One day in the 1940s, at the dawn of the Movement, a bishop sent for the young girls from Trent (Northern Italy). Unaware of the reason for the invitation Chiara was pensive. The girls prayed at length before   arriving at the imposing building of the bishop’s residence, in Piazza Fiore. They described the real revolution that was happening in their city as a result of their actions almost without being aware. They explained frankly that they were ready to destroy everything that had been built over the months if the bishop asked them to. Their thought was ‘God speaks in the bishop’. The only thing that interested them was God. Mons. Carlo De Ferrari listened to Chiara and her companions and smiled at them pronouncing a simple phrase which remains to this day, ‘Here is the finger of God’.

His approval for and benediction of the Movement accompanied them up to his death; an example of his support was shown when the numbers of young men and women wishing to enter the Focolare leaving their homes and possessions was growing, the bishop said that this could only happen if they had the approval of their parents. This act silenced many rumours. For Chiara and her first companions the existence and importance of the Church was the only certain reality. In time the spirituality of unity saw the Church essentially and fundamentally as communion.

Chiara wrote in 2000: ‘There is a phrase that Jesus says in the gospel which moves me deeply “Whoever listens to you (the apostles), listens to me” (Lk 10,16) (…) The charism brought us in a completely new way into the mystery of the Church, we were living as a little Church. Anticipating by many years the definition from the council of Church – Communion, the spirituality of unity made us experience and understand what being Church meant and how to live with greater awareness. We understood it was logical for this to happen, through the presence of Christ among us.

‘If we stay with the fire we become fire, and if we have Jesus in our midst we become other Jesus. St Bonaventure said “Where two or three are united in Christ’s name, there is the Church”, and Tertullian: “Where three (are gathered), even if they are lay people, there is the Church”. Through Christ in our midst, we are made Church, and so a real passion for it is born within us. From love a new understanding of the Church was born where we all found life: we understood the sacraments in a new way. The dogmas of the Church were illuminated for us. We felt in our element being Church, through the strength of communion of love that united us and grafted us onto the institutional reality, and we experienced Her maternal love even in the most difficult moments.’

Articles