Igino Giordani was called a ‘co-founder’ of the Movement by Chiara Lubich herself. He was a unique and special focolarino, called throughout the Movement by the nickname: Foco. Although he loved peace at any cost, he became an officer in WW1, was wounded and decorated. He was a teacher, anti-fascist, librarian, husband and father of four children, and also a noted Catholic polemicist, a pioneer of Christian commitment in politics, a writer and a journalist. After WW2, during which he was in exile as an opponent of fascism, he was elected to Italy’s Constituent Assembly that drew up the Italian constitution. He was a Member of Parliament, a committed layperson and an early ecumenist. It was he who brought married laypeople to be part the Focolare’s inner core, opening it, in a sense, to the whole of humanity.
His meeting with Chiara took place in his office in the Parliament building, Montecitorio, in September 1948. He was going through an especially difficult moment in his life, both spiritually and politically. ‘I was a passionate student of religious subjects,’ he wrote in his posthumously published Memorie di un cristiano ingenuo (Memories of an artless Christian), ‘but it was also a way of not looking at my own soul which was not an edifying sight: it was borne down by boredom; and so as not to confess its paralysis I drowned myself in study and exhausted myself by action. I believed there was no other way; I had learnt about pretty much all sections of religious culture: apologetics, asceticism, mysticism, dogmatics, ethics… but I possessed them only as a culture. They were not my inner life.
On that day, in front of his desk, he welcomed a mixed group, made up of representatives of parts of the Franciscan family that over the centuries had frequently been at odds, which seemed odd to Giordani as a man who knew about Church life. There was a Conventual Friar, a Friar Minor, a Capuchin Friar and a Franciscan Tertiary, that is, Chiara herself. The meeting started warmly, as normally happened with Giordani. But, as he wrote later on, ‘seeing them united in agreement seemed to me to be a miracle of unity.’ Then Chiara, facing the politician’s gentle scepticism, began to speak. As he said: ‘I was certain I’d hear some sentimental propaganda for some kind of utopian charitable institution.’ Instead it was not like that at all. ‘There was an uncommon tone in her voice,’ he commented, ‘the tone of a deep and sure conviction born of supernatural feeling. Therefore, all of a sudden, my curiosity was aroused and a fire within began to burn. When, after half an hour, she finished speaking, I was spellbound, caught up in an atmosphere like a halo of light and happiness; and I wished that voice would carry on. It was the voice that, without realizing it, I had been waiting for. It put sanctity within reach of everybody.’
Giordani asked Chiara to write down what she had said, which she soon did. But, personally, he also wished to deepen the relationship begun. Little by little he recognized in the Focolare’s experience the fulfilment of John Chrsystom’s desire that laypeople should be like monks only without celibacy. ‘I had nourished within myself that same desire,’ he went on to say, ‘and so I had loved loved Franciscanism’s way of teaching in the midst of the people and the spiritual direction given by the virgin Catherine of Sienna to her followers, the ‘Caterinati’, and I had supported initiatives that seemed to lead to the removal of the barriers between monks and laypeople, between the consecrated and the common people – barriers behind which the Church suffered like Christ in Gethsemani. Something happened inside me. It happened that those pieces of culture, juxtaposed, began to move and take on life, coming together to form a living body, through which flowed blood generously: perhaps it was the blood with which St Catherine was so ardent? Love had penetrated me and had overwhelmed my ideas, drawing them into the orbit of its joy.
And to speak about this ‘discovery’ he would repeat something he would say to many in the last years of his life, which he passed, after his much loved wife Mya had died, in his focolare in Rocca di Papa: ‘I moved from a library choking with books to the Church lived in by Christians.’ It was a real and true conversion, a new conversion, that ‘waking me from the immobility in which I seemed immured, urged me to go out into a land of new vistas, without bounds, between heaven and earth, and encouraged me to begin again on my journey.’
The cause for the canonization of Igino Giordnai, called Foco, is under way. His body rests in the chapel of the International Centre of the Focolare Movement in Rocca di Papa, where Chiara Lubich’s body also lies. ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 15:12) is the sentence on his tomb, words from the Gospel that sum up his life.