Perhaps you think of the Twelve Apostles traveling the back roads of first century Judea with Our Lord. Or do you conjure up images of the early martyrs being eaten by lions for refusing to offer a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar? Or perhaps you think of the Church Fathers like St. Augustine of Hippo or St. Athanasius standing firm for orthodoxy even as the world around them seems bent on embracing error and heresy. Or do the great Medieval theologians, like Thomas Aquinas or Francis of Assisi shaping Christendom with their intellect and love for poverty come first to mind?
All these, of course, are great examples of the holiness God calls all men to, but what about a saint who lived and breathed in our own twenty-first century?
That might be just what we witnessed in the life of the young Italian woman Chiara Corbella Petrillo, whose brief life has been an inspiration to many, especially as told by her close friends in Chiara Corbella Petrillo.
Chiara’s heart wrenching story, taking us through her marriage to Enrico (who authors a moving preface to the book), through her pregnancies which saw her children born with life threatening defects to such a degree that abortion was seen as the normal course of action to be taken. Chiara, however, strengthen by her Catholic Faith, embraced these troubles - risking even her own life when she decided to delay chemotherapy when she learned that she had cancer during her second pregnancy - and found at the bottom of them all - joy.
Her story is stunning. The amount of physical and emotional pain Chiara suffered in her brief 28 years is more than most will be forced to deal with in a lifetime and yet her experience of these sorrows is best summed up by her response to her husband’s question as to whether the yoke of Christ is sweet after all, “Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.” Thus answers a saint.
If you need a good Christmas read to motivate you to take stock of your own relationship with Christ, especially in the rough patches we all face in this vale of tears, you ought to check out this inspiring story.