It was in Trent, Northern Italy, 1944 that Chiara Lubich and her first few companions attended the Mass on the Feast of Christ the King. At the end of the Mass she and her friends remained recollected and reflected on a phrase they had heard during the Mass: from the book of Psalms: “Ask me and I shall give you all the peoples and lands of the earth.” (Ps 2,8). They asked God to help them put this phrase into action by saying to God, ‘You know how to bring about unity. Here we are. Use us ‘.
For an ideal as vast as unity, the request from Jesus to his Father “May they all be one” (Jn 17, 21), the boundaries could be nothing other than the furthest corners of the earth. Right from the outset the embryonic Movement was far sighted. No-one at that time could have imagined that the dream of reaching the ends of the earth would be accomplished so quickly. There was no specific plan or blueprint for spreading the Movement but they followed the way lead by ‘Someone’.
Chiara explained what this meant during the XIX National Eucharistic Conference in Pescara 1977, “The Movement grew and unfolded in line with the precise plan God has for us. It was always there unseen and then it was revealed little by little… just as a pen does not know what it will write, a brush doesn’t know what it will paint, the chisel what it will sculpt. So it was when God takes someone by the hand to found his work, that person does not know what they should do. The person is only and instrument for God’s work. So it was in Trent. I had no plan, I knew nothing. The idea for the Opera (the Movement) was in God, the plan was in heaven. It was like that at the start and has been during all these years as the Focolare Movement has developed.”
The first group of girls were clearly destined to never remain a closed group. After a few months of living their Ideal of unity they had a following of some 500 people around them in Trent. It wasn’t long before the Ideal spread further afield. When, after the end of the Second World War, the first focolarine (women) moved to various cities in Italy to study or work, they were never short of invitations from people who wanted to hear their experiences.
Rome was reached in 1948 followed by Florence, Milan, Siracuse… In 1956 it spread into Europe, in 1958 South America and in 1961 North America. In 1963 it was the turn of Africa, in 1966 Asia and 1967 Australia.
Today the Movement is present in 182 countries. It has approximately 2 million adherents and people who are sympathetic to its goals – the majority being Roman Catholic. There is a growing number of non- Catholics from 350 churches and ecclesial communities. The Movement also includes many from other world Faiths for example Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. Then there are also those in the Movement who do not adhere to any particular religious faith.
The core of the Movement consists of more than 140 thousand animators across all the expressions of the Movement.
This is the story so far of a people born through the Gospel.
In 2000 Chiara wrote, “Right at the beginning we asked with faith. The Movement really has reached the furthest corners of the earth. Within these people are representatives of all the people of the whole earth.”