Mary, the Mother of God, has been present in the life of the Movement since the beginning, and even before that through an experience Chiara Lubich had in 1939 when visiting the little house of the family of Nazareth in the shrine at Loreto, Italy. Chiara very often recalled an episode when, during heavy bombing in the Second World War, which could have killed her and her first companions, she understood something about Mary:
‘Covered with dust that completely filled the air, almost miraculously I was able to stand up, and in the midst of the cries of those around me, I said to my companions “ I had felt a deep sorrow in my soul as my life was in danger: it was the sorrow of no longer being able to recite on earth the Hail Mary”. At that time I could not grasp the sense of those thoughts. Perhaps it was to explain that being given life again, through the grace of God, we would be able to give glory to Mary with the Movement that was being born’. The fact that the official name for the Focolare Movement is the’ Work of Mary’ comes as no surprise. Nor is it so strange that we use the title Mariapolis (City of Mary) for many things: the main meetings of the Movement are known as Mariapolis as are the little towns. Each conference centre is known as a Mariapolis Centre and there is also a Mariapolis magazine.
Chiara wrote in 2000: ‘Mary used with our Movement the same manner as the Church: remaining hidden in the background to enable her Son who is God to be clearly seen. But when the moment arrived for, we could say, her official arrival, in our movement, she showed herself, or better, God revealed her to us, as great to the degree that she knew how to disappear. It was in 1949, during a period of special graces an “illuminative period of our history). We saw Mary as a rare and unique creature, who had been drawn into the life of the Holy Trinity, and she was all Word of God, all dressed in the Word of God.
‘And so strong was our impression of this understanding that we could never forget it; it seemed that only angels could utter something of her. Seeing her like this attracted us to her, and we developed a new love for her. Love which was the evangelical answer, shown more clearly in our soul for what she really was: Mother of God. Theotokos (God-bearer). She was not, as we knew her from before, only the young girl from Nazareth, the most beautiful creature in the world, the heart that contains and surpasses the sum total of the love of all earthly mothers put together; she was the Mother of God. In that moment, certainly because of a grace from God, with this new understanding of her, Mary revealed a dimension of herself we had almost completely ignored till then. Before that, to make a comparison, we saw Mary before Christ and the saints just as in the sky the moon (Mary) is before the sun (Christ) and the stars (the saints). Now it was different: we saw the Mother of God as an enormous blue sky that embraces the sun itself, which is God.
This new, luminous understanding of Mary, didn’t stay as pure contemplation (…) It became clear for us that Mary was a model for us, she showed what we should be, whilst we saw each one of us as a ‘potential’ Mary.’