Once, when Chiara Lubich was asked about the structure of the Movement, the foundress of the Focolare first wished to point out something: “Before speaking of the structure of the Movement,” she said, “of its branches, etc, I’d like to point out that we see the Movement as a single entity, as a whole, an entity which first lives within itself the message that it then tries to bring to the world: unity. We are one and we feel that we are what we truly should be when we are one. John Paul II saw this in us when he said: “You are a people.” He was also referring to our number.
Though it is difficult to count the number of persons who have been touched by the ideal of unity also through the modern means of communication, it is true that entire mass movements have risen around those who are directly involved members of the Movement. Chiara Lubich explains it in this way: “Since every person, every category of people in the Movement, has something to spread through their life, life, we see a more vast crowd of people who have been drawn by their witness rising up around these more committed members.”
And so the New Families Movement rose up around the married focolarini; New Humanity around the men and women Volunteers; the Youth for a United World and the Young for Unity around the Gen. A vaster Priests Movement was born from the diocesan priest members of the Focolare, which is animated by priests, seminarians, religious and laity of the different branches of the Focolare; whereas, the religious who are animated by the ideal of unity have given rise to the il Movement for men and women religious, also with a youth sector for the Gen-re.
“The adherents,” wrote Chiara Lubich in 1979, “are an essential part of the Work of Mary.” Numbering more than two million, they are not called to a particular vocation, but strive to live out the ideal of unity in their local environments. They share in the spirit and the goals of the Movement and take part in our activities. Then there are the sympathisers who love and esteem even only one aspect of the Movement, sustaining it with their prayers and assistance in all manner of ways.
This people spread throughout the world has crossed beyond the confines of the Catholic Church, and has among its members Christians from other churches and ecclesial communities, followers of other religions, and persons of non-religious convictions. Each of these adheres to the Movement, sharing in its goals and its spirit, while remaining faithful to their own Church, faith belief, and conscience.
Chiara Lubich used an effective comparison to explain the varied composition of this “people”. She referred to a popular image of Our Lady found on the walls of many medieval churches in Europe, where “she is portrayed wearing a long mantle that envelopes and protects castles, churches, workers and monks, nuns, bishops, mothers with children, the poor – the entire city with all its inhabitants.” This image truly expresses Mary’s universal motherhood. Chiara went on to say: “There is something similar here. Instead of being a large fresco on the wall of a church, the Movement is a living example of that image and of the reality that it portrays. In the likeness of Mary, this Movement is like her mantle, that gathers in all the different expressions of the Church and of humanity, because it has received from God the gift of making them into family. This gift, this charism, makes the Movement resemble, precisely, Mary in her maternal and unifying role.”