Focolare Movement » Wellbeing & Ecology Official International Website Fri, 28 Nov 2014 05:00:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Josef Lux, a peacemaker politician Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:00:24 +0000

Josef Lux 1“I’ll never forget his smile when he would greet me as he returned home tired from work. . . Even though he would never get more than only a few hours of sleep, he never missed the early morning Mass. . . He never brought political problems into our focolare, although there were times when he would ask for our opinions. Actually, he had to go against the current quite often, but I never saw in him any hatred towards his opponents.” As he went off to work each morning, he would tell us goodbye saying: ‘Always, immediately, with joy!'” It was a way of telling us he was prepared to accept any situation, even the difficult ones that the day would be holding in store for him. This attitude was probably the secret behind his life, which made dialogue possible with everyone, often in very difficult situations.” This is how the two focolarini who lived in the same focolare as Josef Lux remember him.

Born on February 1, 1956, in the late 1970s he became acquainted with the spirituality of Chiara Lubich, in Cocen, Eastern Bohemia where he worked as a zoo technician in an agricultural cooperative. In 1986 he married Vera and felt the call to follow Jesus in the focolare. Chiara assigned him a sentence from the Gospel that gave direction to his life: “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22: 21).

Josef Lux con moglie Vera
Josef Lux with his wife Vera

The events of November 1989, followed by the fall of Communism, changed his life. Right from the start of the political changes he was among the main organisers of the demonstrations in the square, and in 1990 he was elected to the National Parliament for the People’s Party. His decision to enter into politics was the result of deep reflection. He was strongly convinced that politics could be purified by people who were ready to make the personal sacrifice. He enthroned a large portrait of Jesus on the Cross, on the wall of his study. He wanted to have Him always in front of him, especially during the intense negotiations, and in the demanding work.

In September 1990, after a brilliant speech in front of the People’s Party convention, he was elected president. He worked for the transformation of this political group into a modern party with a Christian orientation.

In 1992 he was re-elected to Parliament and became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture of the Czech Government until 1998. For many people he was a sign of contradiction: esteemed by the people who shared his choices and rejected by political opponents.

Vera and his six children were of great support to him.

Josef Lux con Vaclav Havel
Josepf Lex with Vaclav Havel

In 1998 he was informed that he had a serious illness: leukaemia. That news gave rise to a chain of support: many Czech citizens as well as many others, offered bone marrow transplants. Although it was proving difficult to find the right fit, Josef was still pleased because that allowed the data base of possible donors to expand. Finally, an anonymous donor was found in Italy and the decision was made to have the surgery in Seattle, USA. The surgery went well, but during his recovery he developed an infection that worsened.

His children arrived in Seattle, accompanied by a focolarino priest who celebrated Mass in his hospital room. Josef continued to repeat that he offered his pain for the spreading of God’s Kingdom and for young people. Chiara Lubich followed him closely, assuring him of her daily prayers.

Vera and the children held hands as they sang Josef’s favourite psalm: “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust” (Ps 91:2). Well aware of the gravity of his condition, he was serene and continued to ask for prayers. Then he said some words that have become his testament: “Smile, don’t cry.”

In announcing his death on November 21, 1999, Chiara asked that Josef Lux be the protector of the Movement for Unity in Politics along with Igino Giordani.

His first little “miracle” following his death was a day of unity for the whole nation, a unity never seen since before the Velvet Revolution: on the radio, in newspapers, on television – everyone including his political opponents openly expressed their esteem for him and for the values he defended and spread during his time in public office. Many said they found in him not only a “statesman” but also a Christian who drew from his faith in God the strength and the courage to work in favour of his country.

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Families: opening up to adoption Sat, 25 Oct 2014 05:00:25 +0000 20141025-01“When we got married we had many projects. And one of these was the great desire to have a child. It was a great disappointment to discover that there were problems hindering this conception. It was hard to accept and I was convinced that there had to be a medical solution, which made us hope for the best. I was 22 and therefore, they did not immediately suggest in vitro fertilization techniques (FIVET), but started with less invasive treatments.

