Chiara and Enrico learned in a marvelous way how to make space for grace; and grace cannot wait to show us the marvels of what it can do.”

bookUsually when I read a book, I plow through it, all the while writing down tons of quotes and putting sticky notes everywhere!  But this was not the case with Chiara Corbella Petrillo, A Witness to Joy.  I read the short book slowly, but intensely, and with a sort of awe and reverence.  For me, it wasn’t like reading a book – it was more like entering into relationship; it was seeing the heart of a friend.  And, this new friend (shyly but with determination) just marched right in and stole my heart!  Her example challenges me on many levels, but most of all she dares me to make space for God, to make space for grace.

The book is written by her two good friends, with a preface by Chiara’s husband, Enrico (who is a shining example of the type of masculinity Bishop Olmsted highlighted in his recent apostolic exhortation).  The authors told Chiara’s story with such honesty and with a delightful freedom.  It is so REAL and human and imbued with a certain lightness and hope.

True story: Chiara raised the bar for me.  In her extreme sufferings, she and her husband (young in years but wise with wisdom beyond this world) made space for God, for grace.  This gives me courage, in my not-so-extreme sufferings, to strive to do the same…to trustingly make space for grace, instead of running away out of fear or self-reliance.

It is a temptation, when some little or big cross comes our way, to take a step back and say to the Lord (in one fashion or another): “OK, I’ll accept this cross, but first just give me some space, give me some time to reach acceptance!”   It’s easy to settle and falsely believe that this “modus operandi” is good enough, but in the light of Chiara’s heroic life, we see it is seriously flawed!  The Lord desires so much more for us!!!!  Sure, it’s true that gradual acceptance is good, but isn’t intimacy so much better?  That kind of intimacy that makes space for His grace, allowing Him into the very heart of the struggle, so that we can receive His love and consolation right there!

To back up (aka “Gimme Space”) is to step away from His Love, to step away from the very place where – in our weakness – we find the strength to accept and to surrender.  On the flip side, to make space for grace is to step toward His Love with the certainty of finding Him, for that Love is always waiting but never forces itself.  His love is always a gentle invitation, even when it comes by way of suffering.

In a charmingly simple and very human way, Enrico and Chiara trusted, truly trusted, that God is a good and loving Father.  As such, they rightly believed He would never abandon them.  They received His Will as gift, truly as gift…albeit beyond their understanding…but nonetheless gift.  And they lived from this truth…for Chiara, she lived it unto death and beyond.

“Strength comes in making space, in trusting yourself, in truly believing that God is good and that He has only astonishing things in mind for you.”