On 7th December 1943 in Trent (Italy) Chiara Lubich pronounced her yes to God. A yes that, over time, has multiplied, generating a large family, the Focolare Movement, made up of people from different continents, ages, cultures and vocations.
Chiara’s “yes” was not a vow, it was a “flight”. A flight as daring as that of Charles Lindbergh when, for the first time, he flew non-stop over the Atlantic! “Have you found your vocation?” the priest had asked her as he saw her radiant expression as she came back from the shrine of Loreto that guards the house of Nazareth. “Yes,” she answered simply. “Are you getting married?” “No.” “Are you entering a convent?” “No.” “‘Are you going to remain a virgin in the world? “No.” The bewildered priest had no other alternative to propose. It was a fourth way, the one Chiara Lubich perceived. What was it? She didn’t exactly understand it herself; it was a new way to be followed, both boldly and courageously.
A few years passed. Chiara heard a voice inside saying to her: “Give yourself totally to me”. How? Where? It doesn’t matter, you just have to answer that voice. The very thought of giving herself completely to God filled her with joy. “The priest challenged her, ‘If you follow this way, you will not have a family of your own, you will not have children, you will remain alone in life…’. Alone? As long as there is a tabernacle on earth,’ Chiara said to herself, ‘I will never be alone. Didn’t Jesus promise a hundred mothers, a hundred brothers and sisters, a hundred children to those who leave everything to follow him? But in that moment Chiara was not thinking about what she would leave or what she would receive in return. She only knew that she wanted to marry God. Nothing less!
Athough this young girl was only 23 years old, the priest considered that she would be able take such a daring “flight”: she was really determined, she knew what she wanted. He gave her an appointment in the chapel. But he recommended that she should spend the night in prayer, almost like ‘keeping watch’, as was the custom at the time. In her little room, Chiara took the family crucifix, kissed it and began to speak to Jesus. Shortly afterwards, her breath condensed on the figure of Jesus and she fell asleep.
Early the next morning she put on her best dress. The poor people – Chiara was also poor – always have a dress for a special occasion. Outside a storm was raging, almost as if someone wanted to hold her back from such a challenging step. She went out into the wind and rain, in a decisive way. In the little church she was enveloped by silence. There was Mass, communion, her whole, total, ‘yes’ forever. She shed a tear, because she was aware that a bridge was collapsing behind her, she would never be able to go back. But the whole of her life lay ahead. She had married God and could expect everything from him. This was on the 7th December 1943.
80 years have now passed. Chiara Lubich did not remain alone. Her Spouse had her travel with him, opening up Paradise to her and allowing her to share in its beauty, as she herself would later express: “My most sweet Spouse, Heaven is so very beautiful and You, as a divine Lover, after a mystical wedding …, show me Your possessions that are also mine! (…) My God, but why? Why so much for me? Why so much Light and so much Love? Chiara did not remain alone. A large family was born around her, made up of men and women from all continents, all vocations, many cultures and religions. Her yes was fruitful, because God never lets himself be outdone in generosity.
After 80 years, that ‘yes’ has multiplied and still resounds today, in a thousand ways. Storms rage, the future seems uncertain, the ‘flight’ can resemble a leap in the dark, fear paralyses… Yet that voice continues to be heard in so many people, at times faintly, at times loudly: ‘Give yourself to me, give yourself to me…’. How? Each one discovers it slowly, but it calls for an immediate and generous yes. It can be a hesitant and shy yes or a decisive yes, a small tiny yes or a great big yes…. As long as it is a yes that is sincere and authentic. In this way God continues to make himself present in the world and to build its history that will blossom into the Kingdom of heaven.
Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI