A celebration marking the hundredth anniversary of Chiara Lubich’s birth 18 January 2020 | Elgar Hall, University of Birmingham[more]
Chiara Lubich is the Founder of the Focolare Movement. She was born in Trent, Italy on 22 January 1920. Her father and brother were political and opponents of fascism, her mother had a strong Catholic faith. In 1939 during a trip to the shrine of Loreto she felt her first call to her future vocation, when she heard God telling her she would be followed by many.
On her return from Loreto, a priest asked her about her vocation but Chiara was unable to describe what she felt, but knew it wouldn’t be a traditional ones: not the convent, not matrimony, not consecration to God in the world.
In 1943, when Chiara was 23, as she was on her way to fetch some milk, Chiara heard the call from God: “Give yourself totally to me.” Following a deep conversation with a priest she obtained permission. On 7 December 1943 she consecrated her life to God forever. On that day Chiara didn’t have the slightest intention of founding anything: she was simply ‘marrying God.’ And this was everything for her. Only later did this day come to be identified as the symbolic beginning of the Focolare Movement.
In the following months Chiara drew many young women to her, some of whom wanted to follow her path. But meanwhile the war was waging in Trent, bringing ruin, misery, and death. Chiara and her new companions were in the habit of meeting in the air-raid shelters during air attacks. Their desire was strong to be together and to discover new ways of being Christian, of putting the Gospel into practice. Chiara would later say. ‘The lesson that God was offering to us through the circumstances around us was quite clear: Everything is vanity of vanities, everything passes away. But, contemporaneously, God placed a question in my heart, which was for all of us. And He also provided the answer: ‘But could there be an ideal that doesn’t die, that no bomb can crumble and to which we can give ourselves?’ Yes: God. We decided to make God the ideal of our life.’
Chiara Lubich was a pioneer for her time. In the Church – a lay woman – she proposed themes and openings that were only later taken up by Vatican II. In a global society she pointed the way to universal brotherhood when no one was speaking of civilizations drawing closer to each other. She respected life and searched for the meaning of suffering. She traced out a way of religious and civil holiness that can be practiced by anyone and not reserved for only a chosen few.
She died on 14 March 2008 in Rocca di Papa, Italy.
Celebrations are starting today, 7 December, all over the world, to mark the 100th anniversary of Chiara Lubich’s birth.
In this article written in 2008, not long after Chiara’s death, Sally McAllister recalls some of the key moments of Chiara’s visits to Britain between 1965 and 2004 and the contribution she brought to ecumenism and dialogue with people of different faiths or convictions. Her words on those occasions encourage, indicate pathways to walk along and offer sparks of hope that continue to inspire us today.
We have to admit that eleven years after her death, and as we approach the centenary of her birth in 2020, Chiara Lubich is someone yet to be fully discovered.[more]