of all ages from all walks of life. Just as I longed for and tried hard to know about the lives of heroes and heroines who were generations ahead of me, I felt stirred in learning about Luce, a fine-looking, creative and sports-loving Italian who died even before she reached 19. With all interest, I thoroughly searched for facts about her. I wanted to know the events in her life that have led to her beatification on 25 September this year.

It took eleven years of waiting for Ruggero Badano and his wife Maria Teresa Caviglia before they had their first and only child. Chiara’s arrival on 29 October 1971 at Sassello, Italy brought great joy to the couple. Chiara’s father was a truck driver. He was quiet by nature. Her mother was friendly and loving. Both of them had a very strong faith. These words from Chiara’s mother can attest to this. ‘Even though we were so immensely happy, we understood straightaway that this child wasn’t ours alone. She belonged to God first of all.’

Luce was a member of Focolare Movement, an international religious organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Actually, the name ‘Luce’ was only given to her in the latter part of her life by Chiara Lubich , the movement’s foundress who was very close to her. Lubich wrote her a letter with these words, ‘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 . . .”

‘Luce’ is the Italian for ‘light’ and I prefer calling her Luce because I found the name to be a reminder of what her presence brought to the people close to her. The name fits what the memories of Chiara Badano’s life will become especially to the youth of today’s generation - a light. Luce’s inspiring story will give light to those who are suffering from sickness, to childless parents who are longing for a son or daughter, to students experiencing difficulties in passing their subjects and to parents facing the loss of a beloved child’.

During her childhood days, Luce was asked to write a letter to Baby Jesus as school homework. When most children asked for toys, foods and candies, young Luce asked this, ‘Make grandmother, and all the people who are sick, well again.’ This prayer from a child led me to reflect what selflessness truly is.

Luce was just like any teen. She was nurtured by her supportive parents and by the special Focolare meetings she attended. Just like any other teen, she also experienced difficulties despite being a diligent student. She even failed mathematics in high school. But with enthusiasm she continued dealing with hardships. She loved to play tennis, to swim, and to do mountain climbing. She loved to hang out in coffee shops with her friends. She loved adventure. At a young age, she dreamed of becoming a flight attendant.

But God had another special plan for Luce. One day, while she was playing tennis, she felt an unbearable pain in her shoulder. Later on, she was diagnosed as having Osteogenic Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. The future that she had been looking forward to began to drift away from her. Yet her illness failed to take away from her the hope for living and the happiness found in it. It was at that moment that the real story of her life began to unfold. It was at that moment that she experienced God’s love more. It was at that same moment that the people around her experienced God as well.

Luce nearly died on 19 July 1989 from a hemorrhage. That was a difficult time for her family and friends. But Luce with all conviction said to them, ‘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.’ Luce was to live for another year.

‘Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.’ Those were the last words spoken by Luce to her mother before she passed away on 7 October 1990, a Sunday, at 4 am. Some 2,000 people attended her funeral which was like a wedding celebration. She had prepared for the ‘wedding celebration’ together with her mother. Luce saw her death as the day for her to meet her ‘spouse’ in heaven. It was she who personally gave instructions on how she wanted to be dressed. She chose the music, the songs, the flowers and the readings.

Even after Luce’s death, the effect of her presence was still felt by people who came to know her. They were inspired to live the Gospel and to follow God’s will. Luce’s process of beatification began in 1999. Through the initiative of Bishop Livio Maritano of Acqui, she was declared a ‘Servant of God’. A young boy in Italy was dying from meningitis. His organs were shutting down. There was no way to save his life and he had been given only 48 hours to live. His parents learned about Luce’s story. They sought her intercession. They were surprised to discover that the boy was then fully healed. The doctors could not explain what had happened and now, I’m calling it a miracle. I am happy that Luce’s holiness is now being recognized.

I believe that God has chosen Luce in a very special way for Himself. The eleven years spent by Luce’s parents waiting for her arrival tells me about hope. Luce endured her illness with complete faith in God. She faced death with certainty that God would be with her. No amount of pain took away her hope. Luce reminds me to become a light to others. Luce reminds me that everything happens for a purpose and that God’s will is perfect for us. Luce reminds me that in light, there is hope.

You may email Richelle at or write her at San Columbano, PO Box 588, 6100 Bacolod City, Philippines.

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Stages of Canonization

  1. The bishop of the place where the person lived or is buried starts a formal investigation of the person’s holiness. Once this has begun the person is called ‘Servant of God’.
  2.  If the Pope accepts the recommendation of the diocesan commission that the candidate’s heroic virtue be formally proclaimed, the candidate is then known as ‘Venerable’.
  3.  If a ‘Venerable’ has been martyred the Pope may declare that beatification may take place. In the case of a ‘Venerable’ who is not a martyr but a confessor, that is, someone who has heroically ‘confessed’ or witnessed to the Christian life, a miracle through the intercession of the candidate is required before he or she can be beatified and be known as ‘Blessed’. This is a formal declaration that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision, ie, is in the presence of God in heaven for all eternity. Pope Benedict usually delegates a cardinal to officiate at beatifications, though he will beatify the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in England on 19 September.
  4.  Sainthood is the final stage and requires another miracle through the intercession of the beatified candidate. Only the Pope may canonize. In earlier days there were no formal canonizations but people recognized the holiness of someone who had lived among them. In using the word ‘saint’ in the title of the article on Chiara Luce Badano we are taking a certain liberty. In common speech we often refer to someone, living or dead, whose holiness is apparent as a ‘saint’.