01/22/2015, 00.00
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Chiara Lubich like Teresa of Avila: her process of beatification begins

by Costanzo Donegana*
The process will open on 27 January in Frascati where the founder of the Focolare Movement lived most of her life and where she is buried. Her journey began as bombs fell on Trent, developing into communities that lived by the principle of unity. She undertook ecumenical work with Athenagoras and Protestant Churches. She also was open to members of other religions and to atheists in order to create "universal brotherhood on this earth."

Rome (AsiaNews) - Bishop Raffaello Martinelli will officially open the process of beatification of Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement (or Work of Mary), on 27 January, in the cathedral of the Frascati. Chiara spent most of her life in this diocese and it is here that she is buried.

Maria Voce, president of the Movement, upon reporting the news to its members, said that she hoped they could be "living witnesses" of the collective holiness Chiara Lubich proposed and lived by.

Thanks to her deep knowledge of Teresa of Avila, Chiara Lubich could relate her spirituality to that of the Spanish saint who had spoken of an "interior castle", meaning the presence of God who dwells in the soul when one meets with Him in prayer.

Chiara came up with the expression "exterior castle," not so much an individual experience between oneself and God as a communal one: "The exterior castle where God is among us."

Chiara rediscovered the Gospel in Trent (northern Italy), during the war, reading it in shelters as bombs fell on the city. From a God that no bomb could destroy, to God's will in response to His love, to charity as the first commandment, to the "crucified and abandoned" Jesus, the height of love, to Jesus present among his people, united in his name, until Jesus' testament, "so that they may all be one," unity as a "Magna Carta of our new life."

This experience of collective spirituality spread immediately. Chiara and her first companions went into Trent's poor neighbourhoods, meeting her Communist brother Gino's challenge, winning over the city. In a few months, her small group included 500 people.

This spread throughout the world, from Italy to Europe and other continents, and to all groups of humanity. All must be one, from whom comes the commitment of unity within the Catholic Church and among the Churches.

Chiara became the privileged instrument of the relationship between Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, who called her Thecla, after Saint Paul's collaborator.

This was followed by relationships with various bishop primates in the Anglican Church and presidents of the Lutheran Federation and other churches.

Above all, Chiara backed grassroots ecumenism, from the bottom up, through the mutual love that transcends space and past mutual sins. This included members of other religions as well: Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, who recognised her as their spiritual teacher.

Thailand's Grand Buddhist Master Ajanh Thong introduced her to his disciples, as "The wise person who is neither man nor woman, neither child nor adult. When someone turns on the light amid darkness, nobody asks whom she may be. Chiara is here to give us the light that she found ".

Chiara did not limited herself to the world of believers. She opened the door to those she referred to as having "non-religious convictions", through a dialogue that "far exceeds tolerance," as she used to say. "This is a mutual enrichment, loving each other, already feeling like brothers and sisters, creating already universal brotherhood on this earth."

"That all may be one" led Chiara into the heart of society. This was her main commitment in the last two decades of her life. From this arose the economy of communion: "new people" for a "culture of giving".

Politically, this meant recovering the value and experience of brotherhood, sensed but forgotten by the French Revolution, contaminating and yet transcending political parties and organisations.

All this was but the translation of her initial intuition. "This is the great attraction of modern times: to penetrate into the highest contemplation whilst mingling with everyone, among humans."

As the process of beatification begins, it is worth remembering something else she said: «If we search for holiness itself, we will never achieve it. Love, then, and nothing else. Lose everything, even the attachment to holiness, so that you aim only at loving."

* Missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions

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