Encountering Chiara Lubich to celebrate her birth centenary
Recently a famous economist said: “all of a sudden, a common evil taught us what common good really is”. These few words express a great truth, which reminds me of another: “… a thing is better understood when compared to its opposite”. In fact, while we bow our heads in prayer for the dead, the sick and for those, unknown to us, who work in silence in the hospitals and in the key places of our cities, we timidly lift our gaze toward heaven, aware of a certainty: that we are living in a time of grace. If the coronavirus were able to speak, it would tell us: “… stop, keep still, I’m here to help you...”
This ‘stop’ was the last thing that the organizers of the Chiara Lubich’s Centenary expected to happen this year, 100 years since the birth of the Foundress of the Focolare Movement. In fact, in Italy and in many other Countries in the five continents, thousands were expected to come together to mark this Centenary. These participants would have been young and old, politicians and ecclesiastics, and people speaking different languages and having diverse cultures. They would have come together to celebrate, and above all, to encounter Chiara, who is still alive in her great Ideal: unity, reflecting Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “that all may be one” (Jn 17, 21).
Therefore, all public manifestations are on hold, for now. Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement, in a video message from her quarantine at home, said: “This stop will last for days, weeks or even months…, no one really knows. But it will eventually end. If we live this period well, we will rediscover a strong presence of Jesus by living out the Gospel, in loving our brothers and sisters, in Jesus in our midst, which we can keep even at a distance in our big Family. And above all, in loving sufferings, in which we recognize Jesus Forsaken – ‘Chiara’s God’, as the Bishop of Trent likes to define Him. In Him, we encounter her too, and we start looking at every situation with her eyes. We, too, may experience what Chiara and her first companions experienced: they were not aware of the raging war or when it ended, because God and his Love completely enveloped them, and while they lived this reality, nothing else mattered. All this was the result of a new faith in the love of God”.
Maria Voce received several appreciations. Gerhard Pross (CVJM Esslingen/Germany), one of the founders, and the present moderator of Together for Europe, among other things, wrote:
“Chiara Lubich was an exceptional grace of God not only for you, but for all the people of God and the entire humanity. Encountering her was something special and, thanks to the charism, she not only had the gift to found a spiritual Movement, but also to trigger off many founding and innovative impulses. […] She was the one who invited us to start the journey of Together, which started with the meeting for leaders (February 2000) and continued with “Together, otherwise, how?” (December 8, 2001) held in Munich and this led to Together for Europe that was held in Stuttgart in May 2004. In the Steering Committee, she was undoubtedly the ‘primus inter pares’; she led us forward with love and a clear vision. Together for Europe is the fruit of her love, her lucidity and her determination. […] I’m grateful for the great gift of having made her acquaintance and for having journeyed with her. When one encountered her one encountered love. In my many meetings with her I was always struck by the way she radiated Jesus Christ. She was completely at His disposal”.
The Schoenstatt Movement, too, was part of our ecumenical network from the outset. This is what the present Superior General, Fr Juan Pablo Catoggio, together with his predecessor, Fr Heinrich Walter, wrote:
“Her great contribution in this historical era is that of having always sought unity. She drew her strength from the love of the Lord and from reciprocal love, and succeeded in establishing concrete signs of unity. Little by little, this vital process gives rise everywhere to a new culture – a culture that is not meant only for Christians, but one that is addressed to all persons of good will. Her contribution is also exceptional because it flowed from the heart of a woman who had no power or ministry, and never aspired of having any. This is an indication of how, in the future, the Church may become more ‘salt and leaven’ for the entire humanity”.
Thus, our meetings are on hold. Indeed, looking Chiara in the eyes, we can join the Coordination Team of Together for Europe in Austria, and tell her: “Dearest Chiara, We want to commit ourselves to promote Together for Europe! In this Network we discern the greatness of your Dream – by listening to God, we meet, we are reconciled and we can build a world Community”.
This ‘stop’ and the exterior silence will lead us to the interior silence. Will it make us understand – as individuals, peoples and nations – what needs to be changed once this immense, world-wide – but perhaps blessed – tempest has passed?
We join Gerhard Pross in auguring: “May this time brings about a new openness to the faith in Europe. And may we, as Christians, witness our faith through our courageous living”.
Photo: Chiara Lubich with Maria Voce ©CSC Audiovisivi; Photo Chiara Lubich with Gerhard Pross / with Fr Heinrich Walter ©Severin Schmid; Logo Centenary Chiara Lubich ©Focolare Movement