“Chiara is god’s gift to us to reassess the lives of the saints”

Ten years after the young mother’s death, whose process of beatification and canonisation has been opened, her husband and spiritual confessor celebrate her life. A simple and great model for all.

“Love remains”. Tomorrow it will be ten years since Chiara Corbella Petrillo ascended into Heaven, at the age of 28, because of cancer. Yet, her widower Enrico Petrillo summarises in this morning’s testimony at the Domus Pacis in St. Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) the love that remains of her. Not only in her family, friends and those who knew her but in thousands of people who met her only after her death through the book that summarises her experience, “We were born, and we will never die”, published by Porziuncola and now translated into 16 languages. Or through the website www.chiaracorbellapetrillo.org, where many leave messages and requests for intercession, as well as on the Facebook page of the same name.

After a decade, the interest in the servant of God “continues to be alive”, stressed Brother Vito D’Amato, Friar Minor and spiritual guide of the couple since their engagement, present with Enrico this morning at the testimony. In September 2018, the cause for beatification and canonisation was opened in Rome. Chiara is a gift that God has given us also to re-evaluate the lives of the saints who are alive. St Francis of Assisi did not know that in his “yes” at the Portiuncula, there would be Clare. He was a model and inspiration for her. Clare is contained within St Francis, he within Christ, Christ within the bosom of the Father. “When the other lives inside you, you see them everywhere, in love, and you don’t die anymore”, added Brother Vito, explaining the meaning of the souvenir image created for the anniversary by a friend of Enrico’s.

For those who do not know Chiara’s story, she was a bride and a mother who accepted the Father’s love and understood with her life that “the opposite of love is possession”. She wrote this in the letter for her third-born son Francesco, born 12 and a half months before his mother died of a carcinoma discovered during pregnancy, undergoing surgery but renouncing invasive treatments that could have damaged him. Before him, she had given birth to Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, who lived only a few minutes due to various congenital diseases. “The synonym for poverty is love: everything is a gift. If God asks you for something, it is to give you much more. You feel loved when God gives you a child and takes him away from you because he gives you eternal life and removes your fear of dying”, commented Brother Vito. So, Chiara and Enrico experienced “a mysterious joy, a grace”, added Enrico. “How can you welcome a disabled child, who stays with you for nine months in the belly, and then you have to say goodbye to him when he is born? We felt loved because there were these two special children.

To welcome them was to welcome God, to believe that history was no accident. Maria and Davide are an eternal gift; we knew their good was to finally stand before God to whom they brought a little of us. A child in Heaven forces you to look at Heaven because they are there. I do not know why God chooses these paths, but to look up to Heaven is a gift so that you cannot lose your life”. He concluded: “Chiara died happy because she understood that even in death there was a gift; pain and death did not have the last word, they did not separate us from the Lord: she taught me that. By the grace of God, she is not a heroine to be put on an altar: she was one of us”.

“St Francis discovered the new face of God in this Portiuncula, precisely in the encounter with the other: the lepers opened up this reality to him,” recalled Br Massimo Fusarelli, Minister General of the Friars Minor, presiding over the solemn afternoon Mass in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, concelebrated by many priests including Br Francesco Piloni, Minister Provincial of the Friars Minor of Umbria and Sardinia, in the presence of hundreds of faithful: lay and religious, families and engaged couples, young and old. “Here, 16 years ago, Chiara Corbella had the impression that she had her bridegroom in front of her; she began to welcome Enrico as a gift. If the encounter is true, you will never tire of finding in the other a new light. There is no Franciscanism chosen as livery, medal, or paint: there was a unity in the encounter with the other that allowed them to feel themselves in a new way. Why? With the Gospel, Francis interpreted his human reality by breaking the mould, and those who come face to face with him reread their humanity in a new way, to the point of blessing it. Francis accompanied them to the gift of a deeper peace, even in their troubled engagement. If we discover that we are beloved children, as Chiara experienced, we can die happy now. Chiara is not a courageous woman but a woman who allowed herself to be loved”. And he concluded: “Chiara’s smile points us to Heaven, a smile of light that our time needs so much. I am now approaching the mystery of her life: it does not seem to me an icon but a full life in the encounter with the Lord, her husband, her children, and so many. Francis of Assisi left a profound trace in her”. And he then announced that the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God would pass to the postulation of the Friars Minor: “We have recognised that the Servant of God has characteristic traits of the Franciscan charism: it will also be a way for us friars to understand that the charism of Francis takes on new and unexpected colours”. The assembly greeted the news with warm applause.


Laura Badaracchi – www.famigliacristiana.it