In the meantime, while waiting for something to happen, I turned to a priest of my parish for help and advice, and he encouraged me to consider the true value of life, the precious gift that God has entrusted to the responsibility of man. The suffering I was undergoing was caused by my strong desire for motherhood, to be achieved as soon as possible. I was torn  as to the path to follow. Some doctors proposed the FIVET as the right solution. The other path was to put our trust in God. So, with great difficulty we decided to stop and not do anything anymore. It appeared to us that assisted conception itself refutes some important aspects of man. We believe that life is a gift of God and not a “product” to be manufactured in a laboratory, without the donation of love between spouses. In fact, with this technique the child is not conceived in their flesh but in a test tube.

I had always considered adoption as a beautiful thing, a great act of love, but my desire to bear a child led me not to take this path into consideration. Our suffering had opened my eyes to go further and realise, as St. John Paul II said in his  Familiaris Consortio, that “ married life does not lose its value but can be fertile beyond one’s capacity to procreate, and that fatherhood and motherhood can be fulfilled in a marvellous way in the many forms of relationships and solidarity towards those in need.”

And so I started to consider the possibility of adopting a child, and when my husband listened to my wish and agreed too, it was then that we “conceived” in an emotional bond, the child that God wanted to give us. In the autumn of 2004 we submitted to the Court for minors, our declaration of willingness for a national and international adoption.  So we waited. Our child still had not been born but was already in our hearts and thoughts. He still did not exist but we were already praying for him.

Samuel was born in Vietnam and on 19 April 2007, the association we had addressed told us that a child had been assigned to us. It was the start of great, indescribable emotions. We shared this joy with our relatives and friends; we were so happy we wanted to shout it out to the whole world. We only had a photo which for us, adoptive parents, is like the first scan in which you see your son but still cannot cuddle him.

After having undertaken a journey within the world of our emotions, we now had to take a real journey, get on a plane that would take us to the other end of the world to reach our son. On 29 May 2007 we held him in our arms for the first time, and it was an overflowing joy. Each year, we shall always remember this day as a second birthday because God has blessed our family with the gift of Samuel. We want to thank the Lord for all the gifts he has given us:  Dorotea, adopted in 2012, and Michele, who was entrusted to our care.” (G. and G. – Italy)

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Family, an endless resource Thu, 25 Sep 2014 05:06:45 +0000 20140925-01Speaking before Bishop Maradiaga, President of Caritas internationalis, Bishop Paglia of the Pontifical Council for Families, and the 150 participants of the seminar (Rome, 18 September 2014) from various parts of the world, this family from Maddaloni (Caserta – Italy), a town defined as “at risk” – struck by the painful experience of the loss of their three-month old son – was asked to give their testimonial on how one can rebuild hope and solidarity in families today.

Their third son, Giuseppe, in fact, died following the complications of a banal flu at the age of only three months. «When I got the news I thought I was dreaming, and then came a piercing pain and the certainty that we had to live this situation in unity, first of all between Gino and me. In those moments I felt the strong presence of God who, though permitting this suffering, was taking me in his arms. A family with which we were sharing a spiritual journey of faith suggested we spend a period of time in Loppiano, a citadel of the Focolari close to Florence.» For Gino it was different. When Giuseppe died, I felt defrauded not only as a father but also as a doctor whose profession is to heal sick people, whereas I was unable to do anything for my son! There was darkness and pain. But I let Elisa guide me and I accompanied her willingly.»

Immersed in the life of the citadel, «we felt an inner strength growing in us, and which transformed our pain into Love.» Then two other children were born: «If we didn’t have the strong certainty that all that had happened, even the loss of Giuseppe, was part of the divine plan of God who loves us, we wouldn’t have had the strength to beget other children.»

