Desert Nuns

Witnesses of Faith

June 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Nun News Blog

Last night I was reading through my Zenit email and came across this story about a woman named Chiara. Upon reading it I was deeply moved by her faith and trust in God’s Providence.  Chiara Petrillo – 28 years old.  As I read the brief account of her life, I couldn’t help but think of Our Lady.  Mary, who accepted the Plan of God, bore the Son of God, and allowed the sword of sorrow to pierce her heart.  Mary who stood at the Foot of the Cross.  Mary, Jesus’ Mother and our Mother.  Mary, Cause of Our Joy.
Chiara, like Mary, accepted the Plan of God and allowed the sword of sorrow to pierce her own heart.  She was a mother three times over.  Each time, though, the sword of sorrow pierced her heart.  Her first 2 children died shortly after they were born.  And her last child, Francesco, is – PRAISE GOD – now a healthy one year old, but in the course of this pregnancy, she found out she had cancer.  
Yet, as I read the article, there was a marked sense of joy in her words and in the words of the Franciscan who spoke of her faith.  There was joy even in the deep grief.  Reading the article, I witnessed the power of hope.  Charles Peguy once described hope as a little girl.  A little girl who pulls forward her two older sisters (faith and love), who skips and dares to laugh.  
It appears from reading this article that Chiara had hope…and a lot of it!  She fought the ‘dragon’ with hope.  And though it first seems that she lost the battle, her own words betray this notion:  “Perhaps deep down I don’t want healing; a happy husband and a peaceful child without his mother are a greater witness than a woman who has overcome an illness. A testimony that could save so many persons …”
WOW.  What a statement!  We can read all the spiritual books about how to surrender and abandon ourselves to God’s Will (and that is good and helpful) – but in that statement, we see someone actually doing it in a very simple and direct way.  I am struck, as well, by her desire to be a witness.  I am reminded of what the word martyr literally means: WITNESS.  
Her surrender was filled with hope.  She could go to meet the Bridegroom, adorned in her wedding garment, in peace.  The same God Who was calling her home would care for the child and husband she was leaving behind.  This is the faith.  This is motherhood.  
A Franciscan brother who was very close to the family said the following: “I don’t know what God prepared for us through this woman, but it is certainly something we cannot lose; hence we gather this legacy that reminds us to give the just value to every small and large daily gesture.”
St. Gianna, Pray For Us
I was happy to see that our own beloved St. Francis and St. Clare had a part to play in this, as described by Br. Vito: “Chiara came to this faith little by little, following the rule learned at Assisi from the Franciscans she so loved: small, possible steps.” Brother goes on to say that this was “a way to face the fear of the past and of the future in face of great events, and which teaches to begin from small things. We cannot transform water into wine, but we can begin to refill the jars. Chiara believed this and this helped her to live a good life and, hence, a good death, step after step.” 
In my own desire to truly live my call to spiritual motherhood, I am encouraged and strengthened by Chiara’s witness.  I feel certain that her witness inspires natural mothers as well – to truly live this noble vocation which often calls for extraordinary holiness and virtue…and trust.  I feel certain that her witness in an inspiration for all people, whatever our state in life or our situation.
As we look toward October 2012 and the beginning of the Year of Faith, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, we give thanks for the many witnesses of faith – those that have gone before us and those that are in our midst!

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3 Responses to “Witnesses of Faith”
  1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  2. Barb in NY says:

    Wow-that’s quite a story!

    I had a dear friend die of cancer in April, two days before she would have turned 63. In 2000 she entered a religious community in Nebraska, and made her final vows six years later. But in 2010 the community was suppressed by the Archbishop of Omaha (all sorts of problems were found), and during all the moves that the former community experienced (it split in two), my friend came down with cancer.

    She couldn’t be cared for by the members of her former community, so she was released from her vows and returned to her Upstate NY home last year.
    Her cancer came back in late 2011, and she suffered terribly until she died this past April, a couple of days after Divine Mercy Sunday.

    The one thing that struck me about my friend’s last months was how she accepted the fact that she was going to die. She wanted to ‘go Home to her Heavenly Father’-she was ready to do so! And she was a beautiful example of courage and faith to all who knew her!

    Barb in NY

  3. George says:

    It is in no small part the prayers of the faithful, contemplatives etc. that helps bring about this powerful witness in the lives of others, without in any way diminishing the heroic act on the part of the individual.

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