Skip to comments.Saints Are Still Being Made: Meet Chiara Corbella
Posted on 03/05/2013 5:29:20 AM PST by NYer
A few months ago I received an email from a friend of mine who had recently encountered the life of an extraordinary woman while in Rome. I was so moved by the story I shared it last week with the women at SEEK 2013 and now want to share it with you. Its the story of a life often seen as full of folly and tragedy. But if you understand the Christian life and if you can see the joy that can come from suffering, you can recognize that it is anything but sad. You can see that Chiaras life is a reason for rejoicing, a reason for hope.
Chiara Corbella met her husband Enrico while on pilgrimage. Several years later they married and conceived their first child. They were no doubt thrilled with the news of the life growing inside of Chiara, but in the middle of the pregnancy the doctors informed Chiara that the child was not developing properly and would not be able to sustain her own life outside of the womb. Rather than abort baby Maria, Chiara carried her to full term, held her briefly, and watched her pass into the next life.
Again Chiara became pregnant. And as I can only imagine they began preparations to welcome their new little one. But again, in the middle of the pregnancy the doctors informed Chiara that the child would not be able to sustain his life outside of the womb and for a second time Chiara carried her baby, David, to full term, held him briefly, and watched him pass into the next life.
Rather than become bitter, angry, and shut off from life Chiara and Enrico began speaking publicly about the gift of life, even a brief one. Chiara had this to say:
God gave us two special children, but He asked us to accompany them only until birth. He allowed us to hold them, baptize them, and return them to the hands of the Father. There was a peace and joy that was unlike anything else we had experienced.
You can watch a video of one of her testimonies; however, it is in Italian. Still, the love of Chiara and Enrico for each other and their children is clear, despite the language barrier.
For a third time Chiara conceived a child. And this child was healthy and growing. But in the middle of the pregnancy the doctors informed Chiara that while the child was well, it was she who was sick with cancer. Because of the intensity of the prescribed treatments Chiara decided to postpone them until her son, Francesco, was born in order to ensure that he would in fact be born and have life.
Baby Francesco arrived happily and healthily, and Chiara began her treatments. Soon it became clear that death was immanent for Chiara, so she prayed, Lord, you can ask me anything, but I cant do it if I am surrounded by such sad faces. Her prayers for joyful visitors were answered, and with much peace she bore her suffering.
The joy and peace that surrounded Chiara and Enrico was so tangible Chiara said: Even if the Lord heals me, the greater miracle will have been that He helped my family and I live this trial in peace. In response to the negativity Chiara and Enrico received from those who called their situation sad and tragic they said, Where is it written that death is terrible and undesired? That having two children who lived only a half hour is a tragedy? Enrico once heroically remarked, If my wife is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?
About a year after the birth of Francesco, Chiara laid on her deathbed. In an interview withVatican Radio, Enrico had this to say about her final hours:
I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on this phrase from the Gospel that says the Lord gives a cross that is sweet and a burden that is light. When I would look at Chiara when she was about to die, I obviously became very upset. But I mustered the courage and a few hours before it was about eight in the morning, Chiara died at noon I asked her.
I said: ‘But Chiara, my love, is this cross really sweet, like the Lord says? She looked at me and she smiled, and in a soft voice she said, ‘Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.’
On June 13, 2012 Chiara passed from this life into the next. My friend in Rome was able to attend her funeral. She described the event as full of joy with jubilant songs written and sung by Enrico, clapping, hugging, and tears of joy. In reflecting on the experience she said:
What they lived was, by human standards, very intense and difficult. We might be tempted to say, I could have never done what Chiara did. What Chiara did though is take little doable steps each day (Piccoli Passi Possibile, literally small steps can). Her prayer was that they would have the grace to welcome the grace which God would give them to keep going forward. No matter what circumstance we are in, personally, this is what we should pray for with great faith: grace to be open to receive the grace needed to face everything in our lives.
