Today the Centenary Year of the birth of Chiara Lubich is being officially inaugurated. It will be celebrated wherever there are people who have made their own her “Ideal” – as she used to say –, the Ideal of unity and universal brotherhood. “Celebrate to meet” is the motto inspiring the most varied events that will take place in 2020. “Celebrate” because Chiara Lubich will be remembered, but in order to give many people the opportunity to encounter the message she lived to the full. Of particular importance is the “Chiara Lubich: world city” exhibition, created by the Trentino Historical Museum Foundation and the Chiara Lubich Centre (Rocca di Papa), which is being officially opened today at the Tunnels Gallery in Trent, her city.

Why is this happening on 7th December 2019 and not 22nd January 2020, the anniversary of Chiara’s birth or indeed on 14th March, the day of her death? It is simply because on 7th December 1943, Silvia Lubich became Chiara, so to speak. A few days before, in fact, she had responded to a request from her mother to go and get milk on a nearby farm. Her two younger sisters were reluctant to leave the house because of the cold, and Chiara decided to do this act of love. On her way, she had felt a clear and strong calling: “Give yourself completely to me”. Back home, Silvia had written an ardent letter to the priest who had accompanied her spiritually and, after putting her to the test, he granted her permission to give herself to God forever.

Thus, on that 7th December 1943, before dawn, during a morning mass celebrated for the occasion, Silvia, secretly “married God”, as she herself would say. Thirty years later she reflected on that day:
“Imagine a young girl in love, in love with a love which is the first love, the purest one, a love which is still undeclared, but which begins to enflame her heart. But there’s one difference. Here on earth, a young girl, who is in love in this way, has the image of her beloved in front of her; instead this girl doesn’t see him, doesn’t hear him, doesn’t touch him or sense his fragrance with the senses of the body, but rather with the senses of her soul, through which Love entered in and invaded all her being. Because of this she feels a joy which is so special, difficult to experience again in life, a joy which is secret, serene, and jubilant”.

The young Silvia Lubich had been fascinated by Chiara of Assisi’s answer to St. Francis when he asked her what she wanted: “God!” That eighteen-year-old girl from Assisi, who was so beautiful and full of hope, had been able to encompass all the desires of her heart in that one Being worthy of all love: “God”. With this example before her, Silvia had changed her name to Chiara, because she too had the same feelings within herself. Changing a name is like acquiring a new identity. This change, at first just a heart’s desire, actually came about on 7th December 1943. That morning Silvia married God and became Chiara.

Later, the date of 7th December was chosen as the symbolic starting date of the Focolare Movement. By giving herself to God completely, the foundation stone was laid. Years later, the Catholic Church gave the ‘building’, (the Movement that developed) the name “Work of Mary”.

With the name “God” Chiara’s divine adventure began and with it that of the Focolare Movement. “God” is what 7th December means to Chiara Lubich. Therefore there is no better date to inaugurate the centenary year of her birth than this.

Michel Vandeleene