Reprinted from Magnificat (www.magnificat.com)
Chiara Corbella Petrillo (1984–2012), Italian-born wide and mother, gave birth to two children, both of whom died within an hour. Pregnant for the third time, she refused treatment for a rare and aggressive cancer of the tongue rather than endanger the child. The child, a boy, was born healthy. Chiara died a year later, at twenty-eight.
The second of two daughters, Chiara was born in Rome and raised Catholic. She met her spouse-to-be, Enrico, at Medjugorje in 2002. After a somewhat tumultuous early courtship, the two were married by Fra D’Amato, a Franciscan friar, in the San Pietro church in Assisi in September, 2008.
The couple learned of Chiara’s first pregnancy just a month after the wedding. The child was diagnosed in the womb with anencephaly, a catastrophic defect consisting of the absence of a major portion of the brain and skull. Though given the option to abort, they both adamantly insisted on bringing the child to term.
Maria Grazia Letizia was born on June 10, 2009, and immediately baptized. She died within thirty minutes. Within months, Chiara was pregnant again, this time with a boy. Ultrasounds revealed that he had no legs and no kidneys. Again, Chiara brought the child to term, knowing he was likely to die soon afterwards.
Davide Giovanni was born on June 24, 2010. He, too, was baptized, and lived thirty-eight minutes. His funeral was celebrated two days later.
After the deaths of their first two children, Chiara and Enrico spoke frequently at pro-life rallies and recited the rosary each Thursday night, ending their prayers with “Totus Tuus,” the traditional consecration to Mary meaning “Totally yours.”
Not long afterward, Chiara conceived yet again. This time, ultrasounds revealed the baby to be in perfect health. But five months into the pregnancy, Chiara was diagnosed with a cancerous lesion on her tongue.
Wanting at all costs to protect the child, she refused chemotherapy and radiation until after the delivery. Francesco was born on May 30, 2011, indeed perfectly healthy. Chiara’s condition, however, rapidly worsened. The cancer spread to her liver, lungs, one breast, and an eye. She came to have difficulty seeing and speaking.
On a widely circulated prayer card, Chiara is wearing an eye patch, smiling joyfully. The photo was taken ten days after she learned her condition was terminal. “What is important in life is not doing something,” she observed, “but to be born and let yourself be loved.”
She participated in her last Mass on June 12, 2012, and died the next day surrounded by family and friends.
Her cause for beatification was opened on July 2, 2018.
On her official website, Enrico notes: “We are hearing and reading many articles, interviews, and TV and web-TV shows which report words that Chiara never said, romantic words portraying her as a fearless woman, with supernatural strength. Such illusions are not good for any of us who are still on our journey towards holiness.”
Indeed not. But as for “fearless” and “supernatural strength”—you could have fooled me.