The adventure led by Chiara Lubich was based on just one ‘text book’: the Bible, the Gospel, the Word of God. It was through the reading of the Gospel that she and her first companions discovered a way of life that led them to God. During that period, while still teaching, Chiara had an intuition which was quickly embraced by the Focolare world and beyond: the ‘Word of Life’. They lived a sentence from the Gospel and the novelty, for that time, was that Chiara and her first companions, to help one another and to grow together, told one another of the fruits they had experienced through living the Word.
Chiara wrote: ‘The War was still raging. Every time the air-raid siren sounded, all we could take into the shelter with us was one small book: the Gospel. We opened it and the words, even though we already knew them quite well, because of the new charism , were lit up as if they had a candle beneath them, they enflamed our hearts and pushed us to put them into practise straightaway. We were attracted to them all and tried to live them one after another. I read for example; “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 19,19). Our neighbour. Where was our neighbour? There, next to us in the all the people who had been hurt by the War, wounded, without clothes, without houses, hungry and thirsty. We immediately dedicated ourselves to them in many ways.
‘The Gospel assured us: “Ask and you shall receive.” (Mt 7,7). We asked for the needs of the poor – and, extraordinarily for war-time – we received everything we needed from God! One day, and this story is one of the first experiences we had and is often told, a poor person asked us for a pair of shoes size 42. Knowing that Jesus was in the poor person, I turned to the Lord, in the church of St Clare near to a hospital of the same name, with this prayer: “Give me a pair of shoes size 42 for you in that poor person”. I came out and a lady came up and gave me a parcel. I opened it and it was a pair of shoes size 42.
‘We read in the Gospel: “Give and you will be given” (Lk 6,38). We gave and gave and each time we received in return. We had just one apple left in the house. We gave it to the poor person who asked. And we saw the next morning, maybe from a relative, a dozen apples arrive. We gave those to others who were in need, and in the evening a whole suitcases of apples arrived. That’s how it was, all the time.
‘These events, one after the other, amazed and enchanted us. We had great joy and that joy spread. Jesus had promised and still now he keeps His promise. He is not, therefore, a reality of the past, but of the present. And the Gospel is true. This discovery gave wings to our steps on the journey we had just begun. When we explained this to people who were curious about our happiness in such sad and troubled times; they understood that they hadn’t simply found a few girls in a young Movement but Jesus alive.”