As Chiara Lubich recalled the first 30 years of her ‘Yes’ to God she confessed “On the 7th December 1943, the day I ‘married’ God I never imagined all that I can see today”. Marrying God was everything for her. She never gave a thought to founding a movement or setting up an association of some kind. She certainly never envisaged giving life to a project that spread from her town and opened up to other nations out towards a united world.
Chiara described an early inspiration: “From a high viewpoint I looked down on my city and studied the panorama. I felt a strong desire stir in my heart: to see Trent alight with the fire of love, real love, love that links all as brothers, that brotherhood that the charism of unity would be able to accomplish. This idea filled my heart.”
It was in the city of Trent that the ideal of unity took shape, and it was within the various quarters of the city, the villages surrounding it that the community of the Movement was called to work. Chiara’s writing from that time expresses her desire.
‘The great attraction of modern times:
to penetrate to the highest contemplation
while mingling with everyone,
one person alongside others.
I would say more; to lose oneself in the crowd
in order to fill it with the divine,
like a piece of bread
dipped in wine.
I would say even more:
Made sharers in God’s plans
To embroider patterns of light on the crowd,
And at the same time to share with our neighbour
Shame, hunger, troubles, brief joys.
From this localised start a global effort to work for universal brotherhood has grown. It’s no surprise that over the years, driven by the inspiration of the founder, a number of ‘urban projects’ have developed. These projects are an enacting of a powerful writing of Chiara’s in which she describes what cities could be like if they were ablaze with love:
“If a city were set alight at various points – Chiara writes – even by small fires, but they managed to resist being put out, soon the city would be aflame.” A fire of spirit, “the continual triumph of God” in souls “unity among them” are “a divine power in the world”. This possibility can be brought to everyone, “In every city these souls could spring up in families: father and mother, son and father, mother and mother-in-law. They could meet in parishes, associations, in social bodies, in schools, in offices, everywhere. It is not necessary for them to be saints already, or Jesus would have said so.” But “one city is not enough” she wrote later: “he is the one who made the stars, who guides the destiny of ages. Come to an agreement with him, and aim further: at your country, at everyone’s country, at the world. Let your every breath be for this; for this your every action; for this your resting and your moving.”
A number of cities where the presence of the movement is very strong have given their projects titles. The first was in Trent –Trento Ardente, then Rome – Roma Amor, Prague – Praga d’oro, and Fontem – Fontem Regale. In various other cities around the world Chiara has indicated a sort of ‘vocation’ for a city, such as London, Washington and Geneva. Each project is developed in its own style specific to how that city is called to unity.
In the Mariapolis (Focolare summer gathering) of 1959, at which there were 500 people present from the 5 continents, Chiara said, “If one day all people, not as individuals but as nations, would learn to put themselves aside, to put aside the ideas they have about their own countries, their kingdoms, and offer them as incense to the Lord, the king of a kingdom not of this world, the guide of history, (…) that day would mark the beginning of a new era.”
Chiara Lubich and her Movement continued to work for this growing of humanity becoming universal brotherhood. On a visit to Fontem in the Cameroons in 2000 Chiara explained a ‘dream’ she had. Those who were present recalled how moved she was as she told them: “What is my latest desire for now, today? I would like that at the end of time the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement) ready to meet Jesus Forsaken – Risen, I too could repeat those moving words said by the Belgian theologian Jacques Leclerq; ‘ on your day, my God I want to come to You, … come to you my God (…) and with my fullest dreams, bring you the world in my arms.’ ‘Father may they all be one!’