Maria-Pia Negro Chin

Do you ever wonder what God wants out of your life? Why did he create you?

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez recently wrote, “We are all born to be saints.”

Yet, we might be reluctant to believe this because of misconceptions of what it means to be a saint.

“Saints are not ‘extraordinary’ people — they are not like ‘extraterrestrials’ who come down to earth,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Too many people think like that — and it gets in the way of helping them to see what God wants with our lives.”

I have been reading “Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints,” where author Colleen Swaim examines the lives of eight young men and women who were on fire with the Holy Spirit. The story of Blessed Chiara “Luce” Badano caught my attention.

Chiara was born on Oct. 29, 1971, in a mountain town near Savona, Italy. Her parents, Ruggero and Maria Theresa, prayed for 11 years to have a child.

Chiara liked to sing, dance and play tennis. But she knew from an early age that God was always present.

Growing up, her parents showed her love and the Catholic faith. Following Jesus gave her life meaning. When she was 9 years old, she became involved with Focolare, a Gospel-based international movement recognized by the Catholic Church. At 12, she wrote to Focolare’s founder saying, “I must learn to trust Jesus more, to believe in his immense love.”

Chiara was full of life and had a generous and lively personality. She experienced some hardships, like moving to a different city, teasing from classmates and even failing some classes at school.

Yet she performed little acts of love. She tried to go to Mass and visit the elderly often. Later, she spent nights by the bedside of her grandparents to take care of them.

In the summer of 1988, Chiara felt an acute pain in her arm. The doctor’s diagnosis was osteogenic sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

The surgeries and treatment were painful, but she offered them to God: “For you, Jesus, if you want it, I want it too!”

Even when in pain, Chiara brought God’s message to others. She often took long walks with a patient who was suffering from depression, when Chiara should have been resting.

“She constantly tried to keep the focus off herself by thinking of others, even in the midst of her suffering,” Swaim said. At one point, she donated her birthday money to a friend heading to Benin in West Africa to dig wells for clean water.

Chiara’s happiness was contagious. At the hospital, she ministered to other patients, and encouraged and consoled her parents and friends.

“What makes the difference is that saints really believe that they are children of God,” Archbishop Gomez said. “They really believe that God made them for a reason, for a relationship.”

The cancer spread, but Chiara tried her best to live a normal and happy life. Even when she lost the use of her legs, she did not complain. She said: “I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”

On Oct. 7, 1990, Chiara died at home. She was 18. But her story continued. People became so inspired by the life and holiness of this ordinary teen that her bishop opened the cause for her sainthood. She was beatified in September 2010.

As the Focolare movement said, the 25,000 young people from 57 countries who attended her beatification demonstrate that “Chiara Luce Badano has given witness to a model of holiness that can be lived by everyone.”