Focolare Movement

Narratives of Peace to Change the World

Vinu Aram, director of the Shanti Ashram, visited the International Centre of the Focolare Movement (Rocca di Papa, Rome). It was a chance to reflect on the precious inheritance she received from meeting Chiara Lubich: to live in unity for a better world; a special occasion to wish a joyful Christmas to all those who prepare to live this feast. “I think our journey continues to have great significance. Just think of the first seeds, the work we have done together and our constant desire for a peaceful world. Where are we? Think of a family in which everyone has their own characteristic but where there is also cohesion. We trust each other, with respect and with much love”. These are words of fraternity spoken by Viru Aram, Indian and Hindu, director of the Shanti Ashram International Centre, a long-time friend and collaborator of the Focolare Movement. Her recent visit on 23rd November 2022, to see Margaret Karram, President of Focolare, at the International Centre of the Movement in Rocca di Papa (Italy), was an opportunity to strengthen this bond, reflect together on some issues that afflict this time and discuss common paths to make the world a better place. Vinu, what do you think the world really needs today? I think it needs real, honest listening. Today what is required of us is compassion and the humanization of our lived experience. We have done a lot, in some cases well, but sometimes the cost was high. We are in the middle of what has been called a confluence of crises and the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated everything. The virus did not discriminate but in an unequal world it prospered. I believe that it is necessary to act strengthened by everything we have done that is good, but also informed about what we can do better: respect for the environment, for human life and its sacredness. The way we live, the way we govern and share resources comes with a responsibility towards our children. They are our present and our tomorrow. It is necessary to do things not only differently, but with everyone’s interests in mind. Today there are many countries and regions of the world affected by violence and conflicts, some of them forgotten. As a teacher, what message do you give your children? I try to foster a mindset of peace in them, so that not only nations and communities can work for peace, but entire peoples. Peace is the fundamental foundation on which prosperity advances. But if you look at the world, the indicators of violence exceed those of peaceful life. Whether it is the social sphere, whether it is the economic sphere or something else. And every conflict in the whole world takes away the essential dignity of human life. What is needed are peace narratives. People have to believe it’s possible. We need experiences which enable young people and children to say: “Ah, if this works, we can do it too”. We need the right structures, sincere sharing and dialogue of the highest quality, that really lead to transformation. Then, as Mahatma Gandhi often said, in a gentle way, we can shake the world.

Maria Grazia Berretta

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December 7, 1943: the day of “Yes” to God

Imagine a young girl in love, in love with a love which is the first love, the purest one, a love which is still undeclared, but which begins to enflame her heart. A joy which is so special, difficult to experience again in a lifetime, a joy which is secret. A few days before December 7, I was told to make a vigil the night before, beside a crucifix, in order to prepare myself the best way I could for my marriage with God, a marriage which was to take place in the most secret manner. That evening I tried to make this vigil, kneeling beside my bed before a metal crucifix which my mother has now. The next morning, I woke up at about five o’clock. I put on the best dress I had, a simple dress, and I set out on foot crossing the city towards the church. A storm was raging, so that I had to walk my way pushing my umbrella ahead of me. I felt that it expressed the fact that in the step I was taking I would meet obstacles. When I reached the church, the scene changed. An enormous door opened. I felt a sense of relief and of welcome, almost like the open arms of that God who was waiting for me. The little church was beautifully decorated. Against the background stood out the statue of Mary, the Immaculate. Before Communion I saw, in an instant, the meaning of what I was about to do. I could never turn back to the world. I was getting married. I was marrying God. I remember that opening up my eyes to what I was doing was something immediate and brief, but so strong that I shed a tear which fell on my missal. I made a long thanksgiving. I think I ran all the way home. I only stopped, I think, near the bishop’s house to buy three red carnations for the crucifix which was waiting for me in my room. They were to become the sign of the feast day of all of us. This was it. Even with the most promising predictions on December 7, 1943, I could never have imagined what I see today. Praise to God, glory to Mary, Queen of a Kingdom which has literally invaded the world.

Chiara Lubich (Extract from “Today the Opera turns thirty”, Rocca di Papa, 7 December 1973)

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Living the Gospel: God knocks at our door

Remaining lukewarm before the proclamation of the Word is like remaining “blind, naked and unhappy” (Rev 3:17).However, God continues to knock at our door of man, especially in the darkest moments of life; just as a father seeks his son, God does not tire of chasing us and those who listen to his “call” experience full joy. Providential solution When our children were young, and even during their adolescence, outings and trips together were always occasions for celebration. When we were left alone, we realized that we had changed, as if we had taken different paths and had grown apart. It was difficult to talk to one another without giving offence. We realized that we needed to find a new way of communicating and decided to go to a psychotherapist. When I shared this with a friend, she confided to me that she had experienced the same situations with her husband and that they reached the brink of divorce. The providential solution they found was to become part of a community in their parish and to get involved in works of charity. I suggested this to my husband and he agreed. Since then our lives have changed: giving our time and energy and opening our doors to others, we have found not only a way to live but a way to communicate. We also experience greater joy with our children and grandchildren. (F.D.A. – Croatia) The Value of Becoming One After my architectural studies in Florence, I went home for the holidays to my small village in the Tuscan hills where my parents were renovating the old family farmhouse. After I had a look at the plans, I expressed some concerns both about the actual condition of the building and the changes necessary to preserve the original structure. My brother, however, reacted badly, accusing me in front of everyone of wanting to be a know-it-all. I wanted to show that I was right, but since from a group known in Florence that was committed to living the Gospel I had learned the value of “making yourself one with others”, as St Paul said, I put my ideas aside, to avoid arguing. When the time came to start the work, the foreman explained that the project could not be carried out as it was and recommended some changes, which coincided with those I had suggested. At this point, my mother, explained: “You see, my son, when you’re here, we’ll always think of you as a child and that’s why we don’t accept what you have learned. Try to understand your brother”. (C.G. – Italy)

Edited by Maria Grazia Berretta


(taken from The Gospel of the Day, New City, year VIII, n.2, November-December 2022)