A Fair Primiero in the early days of the Focolare Movement

Paul VI stated that the new path traced out by Chiara Lubich and born from the Gospel, is a spirituality of communion. But what are its characteristics? What events led to the certainty that they were born to contribute to everyone’s unity with God and one another? Let us find out. In May of 1944, gathered together in the darkened cellar which had become the bedroom of Natalia Dallapiccola in the basement of her family home – she had moved there to find some protection from the bombardments – Chiara and her friends from Trent read the Gospel by the light of a candle.

They opened it by chance to the passage containing Jesus’ last prayer before his death: “Father, that all be one” (Jn 17:21). This is an extraordinary and complex text, Jesus’ “testament”, which has been studied by scholars and theologians throughout the Christian world. But in those days it was a bit forgotten, because it was so mysterious, to say the least. This passage could have seemed too difficult for young women like Chiara, Natalia, Doriana and Graziella. Yet they sensed that this was their “word of the Gospel: Unity.” On one of those days in Trent, crossing the Fersina Bridge, Chiara had told one of these companions: “I’ve understood how we are to love each other according to the Gospel: to the point of being consumed in one.” Later, in Christmas 1946, the girls chose a radical phrase which would be their motto: “Unity or death.”

In 2000 Chiara wrote: “One day, I was with my companions and, opening a small copy of the Gospels, we read: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17:21). It was Jesus’ prayer before dying. Because of his presence among us and because of a the gift of his Spirit, I seemed to understand those strong and difficult words, and there was born in my heart the certainty that we had been born for this page of the Gospel: for unity; that is, to contribute to the unity of all people with God and with each other.Some time later, conscious of the divine boldness of such a program, which only God could bring about, we knelt around an altar and asked Jesus to realize that dream of his using even us if he wished, it were in his plans.

Often, in the beginning, faced with the immensity of the task, we became dizzy and, seeing the crowds that we should gather in unity, we were taken by shock. But, little by little, gently, the Lord made us understand that our task was like that of a small child who throws a stone into a lake. The tiny stone causes rings to be formed which continue to extend, reaching wider and wider, and they can seem to continue forever. And so we understood that we would have to create unity around us, in our own surroundings, wherever we found ourselves. Then, when we went to Heaven, we would be able to look down and see the circles widening still more, becoming gigantic, until the end of time, when the plan of God would be accomplished.

Right from the first moment, it was clear to us that this unity had only one name: Jesus. For us, being one meant being Jesus. In fact, only Christ make two into one, because his love is the emptying of self, it’s non egoism, it makes us enter deeply into the hearts of others. The things I wrote during those times betray our wonder before such a sublime and supernatural reality: ‘Unity! But who could dare to speak of it? It’s ineffable as God! You feel it, you see it, you enjoy it, but. . . it’s ineffable! Everyone rejoices in its presence, everyone suffers in its absence. It’s peace, joy, love, ardor,  an atmosphere of heroism, of the highest generosity. It’s Jesus among us!’”

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