The Focolare Movement is also concerned with art and beauty. Since the 40s, at the very beginning of the Movement one fact has been very apparent: the charism of unity, in all its expressions and ramifications, should draw every man and woman of every epoch to discover not only the goodness and truth of God, but also His beauty.
Chiara Lubich confirmed this herself in her talk to the Mariapolis of 1964: “Being surrounded by the world keeps us far from God, and often leads us against the Church (..) and wanting to live a genuine Christianity, it would be good – always in charity – to show from the Church not only goodness and truth, but also, beauty through both decor and mode of dressing.”
The characteristic of a ‘people’ which lives according to the commandment of evangelical love is in fact harmony established between individuals and which finds its expression in all the external dimensions of life as an effect of unity. It is this very vocation to harmony that characterises the life of the Movement in every phase of development. This harmony is not limited to the style of furnishing a house but also incorporates the artistic environment which is the natural environment through which beauty is shown.
“Satisfy this thirst that the world has for beauty, send great artists with big souls which will draw people towards the most beautiful of all people, Jesus!”
Chiara Lubich wrote the above in May 1961 in a little manifesto dedicated to the Centro Ave Arts Centre, which had just been established by an international group of artists: Ave Cerquetti, Marika Tassi and Tecla Rantucci. These three women understood that the result of them working as a team of artists sharing their spiritual values and individual inspirations as an expression of the life of unity would fuse into a mutual giving so the result would belong to all.
In 1966 thousands of people came from all over the world to Loppiano, a recently established Focolare town in northern Italy. To ensure a warm welcome to all and a cultural exchange live music and dances were needed. A group of young boys set up a music group and Chiara Lubich gave them a Christmas present of a red drum kit and a guitar. A group of girls also set up a band and Chiara gave them a green drum kit. The colours of these drum kits formed part of the name of their bands; Gen Verde (green) and Gen Rosso (red). By prefixing the name of their bands with the word Gen a clear link was made with the new generation of the Focolare Movement. The Gen are young people throughout the world who are committed to a project of universal brotherhood also through artistry, which is much loved and close to young people.
Whilst over the years the members of these groups have changed their aims remain the same and they continue to take their performances all over the world. As well as their own work they animate other groups with a wide range of styles and types of music.
Today there are many musicians and artists around the world who work in the same way in their own medium – putting in the first place ‘mutual and constant charity’ among them and with those around them, trying to give to the world the gift of the beauty of God through their own artistic talents. Some artists have organised workshops focused on painting, opened up theatrical rehearsals. The discovery made is that art expressed through living the Gospel can reveal its true characteristic in very discipline: music, theatre, poetry literature and all the others.
There have been many developments within the Movement in meetings for artists from that first meeting back in 1970 to an international congress for artists in April 1999. At the congress a ‘network’ of artists was set up composed of individuals and groups from all the expressions of art in the most varied nations of the world.
“Beauty will save the world” said Fedor Dostoevskij. An artist discovers so much by sharing their own inspiration as a ‘gift’ to others in a rich exchange of ideas and experiences showing the harmony between arts and life. So it is that the dimension of eternity is translated into art making credible the suffered and extraordinary inspiration of every artist.