“Deep in her heart, Chiara Lubich had a dream,” said Mark Tecilla, known to history as the “first” focolarino, to an audience of several hundred people from 50 countries, representing the local communities of the Focolare Movement around the world. It was spontaneous look at the life of the city of Trent, where the charism of unity took its first steps, so as to have a light for such a gathering. “Looking from her window that overlooked the city of Trent, Chiara would have liked to solve the social problems of the city. But we weren’t strong enough for that yet. Then, in December 1947 she called everyone to the Cardinal Massaia hall to tell us something. She had noticed that within our community there were people forced to live in dire financial straits. And this was inconceivable for her. In the early Christian communities which arose in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church, – as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles – “everything was shared and there were no needy among them” because the Gospel was lived to the letter. Chiara had decided to talk about the community of goods and present all of us who formed that first community of Trent with that challenge which was both the same and different to that of the early Christians.”
Did everyone have to sell all their possessions? “No. While reaching the same aim of the Christian community, each person was not asked to sell what they had and give it to the community, but to give that ‘everything’ they had and which they could do without, without harm to themselves or to their family”.
How did this form of ‘organized’ charity work? “Each one brought any extra they had, especially in money, and pledged to donate a fixed amount established by themselves, month by month. The donor and the pledge remained secret. With the money received, Chiara asked a focolarina to help needy families in the community, monthly and secretly, guiding this delicate task with extreme charity and discretion. The aim was: to reach the point that among us there was no longer anyone in need, but everyone had enough to live on. The result of the amount donated and of the monthly pledge was totally unexpected and already in the first month was enough to help thirty families.”
What did Chiara think about this? “Looking at this world of ours”, she said, “It seems impossible that nowadays it is so greedy and selfish … and yet it is so. Faced with these facts, touched and grateful, we shout out: Charity is God! And God is the Almighty. In the spirit of charity and unity (which is not mere almsgiving, but the total gift of self to the will of God) everyone could find something to give. But it is necessary, before asking people to give, to form hearts, because – unlike the early Christians – there is too much spirit of worldliness among us and disunity and indifference reign. Only a strong and deep evangelical formation can keep alive an ideal society living fraternal charity. This will certainly exist among us, because as long as we are united, Christ is in our midst, and what he builds, remains. “In fact, what was very prominent in the early days of the Focolare Movement was the importance of living the gospel.”
This experience of the communion of goods did not stop at the first community of Trent, but continued over the years, both in the lifestyle choices of the members of the Focolare Movement, and in concrete actions including some in which things are circulated in a way that resembles the ancient idea of barter, with a strong dose of solidarity and social justice.