VENERABLE BENEDETTA BIANCHI PORRO born in 1936 was an Italian Roman Catholic. Born in the Romagna, she became ill with polio as a teenager. She pursued a medical career and was perceived to be a brilliant student, but the aggressive progression of her illness forced her to abandon all hopes for a medical career. She instead devoted herself to surgeries for her own health but failed to cure her ailments; instead her health took on a rapid decline.
Daughter of Guido Bianchi Porro and Elsa Giammarchi, the second of six children. Afflicted with polio at an early age, leaving her with a crippled left leg and a need to wear a brace to prevent her spine from deforming. A clever and happy child, she began keeping a diary at age five; it became a lifelong record of her faith and the way she carried the cross of her disability. Much of her primary education was provided by Ursulines. In her teens she began to lose her hearing, and her overall health continued to deteriorate.
At age 17 she enrolled in the University of Milan, Italy with a plan to study physics, but later changed to medicine. Some teachers objected to having a pre-med student who was so deaf that had to have written questions during an oral examination, but Benedetta was an excellent student.
In 1957 her studies had reached a point that she was able to diagnose herself finding she had Recklinghausen Disease-Neuro-Fibromatosis which leads to paralysis of the nervous system. She had surgery in 1958 to treat part of the condition, but it was of little benefit, and left the left side of her face paralyzed. She continued her studies, but in 1959 she began losing the sense of touch, taste and smell, was completely deaf, and had to give up the idea of a medical career.
Benedetta had further surgery in August 1959; it left both legs paralyzed, and the young woman wheelchair bound. She then turned her sick room into a center of support and communication for others. Her friends from medical school were frequent visitors, and she began correspondences; in person or in print she was uniformly optimistic about life and the love of God. Benedetta and her family visited Lourdes in May 1962 in search of a cure. She took the hand of a paralyzed girl lying next to her, who was completely healed, but there was no change for Benedetta.
In 1963 Benedetta had another operation which it left her blind. She could barely speak, and could only move her right hand. However, the number of her visitors increased as word of her holiness and her gentle understanding of to love God even these circumstances. Patience, said Benedetta, was “the weapon with which Christ conquered the darkness”.
To a visiting priest she explained: “In living we must make known to him, and to him only, the meaning of our lives, which sometimes he lets us catch a glimpse.”
She went again to Lourdes and as her family waited for her to be healed, she received her own miracle – the understanding that she would not change a thing about her condition. She died in 1964 at the age of 28. Her father said that her deformed face, tired from the long suffering,returned to being as beautiful as it was when she was young.
She was proclaimed Venerable on 23 December 1993 on the account of her good deeds and model life.
Sometimes I find myself defeated under the weight of this heavy cross. Then, I call upon Jesus and lovingly cast myself at His feet; He kindly permits me to rest my head on His lap. (Venerable Benedetta in a letter to a friend)