The new book, published by Città Nuova, contains an interview with Eli Folonari who was at Chiara Lubich’s side for more than fifty years. Eli discusses several parts of Chiara’s life, many of which were unknown to most people. Here are some excerpts.
What value did Chiara give to health, sport and recreation?
She always had a very busy life and not devoid of problems, because her spirituality was new even for the Church. And such an active and intense spiritual life couldn’t but have an affect on the physical. Through her own personal experience, she could see that health and well-being – this great gift given to us by God – should be safeguarded; the body needs rest, fun, relaxation. She encouraged everyone to eat properly, to sleep sufficiently, to look after their health.
Sometimes she would interrupt her work and say: “Let’s go take a short walk in the garden, for fifteen minutes, or for a half hour.” Then she would return to work.
Did she like the mountains better than the sea?
Yes, even though at times, when we were in Rome, we would go to Torvanianica, Ostia, and Fregene. She didn’t find the seaside very relaxing. But one day – I think it was in Rimini – she observed: “The sea gives a sense of the infinite, whereas the mountains are restricting.” “But,” she went on, “they lift your spirits high.” So she did prefer the mountains. She often recalled the times she had climbed to the foot of Mount Paganella with her father, or when, once out of Trent, she and her first companions would stop under a pine tree on the slopes and have long conversations.
Did she like walking?
She used to walk more than any of us, initially even very long walks. The she suffered from a disc hernia in 1973, because while taking a shortcut, she fell along a path that was too rugged and steep.
What about swimming?
No, she wasn’t one for the water, being a good Trentina. Although, during the vacations in Switzerland, the beautiful long boat rides on Lake Geneva or Lake Brienz were occasions to share beautiful things with her companions!
Did she find car trips restful?
Yes, she found them quite relaxing. But usually in the car she would be writing or working on something.
How did she relax in her daily life?
Occasionally she would listen to music or read a book. She rather preferred to watch films on TV, and not only religious films, but also murder mysteries! Sometimes she would follow sporting events. She didn’t cheer for a particular team, but she was always able to tell who was playing well and who wasn’t.
Did she ever organize any recreational activities?
Yes, since her life was so busy, she liked to invite her closest collaborators to spend some relaxing moments with her, which often turned out to be also quite demanding! She would say: “A few people are coming over for lunch and we need to entertain them for about two hours: try to put something together.” Someone would think up some jokes to tell whereas I would be looking through reports to see if I could find some amusing little anecdotes that could be shared…
Did she have a favorite dish?
She liked ham and she liked spaghetti. She didn’t care for meat or fish or for very elaborate dishes. She preferred simple things like potatoes. Her mother would tell us that when Chiara was still a toddler barely able to talk, she could already say “po-ta-to”. She also welcomed ice-cream.
In her diary we detect that from when she was still very young, Chiara always had the idea of death in mind. And this urged her to live more intensely the moment given to her as a preparation for the next life.
Yes, she lived it intensely. In all of her early letters we find the same recurring theme: everything passes away, life is short and we have little time. Chiara wrote to her mother: “Should I die, you must take ahead my Ideal.”
Taken from: “Lo spartito scritto in cielo. Cinquant’anni con Chiara Lubich”, Giulia Eli Folonari, Città Nuova, 2012.
Photos: © Chiara Lubich Centre (Photographic Archives)