This coming October 7 is the 25th anniversary of the death of an amazing young adult Christian believer, Blessed Chiara Luce Badano.

While perhaps not yet one of the “big saints” known by most Catholics, Chiara’s story is inspiring to many and it’s worth recalling as her popularity is rapidly growing, especially among young adult Catholics. When the young woman was beatified on September 25, 2010, she became the first member of Generation X to be raised to such heights in the Catholic Church.

Who was this saintly young woman? Why is she becoming so renowned among young adults?

Some background might help. Early in their marriage, Chiara’s parents were told that they could not have children. Despite the bad news, her parents prayed for a child for eleven years.

When they conceived, they saw their child as an answered prayer and a grace given directly from God. In reference to this gift of divine providence, the couple named their daughter Chiara, meaning “light,” since her conception was an illumination to them of God’s goodness and kindness.

Throughout her life, the future Blessed always sought to live up to her name and display a strong witness to the light that is given by faith and virtue. With that said, however, Chiara was a regular child. As a teenager, she enjoyed fixing her hair, being in the outdoors, spending time in coffee shops, listening to music, hanging out with friends, going on dates, as well as swimming and playing tennis.

Chiara had an adventurous spirit, which made her think of one day becoming a flight attendant. But Chiara also had struggles. She had a hard time with studies, and even failed her first year of high school. She was also sometimes mocked for her faith or made fun of because of her piety.

Despite the negative peer pressure, Chiara held onto her faith and sought ways to grow in prayer and in her discipleship. When she was sixteen years old, she had a profound spiritual experience that helped her to understand suffering in a profoundly new way. This experience shaped her desire to selflessly serve others, and guided her later when she was in intense physical suffering.

The spiritual experience occurred while the future Blessed attended a retreat hosted by the Focolare, one of the ecclesial movements within the Catholic Church. During the retreat, the foundress of the movement spoke about abandonment and isolation and these insights greatly moved Chiara.

She later wrote: “This is a very important moment for me: it is an encounter with Jesus Forsaken.”

After the retreat, Chiara was given the nickname “Luce,” which also means light, since she seemed to radiate even more enthusiasm and contain an almost heavenly joy. The young woman’s happiness and hope were palpable and contagious to those around her. Images of Blessed Chiara capture this visible joy.

Everything seemed wonderful and the young woman’s future appeared bright. While playing tennis in her last year of high school, however, Chiara felt extreme pain in her shoulder. After being taken to the hospital and having multiple tests run, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

When told about the cancer, Chiara simply prayed: “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.” Earlier in her life, Blessed Chiara enjoyed fixing up her hair but as she lost it due to her medical treatments, she would pray: “For you, Jesus.” The cancer would weaken and diminish her body and eventually take her life.

Throughout her illness, Chiara never wavered in her faith or lost her joy. During her hospitalizations, she was found ministering to other patients, doing acts of kindness for the medical staff, encouraging her parents and consoling the friends who visited her.

As the cancer took Chiara’s mobility and energy, she said: “I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”

When the time came for her to pass from this life to the next, Chiara told her family: “Farewell. Be happy because I am happy!”

The mosaic of faith, prayer, joy, and suffering found in Chiara’s life reflect the hope, confusion, search, and anxiety of Generation X and much of contemporary Western culture.

Seeing the saintly woman’s life and very real struggle to know and live her faith, to joyfully reconcile it in the midst of terminal suffering, provokes both curiosity and esteem among post-moderns as they themselves test faith and look for answers. Simultaneously, the narrative of this holy woman is a strong consolation to Christian believers as they look for inspiration and help to persevere in their own discipleship and understanding of God.

For an array of reasons, therefore, Blessed Chiara is becoming a fast friend to many different groups of people who are found all along the path of life. And as with other holy people, so with Chiara, her witness brings a credibility to faith, a means for consolation, and an invitation to joy.