“I set out to write this biography treading softly and with a healthy dose of holy fear.”With these words Matilde Cocchiaro begins her biography on Natalia Dallapiccola who was the first to follow Chiara Lubich. Natalia has had a special role in the history of the Focolare, so much so that Chiara had said that if she had not met a person like her, so prepared by God, perhaps she would never have been able to give a start to the life that was so revolutionary and based on the Gospel.
Because of her relentless and unchanging love towards all, Chiara had nicknamed her Anzalon which in the Italian dialect of Trent means Big Angel.
She played a determining role in the spreading of the ideal of unity among the countries of the communist bloc, beyond the Iron Curtain, as well as in the field of interreligious dialogue for which she spent energy and talent for 30 years until the last days of her life on earth.
Following her death on April 1, 2008 – eighteen days after the death of Chiara – many people had words of gratitude and appreciation for Natalia: “Between me and Natalia,” says Rabbi David Rosen of Jerusalem, “there was a very strong bond. I will forever guard as a treasure her loving and noble spirit.” In the book’s preface Nichiko Niwano, president of the Japanese Buddhist Rissho Kosei-kai Movement states: “For many long years Natalia played the role of an open window which linked us with the Focolare Movement . . . lavishly pouring out the finest qualities of her heart and mind . . . An ancient saying says: “Know the past and you will find what is new.” It means: Study history, study the tradition with care and you will obtain new wisdom. That is all I wish, therefore, and I hope that Natalia’s biography becomes a precious guide for the journey into the future.”
From India, Shantilal Somaiya, Kala Acharya and Lalita Namjoshi of the Somaiya Bharatya (Hindu): “With great reverence we remember her visit to our institute and her silent but always edifying way of drawing dialogue forward.”
From Skopje. Azir Semani, speaks directly to Natalia in the name of the Muslim Friends of the Focolare from Macedonia: “Thank you for your hand that was always reaching out! . . . We have totally embraced your invitation: ‘that all may be one’. God’s voice through you was a call of love and trust for which we Muslims are honoured to have been able to walk together with you towards a united world. Blessed be your love!”
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Archbishop Emeritus of Prague, who for many years was responsible for the Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement, offered the following testimony: “I can truthfully say that Natalia was the mother of the ideal of unity in our lands. From her life, she transpired the light she had received from the charism of Chiara, without a lot of speeches; and she transmitted this charism to us in all of its depth. In 1968 Natalia was in the mountains of Tatre,” the Cardinal continues, “about 6 hours from the Czech Republic where she helped organize the first Mariapolis. Officially it was a holiday vacation, and to avoid a police investigation they would take long hikes. Then they would stop and Natalia would tell us things . . . The life she was presenting to us was very authentic, everyone was always struck by her simplicity that was completely Marian. Her love conquered because it was so natural and supernatural at the same time.”
“Natalia never left a written narrative about herself, because she was always so accustomed to going beyond herself in giving to others” the author concludes. I have tried to reconstruct her life . . . that irreplaceable contribution of the first focolarine who together with her had lived with Chiara Lubich at the dawning of the Movement. I was also able to draw on several spiritual thoughts of Natalia, which are very precious, written by her on loose pages or sent by voice to the people who worked with her, who then wrote them down.”
(Matilde Cocchiaro, “Natalia: la prima compagna di Chiara Lubich”, Città Nuova Editrice, Rome, 2013. Collana Città Nuova Per).