With a group of relatives and friends they decided to create a Foundation named after Giuseppe, the aim of which is to develop the culture of family custody «to respond to the appeal of Chiara Lubich, who invited families to empty out the orphanages and give a family to every child.» It «was not created in remembrance of our son but from the wish to continue living that love we could no longer give him. We wanted the “culture of giving” to be the Foundation’s drive engine.»

Custody consists in the temporary custody of a child in one’s own family, for as long as the problems of the child’s original family have not been resolved. In the mid-1990s when the project was launched, it was an avant-garde concept in Italy. It started with the education of the family custodians, (presently about a hundred) giving them the psychological and material support, until the formation of a family-home for children who were abandoned. It was among the first structures of the Campania Region. Since then we operate in cooperation with the local administrations and religious institutions, asking each member of the Foundation for the spirit of custody and service.

«We still remember the first time we were entrusted with a child - the Ferraro couple confided – a nine-month-old baby, Adjaratu. The words of the social service director at that time still resound in our hearts, “You can’t imagine what a dangerous road you are opening!” To tell the truth, we did not encounter any real danger. But there were difficulties and efforts, and every time these were overcome in the attempt to live evangelical love in a radical way, which had pushed us to operate and  become more visible in these 20 years, with incredible events to confirm our efforts.

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Living the Gospel: overcoming distrust Mon, 01 Sep 2014 05:00:07 +0000 20140831-aI work as a guard in a Church in Montevideo, and sometime ago, upon opening the door every morning I would always find a boy dressed in rags, who would enter the church with the typical beverage we drink here.

My first reaction was one of suspicion and distrust, due to his appearance. I thought: “I hope he is not here to steal!” After some time, however, I remembered the Word of Life … so I started to greet him and speak to him.

He told me that he was homeless. One morning, seeing that he was all neat and dressed with new clothes, I asked him if he had found a place to stay. “No,” he answered, “I wash myself in the square with soap the Ministry for Social Development distributes. I don’t like to be dirty.” Then he recounted that he was a Catholic and went to Church ”to speak with God.” He had received his First Communion as a child. So I said, “Why don’t you come to Mass and then speak to the priest.” From then on he started attending Mass every day.

Since I had gained a bit of weight, I had many clothes that no longer fitted me. “Perhaps they would fit him” I thought. So I filled a bag and brought it to him. “Oh no, that’s too much!”he exclaimed on seeing the bag. “I need so little, since I live on the streets.”
From then on also other people of the community started to help him, convinced that every man is “Christ in person.” It was then that this man, who was now a friend, managed to find a good job (he works really hard) and rent a room.”

J. B. (Montevideo – Uruguay)

«A few days ago, on my way to the market, I saw a woman rummaging through the garbage bins and selecting the things inside. I stopped for a moment to look at her. She then said “The rich people throw away so much… but these things are still useful.” She simultaneously showed me a pan, saying: “This is made of good material.” “You’re right!” – I answered, really surprised at what she had found. It was a good pan, you could see that it had been used, but it’s one of those things that last forever. So we continued our conversation. “… this could serve to make pudding, and that other thing to drain…” and we went on and on.
She then showed me a holy picture of Our Lady which she had found in the garbage, together with a statue of Our Lady of the Valley, one of those tiny and really old lead statues of Our Lady.  “Do you know what this means for me?” – I said – “It means Our Lady is with you.”  “Yes!” she said. “God and Our Lady are always with me. They are always by my side.”

Then on seeing that among the objects, there were plants that I liked, she shared them with me and asked me to choose a branch, and still another… On arriving home I put them in water so they would germinate and be transplanted. In my heart I prayed:  “Thank you Jesus for allowing me to meet you out in the streets. Thank you for coming to see me. Please do not tire of looking for me, if I do not search for You in the outskirts of life.” T.S. (Cordoba – Argentina)

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Works of mercy, hearts in action Sun, 29 Jun 2014 05:00:12 +0000 IginoGiordani_01You love God, the Father, also by giving food to you brother who is hungry. The whole development of literature on this issue, especially the great patristic literature, is a struggle against the selfishness of those that cause the misery of others, a kind of  reconstitution of violated and degraded humanity, starting from the principle: nourish the stomach, to replenish the physical body which is also part of the Mystical Body: it too is a presence of the living Christ [...].