When I look at the picture of Chiara above all I can think is Look at that joy. Despite the marks of cancer that were clearly taking her life, look at that joy. That joy only comes from holiness. That joy only comes from living a life for Christ, from taking small steps each day to live as He has called us to live. I want that joy and I want that joy for you. Piccoli Passi Possibile, small steps can.
Be saints, its worth it.
A truly humbling message to all of us, especially during our Lenten journey.
Today we celebrate your first birthday, and we were asking ourselves what we can give you that will last through the years. So we have decided to write you a letter. You have been a tremendous gift to us in our lives because you have helped us to look beyond our human limits. When the doctors wanted to scare us, your life that was so fragile gave us the strength to go forward. For what little I have learned during these years, I can tell you only that love is the center of our lives, because we are born from an act of love, we live for love and to be loved, and we die to know the true love of God. The goal of our life is to love and to be loved, always ready to learn how to love the others as only God can teach you. Love consumes you, but it is beautiful to die consumed, exactly like a candle that goes out only when it has reached its goal. Anything that you do in life will make sense only if you look at it in view of eternal life. If you are truly loving, you will realize this from the fact that nothing belongs to you, because everything is a gift. As St. Francis says, The opposite of love is possession.
We loved your brother and sister –Mary and David– and we love you knowing that you all are not ours, that you all were not for us. And this is how it should be for everything in life. Everything that you have never belongs to you, because it is a gift that God gives you so that you can make it bear fruit. Never be discouraged, my son. God never takes anything away. And if He takes away, it is because He wants to give you so much more. Thanks to Mary and David, we are even more in love with eternal life and we have stopped fearing death. God has taken from us only in order to give us a heart that is bigger and more open to welcome eternity already in this life.
In Assisi, I fell in love with the joy of the friars that live believing in Gods providence. So I ask the Lord for the grace to believe in this providence that they spoke of– to believe in this Father that truly does not make you lack anything. Brother Veto helped us on this journey in believing in this promise. We got married without anything, but we put God in first place and believed in the love that he asked us to, taking this big leap; we have never been disappointed. We have always had a house and much more than we have ever needed. Your name is Francesco because St. Francis changed our lives, and we hope that he can be an example also for you. Its beautiful to have examples of lives that remind you that you can expect the greatest joy already on this earth, with God as our guide. We know that you are special and that you have a great mission. The Lord has wanted you from eternity, and He will show you the road to follow if you open your heart. Trust Him. It is worth the while.
Mom and Dad
Bookmarked for later. :)
This is tremendous. This is the most brilliant thing in heaven and on earth.
Yes, she’s going to spend about 15 seconds in Purgatory. I can’t pity her, because the joys she knows in heaven are so far superior to anything she could have experienced on earth, but I do feel sorry for her unfortunate husband, left behind on this earth to remember her. He can never replace her; who could replace a saint? And a saint who was not some distant ideal figure, but a beautiful young wife, with all that implies?
You are so right.
Thanks for the ping, Mrs. Don-o, and I’m glad the parents found a way to cope with the grief of their loss. Not many can have that luxury.
However, 1 in 50 conceptions tend to end in spontaneous abortions where often the prospective mother isn’t even aware of the same, as the body rejects the foetus and flushes it out as waste. It becomes difficult to apply the charms of religion when the reality of biology is witnessed. To me, at least. Those were human lives too, with no awareness or memory on the part of the mother for that extinguished life to mean anything.
"However, 1 in 50 conceptions tend to end in spontaneous abortions where often the prospective mother isnt even aware of the same, as the body rejects the foetus and flushes it out as waste."
I'm not sure what moral conclusions you can draw from that. In some countries, one in 5 children dies before the age of two. The biology of the matter is, they are flushed out of their family's embrace before they could string three words together as subject-verb-object. "I love Mama" never came. But... but what? They are waste? Their lives are worth nothing? Their mothers' as well, since they keep on producing them? And then they die and turn to compost?
