That Our Lady brings couples together is not news to me. But the unique love story of one such Italian couple that began with Our Lady’s obvious presence and ended on what the world deems a tragedy is something I don’t read everyday.
Chiara Corbela Petrillo was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28, newlywed and pregnant with a 7 month old baby. She refused abortion and all treatment that would have risked the life of her unborn son. Chiara’s two previous pregnancies resulted in life threatening abnormalities and the death of two children minutes after their birth. Because of the aggressive cancer, Chiara lost her right eye and eventually lost her life. But through it all, the remarkable witness she gave was with her peace in accepting God’s will and the joy of suffering in love. Her widowed husband, Enrico Petrillo, eloquently words the depth of their faith:
“A magical faith is difficult to put up with. It is one in which you manage the faith; you use God to make Him do whatever you wish.”
“Chiara Corbella Petrillo, Witness to Joy” is a book written by Simone Troisi and Cristiana Paccini, friends of Chiara and Enrico. It begins with the meeting of the young Chiara and Enrico in Mejugorje and documents the tests and trials of their marriage and family life. “Chiara” contains the private spiritual reflections, meaningful scripture readings, intimate writings, prayers, hopes, lessons, hidden moments and landmark decisions that the Petrillos encountered in their brief sacramental life together. What is remarkably evident is that the couple always sought God’s guidance through Mary in their journey. And in seeking God’s will, they always ended up entrusting everything to Him.
“Without Mary,” Enrico is quoted, “all that we were able to do would have been impossible… It was she, the model, who taught us to base our lives on the Word of God.”
An Intimate pseudo-Biography For Parents and Spouses
As with all saints biographies and memoirs, this one makes for a good read, particularly for us parents. What mother will not be moved to tears at Chiara’s dedication to her children? “Chiara” reminds parents of the noblest goal to raise God’s children who are on loan to us. It inspires parents to make bold, tough decisions in a culture hostile to life.
Though the struggle of Enrico and Chiara is not typical, every spouse will be able to relate to the valleys and hills that are always present in any relationship. This book will encourage spouses to support, affirm, and cherish each other for no one can predict how much time God bestows on us. To a world that churns out divorce by the minute, Chiara and Enrico’s story demonstrates that happily ever after is not in this life but in the next.
The book is not spared flaws. The translation from Italian text to English posed stilted sentence structures, making double or triple readings necessary to clarify confusion. While the proximity of the writers to the Petrillos made for an intimate spiritual biography, the use of a two-person point of view concerning two other main characters was awkward. It was a struggle to decipher who was narrating and to whom the text referred to as “her”? Was it Chiara or Cristiana?
The flaws are forgivable enough. Bottom-line is that the radiant witness of Chiara’s life and death is something no one should ignore, and every prolifer will appreciate.
I give it a three star rating.
Photography: See our Photographers page.