Palmira Frizzera, one of the first companions of Chiara Lubich, who died on 5th January 2022, will live on in the memory and in the lives of many: focolarini, young people and families, whom she accompanied in their formation at the Mariapolis Foco (Montet, Switzerland), the little town of the Focolare in which she lived for over 40 years. Drawing on her words, here are some moments that marked her path in life.
“Nothing more can be done for your eyes”. This was the harsh diagnosis that the doctor gave to Palmira Frizzera a few months after she arrived in the first focolare in Piazza Cappuccini in Trent. Palmira was 18 when, three years earlier, in 1945, she met the first group of focolarine. She had had problems with her eyes for some time. Because of this her dream of going to be a missionary nun in India had also collapsed. But now the problem was getting more serious. After various visits to specialists that day, she went to an ophthalmologist in Trent, accompanied by Natalia Dallapiccola, another of Chiara Lubich’s first companions. Telling the story to a group of young people in 2004, Palmira said, “The doctor examined me thoroughly and then said: the right eye is lost already and the left eye is about to go”.
It was a shock. “As soon as I left that doctor, still on the stairs, I burst into tears, sobbing my heart out. I thought: at only 21 years of age I will go blind, just when I have found the most beautiful ideal of my life, that no one can take away. Now that I have found the joy of living and would like to shout it out to the whole world, I will go blind.” It was raining, and under the umbrella Natalia held her arm and silently accompanied her. She continued, “At a certain moment, I stopped in the middle of the road and said: But Natalia, why am I crying so much because I will lose my sight? To see Jesus in my brother I do not need these eyes, I need the eyes of the soul and I will never lose those (…). I now make a pact with Jesus and you are my witness. If I give more glory to God with my eyes then let Him leave them to me, but if I give Him more glory without my eyes let Him take them, because I only want to do His will. Then I thought: Didn’t Jesus say in the Gospel that it is better to go to Heaven with no eyes than to hell with two eyes? Since that moment it didn’t make me suffer any more”.
Palmira continued, “Later, full of joy, I wrote to Chiara Lubich to share my experience and I was happy, I really lacked nothing”. In the meantime, they consulted other specialists, including one who, after having examined her carefully, told her that the disease was serious, but only on one-side, that it had only affected the right eye which she would probably lose, but the left eye was healthy and not at risk.
Palmira went on, “And that’s what happened, I lost my right eye, but in all these years I never had any problem with the left. Maybe I would have given more glory to God with two eyes but to tell you the truth, with this left eye I have always seen for two “. And she concluded: “Often we are afraid to give something to Jesus, an affection, an attachment, something of our studies, while it would be worthwhile to always give him everything, because he does not allow himself to be surpassed by our generosity which is always small compared to his, because God is Love and he always responds with a hundredfold”.
Over the years Palmira took on several roles in the Focolare Movement in Italy. Then in 1981 Chiara Lubich asked her to go with some other focolarini, to Montet, Switzerland, where a little town was starting. She was only supposed to stay for three days to assess the renovations that would be necessary. After three days, the others went back and she was left alone, in an apartment in Estavayer, the neighbouring town. At a certain point, overcome by despair in front of the magnitude of the task that awaited her, she knelt down and recited the Our Father. She remembered: “When I came to the phrase ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I said it aloud and a peace came into me that never left me after that”. Those three days became 40 years. Palmira was one of the builders of the little town. She accompanied and formed generations of young people.
In 2017, with simplicity and frankness, her particular characteristics, she asked herself: “Did I make it? I don’t know. I have always tried to love with my heart so as not to make mistakes, because if I only use my head I can always make mistakes, but not if you love with your heart, ready to give your life, I think that those who love, never make mistakes “.