Saturday, 23 September 2017, in the Lecture Hall of the Sophia University Institute (SUI): from the introductory remarks of Mons. Buoncristiani, Archbishop of Siena, and of Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement and Vice-Chancellor of the Sophia University Institute, the harmony and the affinity between the two charismatic figures were apparent. These two figures have offered not only the ecclesial space but the whole civil society of their respective periods, an example of a fruitful fusion between spirituality and incarnation, continuously working at the challenges of common living.
As Marco Luppi, moderator, opened the conference, he noted the continuity between the proposals of the “happy brigade” of the Catherinites and the spirituality of unity of the Focolare, recalling how various cornerstones of the Saint of Siena’s thought – the uniqueness of the choice of God, the generative value of God’s will, the importance of living the present moment – had been taken up and re-actualized by Chiara Lubich.
He recalled that Igino Giordani, co-founder of the Focolare Movement, had initially embarked on the path traced by Caterina’s experience, fascinated by the demonstration of holiness within reach of everyone and the message of universality in her proposal of the Christian choice. The famous connection, “I – my brother – God,” was promoted by Giordani as a fruitful process of interrelation that completes the anthropological dimension with a spiritual openness to divine paternity in Christian meaning.
The focal point of the conference was the two main discourses. Sister Elena Ascoli O.P., with her theme “The mysticism of the encounter,” retraced the intimate and concrete dimension of the “mysticism of fire” in Catherine. Christian hope, in the Saint of Siena, becomes a real vocational path in the search for the meaning of living at the service of society and of the Church. 381 letters and numerous collections of hymns and prayers make Catherine the saint of the encounter and of dialogue, animated by the awareness of those who find that the “inner fire,” the relationship with God, represents a patrimony that multiplies its value if it is given, if it builds a relational dynamic of concrete love to one’s neighbour, and if it contributes to the building of associated living in the search for the common good.
Piero Coda, president of Sophia, in his report titled “Real Love and the One True Love,” proposed an original reading of the generative encounter between the Franciscan roots of Chiara Lubich and the Catherinite period of Giordani, an encounter which reflects an experience of Christian renewal in the foundational period of the Focolare Movement, capable of giving life to a new reality in the Church and in society.
The “pact” between charisms generates an originality that emphasises the dynamism of reciprocity as a sounding board for the dimension of unity and becomes the fulcrum of a proposal at the service of humanity. The “mysticism of fire” in Chiara Lubich, recovered by Coda in some passages of her writing, “The Resurrection of Rome,” reminds us how the impetus of inner, individual momentum flourishes in the community dynamics: “It is God who makes two people one, placing himself as the third in a relationship between them: Jesus among us.”
In closing, the speech by Dr. Aldo Bernabei, representative of the Roman group of the Catherinites, traced the joint path between his association and the Focolare Movement in the multi-decade animation of the project “Together for Europe,” a demonstration that works steadily to build a European spirit that recognises the Christian soul among its foundation values, a path that joins more than 500 churches, movements, communities and associations.