Not everyone can work miracles, wrote St. Augustine,  but everyone can feed the poor. “You cannot say to the paralytic, Arise and walk! But you can say: While we are waiting for you to get up, have something to eat…”.

Anyone who would be able to feed the undernourished, the malnourished and the hungry and does not help them, is, according to a thought of the Fathers of the Church, a murderer, even a God-killer. He makes Christ die.

Those who, during the years of war, condemned prisoners to die of hunger from the point of view of the Gospel have replicated the crucifixion. They have been, so to speak,  murderers of God. The hordes of deportees, in the snow and blazing sun, in covered lorries or isolated ships, whose monotony was broken only by the collapse of the hungry, mark the line of practical atheism, even if perpetrated in the name of God

For this reason, St. Vincent de Paul went out into the galleons of the most Christian kings, where the convicts fell exhausted.

This is why works of mercy, by restoring justice, are not merely administration of food or of money to buy it. “Works of mercy are worth nothing without love,” says St. Augustine. And St. Paul says, “And even if I gave away all that I have to the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, if I have not charity, it is worth nothing” (1 Cor. 13, 3). Social works add little to the effects of religious life if those who carry them out do not bring that divine ingredient,  that ardour of the Holy Spirit, which is charity [...].

Works of mercy are a moral and material duty: by nourishing those in agony, I nourish myself: because his hunger is mine and of the whole social body, of which they are an organic part. “Though we are many, we are one body”, and you cannot injure one organ to benefit another. And if you do, you pay: with revolution and unrest and epidemics here, and then  hell in the next life.

It is tempting to think that this precept has become quite unnecessary in an era in which workers are reaching a certain comfort. Whereas it has never been so present and extended so vastly as in the era of rationing, of concentration camps, of deportations and unemployment, of war and the  post-war period (…). A civilization that tolerates hunger alongside opulence is a civilization in a state of  mortal sin (…). If someone does not have a ration, it means that someone else has two [...].

Works of mercy are justified by the reality of human nature and perform the miracle of circulating love by circulating bread. The miracle is that the gift of bread becomes a kind of social sacrament, through which with love, we communicate God and through nourishing our body, we nourish our soul.”

(from Igino Giordani, The Brother, Città Nuova, 2011, pp. 64-67)

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Families today: accepting the difficulties Sat, 28 Jun 2014 05:00:27 +0000 20140628-02The image of the Church that, with its pastoral choices, the next Synod is called to show, is that of “a mother committed to generate, support and sustain all the children of God, without exception.” This was underlined by Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the next Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which was desired by Pope Francis. The occasion was the presentation  of the Working Document of the Synod Assembly to the Press. The synod, which will take place next October, will be dedicated to the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the context of evangelization. ”

Anna Friso, who with her husband Alberto is responsible for the ‘New Families‘ section of the Focolare Movement, said, “The family has become a symbol of the difficulties and sufferings of society, so knowing that the Church has this attitude of acceptance and closeness is tremendous.”

The document is based on the results of the survey carried out last November through a questionnaire of 39 questions, which had a positive reception and a large response. Anna Friso said, “I think it was the right idea. Begin from the people, from the concrete facts of how we live”.  Alberto Friso continued, ” This attention to such complex and diverse situations of many families in trouble means giving value to these sufferings in order to draw out a light. Suffering is a value, a very important factor. If the Church understands this, families will find inner resources to find ways of reconciliation. ”

Alberto went on to say: “It’s definitely an opening of the heart and soul of the church in welcome and acceptance. But it is not just a way to enlighten the difficult situations, but also the whole general context of the family, because the family is born from God’s for humanity, and in this love it finds its meaning.”

