An unexpected way of living Chiara Lubich’s centenary. Maria Voce’s talk in the Osservatore Romano.

“Celebrate to meet” is the motto that we in the Focolare Movement have chosen to commemorate in 2020, all over the world, one hundred years since the birth of our founder Chiara Lubich. Until a few weeks ago, this motto seemed a fitting choice through which to celebrate, in the most varied ways, the person of our founder and the charism that God gave her, which she generously communicated. In fact, we would like people to meet her alive today and not think of her as a nostalgic memory; We would like people to find her in her spirituality, in her works and above all in her “people”, in all those who are now living her spirit of family, fellowship and unity.

And beginning with 7th December 2019 we have rejoiced in the many events that have taken place throughout the world. We would have liked these celebrations to continue. But in a very short time the scenario has changed and the motto “celebrate to meet” might even seem anachronistic. We too have put all kinds of celebrations or events on hold. The pandemic caused by the coronavirus is forcing more and more countries all over the world to take drastic measures to slow down contagion. For now, isolation and physical distance are the most effective ways. This is shown by the information coming to us from China, which we accompanied with trepidation for weeks. But here in Italy and in a number of other countries around the world the situation is still very serious.

For many of us who are living in isolation it is a totally new experience, one which not only has social or psychological dimensions, but also strong spiritual repercussions. This is true for everyone and especially for Christians. This situation also deeply affects our specific spirituality as Focolare Movement. We are made for fellowship and unity. Knowing how to create relationships is perhaps the most characteristic quality of a person who has encountered and welcomed Chiara’s spirit. And it is precisely this dimension that now seems to be extremely limited.

But love does not allow itself to be limited. This is the great experience that is happening during these dramatic and painful times. More than ever and from all over the world I receive testimonies from people who are setting in motion creativity and imagination and who are thinking of others even in difficult and unusual conditions. Children are telling of the small or big acts of love they have done so as to overcome the difficulties of having to stay at home; young people are putting themselves on the web to create a prayer relay; entrepreneurs are going against the flow so as not to take advantage of the emergency, but rather to serve the common good even at the expense of personal gain.

There are many ways to offer support and comfort: first of all through prayer; with a phone call, a WhatsApp message, an email, so that no one feels alone, not only those who are at home, but also the sick and those who are doing their best to heal, console and accompany those suffering the consequences of this situation. And then there are messages of solidarity that help us open our hearts even beyond the coronavirus emergency, like the one we received from the young people in Syria who, despite their dramatic situation, found the strength to think of us in Italy. It is the young people who teach us that these experiences shared on social media can multiply, because even goodness can be contagious.

© Horacio Conde – CSC Audiovisivi

Through these testimonies I have become convinced that Chiara Lubich’s centenary is not on hold and the motto “Celebrate to meet” is more relevant than ever.

However, it is our Father in heaven, or perhaps even Chiara herself, who is inviting us to live this jubilee year in a deeper and more authentic way. Beyond the constraints, even though it is impossible to celebrate the Eucharist together, we are rediscovering the living and strong presence of Jesus: in the Gospel that we live, in the neighbour we love and in the midst of those who – even at a distance – are united in his name.

But in a special way our foundress is making us rediscover her greatest love, her spouse: Jesus Forsaken – “the God of Chiara”, as Archbishop Lauro Tisi, the Archbishop of Trent, likes to call him. He is the God who went to the limit, to gather up into himself every experience of feeling limited, and give it value. He is the God who became the periphery to make us understand that even in the most extreme experience we can still encounter Him. He is the God who made every kind of pain, anguish, desperation and sadness his own, to teach us that pain accepted and transformed into love is an inexhaustible source of hope and life.

This is the challenge of the global emergency: not to evade, not just trying to survive in order to reach the goal safely, but to root ourselves well in the present. To look at, accept and face every painful situation – whether personal or of others – to make it a place of encounter with “Jesus Forsaken”. And to find the strength and creativity, while loving Him, to build relationships of solidarity and love even in this difficult situation.

For Chiara every encounter with “the Spouse”, with Jesus Forsaken, was a celebration. I am convinced that when we meet Him we will also meet her because we will learn, as she herself tried to do, to look at every situation with the eyes of God. Perhaps we too will be able to repeat the experience of Chiara and her companions, who were “almost” unaware of the war or when it ended. They were taken so much by God and his love that they felt that the reality they lived, the concrete love that circulated among them and among so many others in their city, was stronger than everything else.

We do not know how long this emergency will last: it may be weeks or months. However it will pass. The world we will find at the end of the tunnel is the one we are building now.

By Maria Voce

Source: Osservatore Romano – https://www.vaticannews.va/it/osservatoreromano/news/2020-04/radicarci-bene-nel-presente.html