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HomeArticle‘Everything Is a Gift’: Lessons from Chiara Corbella on Suffering

‘Everything Is a Gift’: Lessons from Chiara Corbella on Suffering

‘Everything Is a Gift’: Lessons from Chiara Corbella on Suffering

Pope Benedict XVI greets Chiara Corbella with her family in Vatican Square after the General Audience. (photo: Vatican Media / chiaracorbellapetrillo.org)


‘Humanly we can do nothing except to pray and to ask God for the strength to live this trial in sanctity.’

Another sainthood cause for a young person is moving along quickly. On June 21, the diocesan phase of the cause for Servant of God Chiara Corbella, Petrillo who died in 2012, officially closes in the Diocese of Rome.

After giving birth to a son and then a daughter, both of whom lived only 30 minutes and were baptized during that time, Chiara and her husband, Enrico, became the parents of Francesco. During this time, Chiara suffered terribly from a cancerous tumor that spread and caused her severe pain and intense suffering.

Yet she was a model of love for all during her trials.

She passed away on June 13, 2012, at age 28. Cardinal Agostino Vallini celebrated her funeral Mass and called her “the second Gianna Beretta,” in reference to St. Gianna Molla.

Here are some of her heartfelt writings on suffering gleaned from ChiaraCorbellaPetrillo.org and especially from Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy by Charlotte Fasi, from Sophia Institute Press.

In her notes, she wrote:

To love a person means:

to accept not understanding

everything about her,

being prepared to be changed and to suffer,

to renounce something for her.


When listening to God, it is necessary:

to accept not understanding,

to be disposed to suffer, to renounce

evil, that is, to choose [the good].


To love a person means:

to accept not understanding

everything about her,

being prepared to be changed and to suffer,

to renounce something for her.


A daily communicant, Chiara faced her suffering without fear of her tumor, noting, “Humanly we can do nothing except to pray and to ask God for the strength to live this trial in sanctity.”


Chiara Corbella holds her son.
Chiara Corbella holds her son.


Chiara wrote about her daughter Maria Grazia Letizia, born June 10, 2009, with anencephaly, a serious birth defect, who lived less than an hour. She never considered abortion, only giving birth to her precious daughter. “If I had aborted her, I do not think that I would have remembered the day of the abortion as a day of celebration. … It would have been a moment that I would have tried to forget, a moment of great suffering. But the day of Maria’s birth I shall always recall as one of the most beautiful days of my life. …The amount of time [as parents] does not matter: one month, two months, a few hours. What matters is that we have had this gift … and it is something that can never be forgotten.”

Then when son Davide was born with severe physical problems already known, his mother would write, in part: “He showed us God really does miracles, but he doesn’t follow our limited logical thoughts because the Lord is more than our simple desires.

“He changed the idea of those who don’t ask God for the salvation of their soul but only of their body.

“He demolished the idea of asking the Lord for an easy and happy life which doesn’t resemble to the life of the cross Jesus bore for us.

“Davide was so small, but he lashed out with great strength against our idols, and he shouted loud to the face of [those who] didn’t want to see; he forced so many people to run for cover in order not to admit having been beaten.

“Personally, I thank the Lord because I have been beaten by little Davide; nobody could convince me what we were experiencing was a misfortune, hence a consequence of having unconsciously moved away from God.

“I thank God because my Goliath is finally dead and my eyes are finally free to look beyond and to follow God without fearing who I really am.”

Later, despite all the additional suffering she was to endure waiting in the hot sun for a Wednesday papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, even though she was enduring such physical pain herself, Chiara said the night before, while preparing, “How many graces we are receiving!”

Baby Francesco was with his parents, and Enrico was able to speak with Pope Benedict XVI, who went to Chiara and embraced her.

Never complaining about her illness, Chiara once saw a connection with the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus as they finally recognized Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. She wrote simply, “In the beginning we did not recognize Him in the tumor.”

In one difficult moment by herself, seeing her daughter Maria in utero, crying out to God, Chiara looked upon an image of the Virgin Mary. “Peace descended on her heart,” she pleaded. She would write: “From being condemned to a destiny without hope, I became filled with joy in seeing how the Lord saw this suffering.”

Not only did she bear suffering like a saint, but she had hoped to alleviate it for children. She and her husband wished to be parents in a group home and had asked God to accept their desire of caring for mistreated and unloved children. This prayer was fulfilled in the birth of their first two children. As she wrote: “And now the Lord has responded to us. He has given us a truly noble task; the care of a marvelous creature that many others would have hated and thrown away, left forgotten in a wastebasket in some hospital.”

Her suffering never conquered her — or her faith. She passed that on in a letter to her son for his birthday, days before she died. Wanting to give him an enduring gift, she wrote:


My dearest Francesco,

Today you are one-year-old, and we asked ourselves what gift we could give you that would last through the years, and so we decided to write you a letter. You were a great gift in our life because you helped us to look beyond our human limits. When the doctors wished to frighten us, your life, so fragile, gave us the strength to go forward.

For the little I have understood during these years, I can tell you only that Love is the center of our life. Because we are born from an act of love, we live in order to love and in order to be loved, and we die in order to know the true love of God. The goal of our life is to love and to be always ready to learn how to love others as only God is able to teach you. Love consumes you, but it is beautiful to die consumed precisely as a candle that goes out only after it reaches its goal.

Whatever you do will have sense only if you see it in terms of eternal life. If you truly love, you shall be aware of it by knowing that nothing truly belongs to you because everything is a gift.

We loved your brother and sister, Maria and Davide, and we have loved you, knowing that you were not ours; that you were not for us. And so it must be with everything in life. Everything that you have does not belong to you; that is so you can make it bear fruit. Do not ever be discouraged, my son. God does not ever take anything away from you. If He takes something from you, it is only because He wishes to give you so much more.

Thanks to Maria and Davide, we are more in love than ever with eternal life, and we have stopped being afraid of death. Therefore, God has taken from us in order to give us a bigger heart and to be opened to receiving eternity during this [earthly] life.

At Assisi, I fell in love with the joy of the consecrated brothers and sisters who were living their belief in Providence. So then I also asked the Lord for this grace of which they spoke, in order to believe in this Providence, this Father who does not let you lack anything. And then Brother Vito [Father Vito] helped us to walk believing in this promise. We married with nothing, putting God in first place and believing in the love that asked us to take this great step. We were never disappointed; we always had a house and much more than what was ever necessary!

You are named Francis precisely because St. Francis changed our life, and we hope that he will also be an example for you. … It is beautiful to have some examples in life that remind you that a person can demand the maximum of happiness already here on this earth with God as a guide.

We know that you are special and that you have a great mission; the Lord has wanted you from all time, and He will show you the path to follow, if you open up your heart to Him.

Trust in Him. It is worth the pain! 

Mamma Chiara and Papà Enrico


Days later, on June 12, hours before she died, the Gospel for that date was from Matthew, in which Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world” (Mathew 5:13-16).

Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy recounts Chiara was very ill, “but her face said that the pain was again ‘relieved,’ as if Someone were carrying the weight of it together with her. She was attentive to each word.”

The priest, Father Vito, used his homily as a dialogue with Chiara. “He asked her if this light of the world, in order not to remain hidden, must be placed on the lampstand.”

Chiara nodded.

Then he asked: “What is Jesus’ lampstand?”

She answered, “The lampstand is the Cross.”

Then he said: “Chiara, you are luminous because you are on the lampstand with Jesus.”

“And she … — related Father Vito — at that moment gave a marvelous smile and confirmed: ‘Yes, it is so!’”

Her luminosity now grows brighter.



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