Igino Giordani is a singular figure in the history of the Focolare. An antifascist, librarian, husband and father of four children, he was Christian involvement in politics, a journalist and a writer, pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement. He was also a well-known polemicist for the Catholic side.
Although a lover of peace, Igino Giordani became an officer in the First World War where he was wounded and awarded a medal of honour. After the Second World War, as an anti-fascist, he was forced into exile but later became elected to the Italian Constituent Assembly. He was the one credited with bringing lay married people and families into the Focolare as active members, opening the Movement – in a certain sense – to the entire human family. For these and other reasons, Chiara Lubich considered him a co-founder of the Focolare Movement.
His encounter with Chiara took place in his office at the Office of Deputies in Montecitorio, in September 1948. He was going through a particularly difficult moment in his life, both spiritually and politically: “”I studied religious topics with a passion,” he writes in his Memorie di un cristiano ingenuo, “but mostly so that I would not have to think about my soul whose appearance wasn’t very edifying. It was burdened with boredom and, in order not to have to admit to its paralysis, I buried myself in books and tired myself with activity. I believed this was all I could do. I had grasped and possessed a bit from all the areas of religious culture: apologetics, ascetics, mysticism, dogmatics and morality . . . but I possessed them only as a matter of culture. They weren’t integrated with my life.”
That day quite an assorted group appeared at his desk, whose originality immediately struck someone like Giordani who was rather expert on ecclesial life: a Conventual Franciscan, a Friar Minor, a Cappuchin, a man from the Third Order and a woman from the Third Order (Chiara). He would later write: “To see them united in such harmony already appeared like a miracle of unity!” Chiara spoke first, while perceiving the courteous skepticism of the deputy: “I was sure I would hear a lot of sentimental dribble about some utopian welfare scheme.” But that wasn’t the case at all! “There was an unusual tone in her voice,” he later commented, “a sense of deep certainty and conviction that seemed to come from something supernatural. Suddenly my curiosity was aroused and a fire began to blaze within me. A half hour later when she had finished speaking, I found myself completely taken by an enchanted atmosphere: enclosed in a halo of happiness and light; and I would have wanted that voice to continue speaking. It was the voice that I, without realizing, was waiting to hear. It placed holiness within the reach of everyone.”
Giordani asked Chiara to write down what she had just said, and she quickly did. But personally, Giordani wanted to know more about his new acquaintances. He gradually came to discover in his experience of the Focolare, the deep desire of St John Chrysostom that the laity might live as the monks but without celibacy. “This desire had always been so strong in me,” he went on to say, “and so I had always the Franciscan style of teaching among the people and the virginal instruction given by St Catherine of Siena to the Dominican Third Order. And I supported all the initiatives to bring down the walls placed between the monastic life and the laity, between the consecrated and the common folk: confines within which the Church suffered like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Something happened in me. Those chunks of culture that had always been standing side by side for comparison began to move and come alive, to become a living body that was generously flowing with blood. Love had entered in and invested those ideas, and its gravitational pull drew them into an orbital path of gladness.”
Following the death of his wife, Mya, whom he deeply loved, he spent his final years living in a focolare in Rocca di Papa, Italy. Here he would often explain his “discovery” to people with the following words: “I moved away from the library cluttered with books, to the Church filled with Christians.” It was a real and true conversion, a new conversion, which “having plucked me from the doldrums that fenced me in, was now urging me to step onto a new landscape that was endless, somewhere between earth and Heaven, inviting me to walk again.”
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.