Last week we looked at the life of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, who was active in the Focolare Movement. This week we are focusing on another Chiara, Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), the foundress of the Focolare Movement.
She was born in Trent, in northern Italy, on Jan. 22, 1920, and was baptized with the name Silvia.
In 1939 Chiara visited the Marian Sanctuary of Loreto and there discovered her special calling. She would found something new in the Church, a “focolare,” a community of people consecrated and married, all totally committed to God.
On Dec. 7, 1943, Chiara committed her whole life to God with a vow of chastity. In May 1944 Chiara started to live with four of her first companions at a small apartment offered to her, which she would call “la casetta” (the little house) in memory of Loreto, and the “Focolare” was born.
In 1948 the first men’s focolare was opened in Trent. Chiara also met Igino Giorgani, a father of four, who would become the first married focolarino.
Starting in 1949 Chiara had a yearly retreat with her companions. This annual gathering of the Focolare Movement is known as a “Mariapolis” (City of Mary). Members and newcomers come together to discuss the movement and its spirituality, forming a temporary town with only one law, evangelical charity.
In 1953 Chiara launched the branch of the “married focolarini,” and in 1954 she formed the branch of the diocesan priests and that of the religious men and consecrated women who adhere to the spirituality of the movement.
In 1962 Chiara visited a Swiss abbey where she had the idea of having ‘little towns’ inhabited by the people of the Focolare Movement.
She wrote: “It was at Einsiedeln that I understood, from looking at the abbey church below and all that was surrounding it, that a town of the movement should develop which wouldn’t be made up of an abbey or hotels, but rather of simple houses, workplaces, schools: just like an ordinary town.”
A young man, Vincenzo Folonari, donated all his wealth to the Focolare Movement, including a large tract of land in the hills near Florence. This donation allowed the building of the first little town or permanent Mariapolis, Loppiano.
Loppiano currently has a population of 900 of whom 70 come from the five continents. Each year about 40,000 people visit Loppiano. There are 32 little towns of the Focolare Movement around the world.
In 1967 Chiara founded the Gen Movement (New Generation), the youth branch of the Focolare Movement. It was this branch that Blessed Chiara Luce Badano (1971-1990) belonged to.
Dialogue with people of other religions is the charism of the Focolare Movement. During her life, Chiara Lubich met and dialogued with Lutheran pastors, the Primate of the Church of England, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism.
She shared the spirituality of unity by giving addresses to non-Catholic Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and non-believers.
Chiara died on March 14, 2008. Thousands of people attended her funeral Mass on March 18 in the Basilica of St.-Paul-Outside-the-Walls in Rome. There were politicians and representatives of other faiths.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message in which he stated that Chiara was a woman “in full unity with the thoughts of the Popes.” Cardinal Bertone, in his homily, described her as one of the “bright stars of the 20th century.”
“We should live in such a way that in our last hours we will not regret having loved too little,” said Chiara Lubich.