Fr. Tom Ess, OFM – Chicago, IL

‘Jesus is the Word incarnate. The Church is the Gospel incarnate: that is why it is the spouse of Christ. Every religious family, or order is the incarnation, so to speak, of an expression of Jesus, of one of his attitudes, a fact from his life, one of his sufferings, one of his words…. the Church is a majestic Christ unfolding through the centuries…. Love has taken on various expressions, which are the religious orders and communities in the Church… We only need to circulate Love between these orders. They should learn how to love (one another) as the members of the Holy Trinity love.’ (Chiara Lubich)

Members of religious Institutes of Consecrated life, Societies for Apostolate and New Communities  who know and are involved with the Focolare Movement have found some common spiritual effects: they have seen the Church enlivened by the fraternity and communion between charisms, greater unity in their own religious family or community, the rediscovery of their own founder, renewed commitment to living the Rule and Constitution in today’s society and the modern Church implementing their own charism.

The first to show an interest in the new spirituality being born in Trent (Northern Italy) were the Cappuchins. Their monastery, in Piazza Cappuccini, was opposite the flat where the first group of young women who had consecrated themselves to God in virginity, Chiara and her companions lived, this group was soon to take up the name Focolare.

In 1947, thanks to a trip by Chiara Lubich to Assisi and Rome, other religious came into contact with the Ideal of unity and began meeting together to share the Gospel experiences they had lived.

In 1967 an important step was taken. In the summer of that year, 25 consecrated men religious from across Europe spent 15 days together close to Trent in order to deepen their understanding of the charism of unity. That was the moment which saw the beginning of the branch of the Religious within the Movement and to whom Chiara explained: ‘Your unity should not have anything to do with organization…. Religious are united in the spirituality.’

The same thing happened for the consecrated women religious. Their historic step was during an audience with Paul VI on April 14th, 1971 at which there were present 400 sisters from 20 nations and 80 congregations. On that occasion the Pope indicated the road they could take: “Get to know and deepen your unity with your respective founders, in the climate of fraternal charity, of the Focolare Movement.”

Around these men and women religious the gen-re have blossomed (new generation of religious). Early in their formation to the consecrated life within the religious orders intend to live the spirituality of unity.

In the General Statutes of the Work of Mary (official name for the Focolare Movement) approved by John Paul II in 1990, through the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Societies can be full members of the Movement. The link is ‘essentially a commitment which is spiritual in nature’ article 5 of the Regulation, and their involvement must be with the permission of their superior.

To offer opportunities for members Institutes of Consecrated Life, Apostolic societies and New Communities to deepen their understanding of the spirituality of unity, some International Centers have opened situated in the little towns of the Focolare Movement, in which the religious and consecrated give witness to their charism whilst sharing together.

On October 25th 2004 the Lateran Pontifical University, Institute ‘Laretianum’, conferred on Chiara Lubich an honorary doctorate in the Theology of Consecrated Life.

The magazine called ‘Charisms in Unity’, available in 8 languages, contributes to the spreading of the thoughts and the communion between charisms.

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