Aletta recounts the beginnings of the Focolare

The narrative flows like a family story with a touch of the divine whose clarity and simplicity both edifies and arouses wonder. These are stories of the “early days” of the Focolare Movement from the lips of Vittoria Salizzoni, one of the first companions of Chiara Lubich. They are a testimony to the beginning of the adventure of believing in Love and leaving everything for Him in the full midst of the Second World War. More commonly known as Aletta, Vittoria, third in a family of eight children recounts:

“On her way to work every day my sister Agnes would pass by the friars hole, an air-raid shelter in Piazza Cappuccini (Capuchins Square) where Chiara Lubich would sometimes take refuge and read the Gospel with her friends. Agnes was totally taken by their new way of talking, by their contagious joy, and would share with me how it made her feel. But I don’t ever remember her telling me anything about their ideals. Therefore, knowing hardly anything about them really, I wasn’t very drawn to the idea of meeting the girls.

It was the persistence of a friend that led me to go and meet those young people, “but only because I was being polite.” And so on January 7, 1945 I was at Number 2 Piazza Cappucini in Trent. The first thing I noticed as I entered into that small house was a young woman standing by the kitchen sink. She was kneading some bread. She seemed like an angel standing in that room. They introduced her to me: ‘That’s Natalia, she’s making white bread with refined flour for one of us who has stomach problems.’ I was struck by the scene before me. I found it so pleasing. I felt love.

That was a decisive moment in my life. I’m not a person who decides things right away and am blunt and outspoken at times, but on that day I was totally changed. I was left speechless by the atmosphere in that place. I was enchanted by the way they introduced themselves, by their way of acting and moving about. In the adjoining room, a very modest bedroom with only two mattresses on the floor but appearing quite beautiful to me, I found Chiara intent on fixing Graziella’s hair. She was making a thick braid which she then wrapped around her head like a crown.

As I observed these peers of mine, I intuited that they had “grasped” God on an impulse. Their choice had nothing heavy or burdensome about it, nothing solemn or austere. Their life was animated by a strong momentum of enthusiasm and, being young, everything played out like a game. It was – if it can say it in this way – God as a youth. It all seemed grand and new and divine. Here there was Love. God was there and I felt Him.

One day Chiara explained to me how radical their choice really was: ‘See? Life is short, short as a flash. Bombs falling from one moment to the next and we can die. Therefore we’ve made the pact of giving everything to God, because we have only one life and when we stand before Him we want to already be all His. For this reason we’ve married God.”

This sentence went straight to the depths of my heart. I was certain that God was calling me to marry Him. It gave me wings, changed my life: I had also been called to such a beautiful adventure and to bring it to everyone.

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