(I didn't say you said that. I'm just asking.)
It raises the query about what makes a life worthhile. Compared to some entity who lives a million years, we all are as ephemeral as midges. When I was 12, a sober consideration of the --- in the larger view --- pointlessness and absurdity of life almost caused me to commit suicide. But I was stopped by a dream. A dream that hinted that there's a great deal more to be seen.
"It becomes difficult to apply the charms of religion when the reality of biology is witnessed."
On the contrary, I would say that it is precisely the reality of biology which requires the 'charms' of religion.
Pope or Pope Emeritus Benedict --- he becomes dearer and more essential to me every day --- said, "It is rational to believe, as it is our very existence that is at stake." Yes, he knows what I'm talking about.
"To me, at least. Those were human lives too, with no awareness or memory on the part of the mother for that extinguished life to mean anything."
What will your life mean in 20 years? in 200 years? in 200,000 years?
"To mean anything"--- when?
"To mean anything"--- how?
"To mean anything"--- to whom?
Good to see you too, Mrs. Don-o!
My point was rather straightforward, that yes, the organic reality of life, including human life, is so totally and perversely subject to the whims of an uncaring, uninterested Universe.
This is why anyone with the hopes / dreams / delusions of a “higher power” would have to contend with the question as to why a spontaneous abortion would be part of reality’s design - particularly in cases where an individual is “created” and then flushed out with no hint of awareness of its existence to the parties responsible for it, so that there could be any moral lesson derived. Just happens and disappears as if no observer was required to pay attention to it “(They are waste? Their lives are worth nothing?!”). The mango tree shoots out a thousand flowers of which a few will terminate in fruition, the rest fall off to the ground to become compost. Why so much waste in the design? Because evolution demands it. Likewise, with spontaneous (natural) human abortions. It’s the mother’s body which rejects the tiny foetus and flushes it out, most cases the mother not even being aware of the pregnancy. The body evolved this feature so that the failing foetus can be extinguished and thereby allow for the lessening of the risk to the life of the mother, so that she may mate again and try again to reproduce. That’s the callous reality of life. Specifically cruel, but in the long run, advantageous, and ironically, preserving of life. Death just becomes a design feature, with no deeper meaning to it other than that it had to exist so that life could flourish.
As for feeling “depressed” about this unquestionable reality of life, here’s a quote:
“And what constitutes evil, real evil, is the taking of a single human life. Whether a man would die tomorrow or the day after or eventually, it doesn’t matter. Because if God does not exist, then life, every second of it, is all we have.” - Anne Rice.
PS: I read your link at the last post on the earlier thread. I guess I forgot to reply to you, but as much as the story was impressive, it is nothing new as far as human narratives go - the hero painted with the strokes of the underdog brush always proves a better contrast. Even Krishna was brought up by “low-caste” cowherds existing at the edges of the social power matrix. But one other point I wanted to make was regarding how you found yourself (by your own admission) willing to question the words of a prophet (the appointed mouthpiece of your god) over 1 Sam 15:3, but then see no problem in accepting second, third... n-th hand human (yes, human) testimony about the narratives of the same supposed divinity, warts and all. I’m not able to load that thread on my phone, hence the reply here. If you could, please ping me to it, so that we could have a seamless discussion continue on that older thread.
The organic reality of life, including human life, is so totally and perversely subject to the whims of an uncaring, uninterested Universe.
You stepped in it right at the top. How in heck can you call it perverse if the organic reality of life is subject to the whims of an uncaring Universe? In the first place, if this is so, there is nothing perverse about this situation. Its just the way it is. Moreover, the Universe cant be said to have whims. If this is just the way things are, why would you be burdening it with grievance about it being perverse or a matter of whim? You adopt the unmistakable tone of a man who thinks hes been treated badly.
It seems --- I am only connecting the dots --- that you would want more from the Universe, and find it perverse that it is not so. (In this case, there is hope for you--- but let me go on.) Why would it strike you as perverse that the Universe has these cruel whims?