Alberto and Anna Friso

A large part of the document is devoted to difficult pastoral situations such as cohabitation, de facto unions, separations, divorces and unions between persons of the same sex. “We have to understand”, said Anna Friso, “that the real issue is not to remove the speck from the other’s eye but help them grow in the knowledge that God loves us all immensely. And it’s an announcement aimed at everyone, not just at those who are not in irregular situations. ”

“There is no question about the doctrine of the Church”, Mgr. Forte explained at the Press Conference, but its application, its proposals, the accompaniment of its reception and practice.
Anna Friso commented, “In the doctrine of the Church there is a truth of beauty, joy, possibility of fulfilment. And in the end no one wants a disposable love or considers children an option.  So the Church tells us exactly what is written in our hearts. However, it’s about presenting this primarily through witness”.  And Alberto added, “Our hope is that the Synod increases the awareness of all families, not just the Christian ones. I think it’s an historical act of love that the Church fulfils in a time when individualism dominates, a great message of confidence and hope not only for Christian anthropology.”

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World Cup 2014: The joy of good sportsmanship Fri, 13 Jun 2014 05:00:00 +0000 “If it is true that at the end of this World Cup, only one team will raise the Winner’s Cup, we must learn the lessons that sport teaches us: then we will all be winners strengthening the ties that bind us together,” Pope Francis said in his video message on the occasion of the World Cup 2014.

A culture of defeat for a new culture of victory, was also the provocative title of a gathering of Sportmeet, a worldwide network of sportspeople and sports operators, to whom Chiara Lubich addressed these words:

 ChiaraLubich_Sport“In the Christian mentality, the one who loses knows the value of suffering and defeat because the Son of God has given them value. This person can still experience the deeper joy that comes from having given; given of him or herself during training, or in the relationships established in building up the team, in doing his or her very best in front of the crowds.

True inner joy is born only from self-giving, from love. It is a more limpid, pure joy for those who win (if they have striven and won out of love) and for those who lose (if they too have striven and lost out of love).

Then sport retains its authentic seal and will be elevated to its true social status. It can then contribute to regenerating humanity in our over-stressed world, to being an element that brings people together, one of brotherhood and peace among peoples and nations.

In ancient Greece, during the Olympics, a moratorium was declared on all wars. Let’s not lag behind in comparison to then!”

Chiara Lubich, 10 September 2005, message to the Third International Sportmeet Congress

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Msgr Livio Maritano has left us Tue, 06 May 2014 13:41:50 +0000
Msgr Livio Maritano (far right) with  Chiara Lubich, the parents di Chiara Luce Badano, and Maria Grazia Magrini, Vice-Postulator for the ause of beatification of Chiara Luce.

Msgr. Maritano’s relationship with the Focolare Movement became particularly significant after he met Chiara Luce Badano, a young member of the Movement, who lived in his diocese and suffered from a terminal illness, beatified in 2010.

He came to know her during the last part of her life and was struck by her radiant Christian testimony, “by the depth of spirituality, by the great love for God that gave her the strength to face her illness”.

At the news of his passing away, Maria Voce said: “He was able to perceive sanctity in Chiara Luce’s everyday life”.

After the death of the young Badano, while verifying the growing interest that continued to emanate, he recognized in her life signs of universal holiness that touched the hearts of many, especially of young people. Thus, he saw in Chiara Luce a model that could be offered to them, as Benedict XVI pointed out on the occasion of her beatification. Later, it was Msgr Maritano himself who related her experience to many in various places all over Italy; he was called by many to speak about her.

Msgr. Maritano met Chiara Lubich several times. His esteem for Chiara and her charism, which he saw incarnated with particular intensity in the life of the young Chiara Luce Badano, led him to keep in touch with the founder of the Focolare Movement even through an epistolary relationship.

