“I’ll never forget his smile when he would greet me as he returned home tired from work. . . Even though he would never get more than only a few hours of sleep, he never missed the early morning Mass. . . He never brought political problems into our focolare, although there were times when he would ask for our opinions. Actually, he had to go against the current quite often, but I never saw in him any hatred towards his opponents.” As he went off to work each morning, he would tell us goodbye saying: ‘Always, immediately, with joy!'” It was a way of telling us he was prepared to accept any situation, even the difficult ones that the day would be holding in store for him. This attitude was probably the secret behind his life, which made dialogue possible with everyone, often in very difficult situations.” This is how the two focolarini who lived in the same focolare as Josef Lux remember him.
Born on February 1, 1956, in the late 1970s he became acquainted with the spirituality of Chiara Lubich, in Cocen, Eastern Bohemia where he worked as a zoo technician in an agricultural cooperative. In 1986 he married Vera and felt the call to follow Jesus in the focolare. Chiara assigned him a sentence from the Gospel that gave direction to his life: “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22: 21).
The events of November 1989, followed by the fall of Communism, changed his life. Right from the start of the political changes he was among the main organisers of the demonstrations in the square, and in 1990 he was elected to the National Parliament for the People’s Party. His decision to enter into politics was the result of deep reflection. He was strongly convinced that politics could be purified by people who were ready to make the personal sacrifice. He enthroned a large portrait of Jesus on the Cross, on the wall of his study. He wanted to have Him always in front of him, especially during the intense negotiations, and in the demanding work.
In September 1990, after a brilliant speech in front of the People’s Party convention, he was elected president. He worked for the transformation of this political group into a modern party with a Christian orientation.
In 1992 he was re-elected to Parliament and became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture of the Czech Government until 1998. For many people he was a sign of contradiction: esteemed by the people who shared his choices and rejected by political opponents.
Vera and his six children were of great support to him.
In 1998 he was informed that he had a serious illness: leukaemia. That news gave rise to a chain of support: many Czech citizens as well as many others, offered bone marrow transplants. Although it was proving difficult to find the right fit, Josef was still pleased because that allowed the data base of possible donors to expand. Finally, an anonymous donor was found in Italy and the decision was made to have the surgery in Seattle, USA. The surgery went well, but during his recovery he developed an infection that worsened.
His children arrived in Seattle, accompanied by a focolarino priest who celebrated Mass in his hospital room. Josef continued to repeat that he offered his pain for the spreading of God’s Kingdom and for young people. Chiara Lubich followed him closely, assuring him of her daily prayers.
Vera and the children held hands as they sang Josef’s favourite psalm: “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust” (Ps 91:2). Well aware of the gravity of his condition, he was serene and continued to ask for prayers. Then he said some words that have become his testament: “Smile, don’t cry.”
His first little “miracle” following his death was a day of unity for the whole nation, a unity never seen since before the Velvet Revolution: on the radio, in newspapers, on television – everyone including his political opponents openly expressed their esteem for him and for the values he defended and spread during his time in public office. Many said they found in him not only a “statesman” but also a Christian who drew from his faith in God the strength and the courage to work in favour of his country.