This is why anyone with the hopes / dreams / delusions of a higher power would have to contend with the question as to why a spontaneous abortion would be part of realitys design - particularly in cases where an individual is created and then flushed out with no hint of awareness of its existence to the parties responsible for it, so that there could be any moral lesson derived.
Well, I must say its certainly gotten a rise out of you! You seem to think this dead embryo ought to have taught a moral lesson to its mother and father; or no, no, you dont want that, but you think I should want it. What if I derive the moral lesson that there is something desperately wrong, catastrophically wrong with realitys design? What if the whole tableau of natural life --- parasitized frogs, spawn-eating fish, deer with their throats and bellies mauled out, still living as the predator gorges on their dying flesh --- and flushed embryos in the citys wastewater system--- strikes me as a horrible defect in the Universe?
The mango tree shoots out a thousand flowers of which a few will terminate in fruition, the rest fall off to the ground to become compost. Why so much waste in the design? Because evolution demands it.
Ah.. There you go again, the waste in the design. But then its not waste, because evolution demands it. Very unscientific. Darwin would not approve. Dick Dawkins would deplore this anthropomorphism of yours. Evolution cannot demand anything. Evolution has no plan, no aim, no progress, no regress, no higher, no lower, no up and no down. It achieves nothing, nor does it want to achieve anything. It cannot fail, it cannot succeed. It cannot feel satisfaction at the design of eye or wing, because there is no design.
The body evolved this feature so that the failing foetus can be extinguished and thereby allow for the lessening of the risk to the life of the mother, so that she may mate again and try again to reproduce
Again, that entirely unwarranted phrase, so that. Theres no so that about it. Evolution has no aims. Embryo morbidity and mortality have no aims. Evolution has no intention of allowing for the lessening of risk to the mother. Evolution could just as well let her have a doomed genetic botch of a baby to increase her risk so that she is encumbered by care for her offspring and is eaten by a panther or felled by smallpox. Evolution does not give a damn.
Thats the callous reality of life. Specifically cruel, but in the long run, advantageous, and ironically, preserving of life.
You just cant help it, can you? You just cant help using words like callous and cruel as if they have some purchase on this situation. In the long run, nothing is preserving of life. Like all your ancestors, James, you will die. Most of them have been forgotten. In time they all be forgotten, and you will, too.
Death just becomes a design feature, with no deeper meaning to it other than that it had to exist so that life could flourish.
Who cares if life flourishes? Why even use a positive-sounding verb like flourish? When the woman, her strength vitiated by caring for the sickly baby, dies of smallpox, do we say it has no deeper meaning other than that she had to exist so that smallpox could flourish? Jesus, James, its all Annie Dillard, its all Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Lets listen to Annie here:
"Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly ... insects, it seems, gotta do one horrible thing after another. I never ask why of a vulture or a shark, but I ask why of almost every insect I see. More than one insect ... is an assault on all human virtue, all hope of a reasonable god."
Id love to get my Annie Dillard and your Anne Rice talking.
I say this: the reason why mere nature strikes you, me, Annie Dillard and many others as cruel, callous, perverse, etc. etc. is because it IS. It DOES have a defect. It is so fucking defective. (There, I said it. The Admin Mod will never catch that!)
Not a design defect, but the defect of defecting from the design. Nothing on this earth is the way it was supposed to be. Nature is fallen because it was designed for human nature, intricately interwoven with it, ten million spindles spinning out ten million strands of connecting threads, and then human nature fell, pulling everything down on top of us. Buddy, this is catastrophic. We are a fallen race living on a cracked planet in an entropic Universe which will perish of heat death, which is doomed. Got that? Doomed.
We need a new nature. We cry out for a new nature. We need a new heaven and a new earth. Therefore, as Papa Benedict says, and Ill say it again: "It is rational to believe, as it is our very existence that is at stake."