“The Focolare Movement remembers Msgr Livio Maritano with gratitude and appreciation”, Maria Voce said. “We unite ourselves in prayer with his family, friends, the diocese of Acqui and the whole Church”

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Farewell Fr Casimiro Mon, 05 May 2014 07:59:25 +0000 The Focolare Movement expresses its hearfelt closeness to the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor on the passing away of Fr Casimiro Bonetti.

Divine Providence wanted Fr Bonetti to be very specially related to the beginnings of the Focolare Movement.In fact, he was the one to receive Chiara Lubich’s consecration to God on December 7, 1943.And it was he who in various circumstances proved to be God’s instrument.

Think of the words he said to Chiara when he was touched by her act of generosity: “Yes: God loves you immensely!” Or of his idea about the moment when Jesus suffered most during his passion, expressed on January 24, 1944, when he said he believed that this was when Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27,46).

Such statements, that even amazed Fr. Bonetti when he realised that they were the work of the Holy Spirit, had a particular resonance in Chiara Lubich’s soul. Thanks to the charism God gave her, these statements, together with other intuitions she had, became in time the foundations of the spirituality of unity that animates the life of the Focolare Movement.

Fr Casimiro Bonetti will always be remembered. Together with all those who in various ways form part of the Movement, I promise our prayers for him with gratitude and appreciation.

Maria Voce

President of the Focolare Movement

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Against the Current: Faithfulness Amongst Couples Experiencing Separation Fri, 25 Apr 2014 05:00:35 +0000 “Giorgio and I were married after being engaged for three years. As our relationship grew we thought of having a family.

A few years later we had a wonderful daughter with a slight malformation of the heart. I was happy. I felt that her birth had united us even more. But a year later while in hospital for a regular check-up, she died suddenly. It was horrible. I was overcome with darkness and angry with God for having taken away what was most dear to me. My husband supported me, without his love I would never have made it.

A year later Sofia was born and we were happy again. Later we adopted a boy. As the years went by, I noticed that Giorgio wasn’t at peace, he wasn’t involved with the children. Even though he loved them very much, he left decisions about their lives to me. One day he decided to leave his job and begin some new activities. So we began to spend time with other people, most of them single who enjoyed travelling the world and keeping late hours.

(C) Caris Mendes CSCAt first I tried out of love to follow my husband in this lifestyle, but then I realized that I didn’t have anything in common with these people and so, little by little, our lives began to follow different paths. I knew that my husband loved me and the children, but he was troubled and searching for something. I thought we could use some help as a couple, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said there were no problems. Meanwhile his business deals were failing, also because he was surrounded by people who had no scruples.

One day he decided to leave us because he “didn’t feel like being a father anymore,” even though he still loved us, he needed to find himself. I couldn’t believe after so many years together it was all going to end like this.

I wasn’t able to think, I felt desperate. What hurt the most was the sense of failure, and I felt like it was my fault. It was a difficult period: during the day I tried to be strong for the children who were 11 and 14 years old, but in the evening all the suffering would come pouring out along with a thousand questions. What will I do now? Will I be able to raise my children at this delicate age of their life? I tried to make them feel that I was near and that their Dad loved them, even though he was rarely around.

I didn’t go out with my friends anymore, they all had families and I was alone. The only thing that kept me going was the love for my children, our relationship deepened and grew. My family was also close to me, even though after a while they began to tell me that I was still young and could begin a new life. But for me matrimony was still a sacrament, even if my husband was no longer there.

(C) Caris Mendes CSCThen someone invited me to a Focolare event for couples experiencing separation. Surrounded by so many people who were experiencing the same pain, I felt loved and accepted, and our friendship united to journey of faith that we were sharing together helped me to overcome my sense of failure. I experienced for myself that love is greater than suffering, I realized that I was still a sacramental sign and, whenever I received the Eucharist I felt that Jesus was saying to me: ‘I will never abandon you!’ This gives me strength each day to stay faithful to the yes that I said on our wedding day, even though civilly we are separated.  I know I’m not alone because God is with me and helps me to look at my life the way He sees it: with all his love and mercy.”

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