It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the Focolare. The Focolare Movement is a lay movement within the Church that was started by Chiara Lubich in Trent, Italy, during World War II. Chiara received a series of experiences with a small group of friends that inspired them to dedicate their lives to serving those around them by placing love in the center of their hearts and minds. They were formed by the Gospels, especially John 17 where Jesus prays that “all might be one.” No one was above their notice, time or care and they served their community amidst the devastation of the war. (If you want to read some thoughts about Motherhood inspired by Chiara, check out this post.)
I am currently reading a book which is a compilation of Chiara’s writings and thoughts about the Blessed Mother. I have started this book a number of times, but never finished it. I’m hoping that this time, I go the distance. Lately, I’ve been feeling especially drawn to Chiara, her writings and the movement in general. I’m searching for something, but I don’t know exactly what yet. Perhaps it is something that this movement can offer. Even if not, Chiara has a beautiful way of talking about Mary, Jesus, Love, the Church, you name it. It resonates with me and makes me think. So, I’m going to keep reading, keep learning and continue pondering.
This week, I was reading about how God revealed to Chiara the incredible mystery of the Incarnation and Mary’s Immaculate nature. Chiara recognized that Mary is, as a creature created by God, contained by the Trinity. We all are. But,
Mary contains God! God loved her so much as to make her his mother and his love made him become small before her.Mary: The Transparency of God, 26
I mean, wow. Let’s just stop everything right there for the next 10 years and contemplate that mystery. Mary, the Mother of God! How our limited language fails us to fully express this mystery. And then, in God’s great generosity, this incredible woman before whom God became small for so she might bear our salvation to the world, she becomes our mother.
Chiara recognized that just as Mary bore Jesus, we are also called to bring Jesus forth into the world. We are, effectively, “little Marys.” Mary allowed herself to be empty before God so that He could fill her with His divine life, His grace, His Son. In becoming imbued with God’s Word, she becomes the model for each of us. Chiara says:
All Christians are called to re-live Mary, who, as we have seen, is the Word fully lived out. We must re-live her in order to generate Christ in ourselves and in others. As St. Ambrose puts it, ‘If according to the flesh, the Mother of Christ is one alone, according to the faith, all souls bring forth Christ.'”Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke
We are called to generate Christ by allowing ourselves to be filled with the Word. We fill ourselves with so many things – pride, success, ambition, chocolate, television, TikTok, hobbies, worries, plans. None of these things bring us true and lasting happiness. None of these things will bring us to live out our true and deepest vocation – to become Christ-bearers for those around us.
As Chiara said in the above quote, not only are we to bring Christ from within us to others, we help others to generate Christ within themselves. Chiara contemplates Mary as not only Mother of God, but mother to each of us. She pondered,
I remember it was then that I looked upon our mother, Mary, for the first time with the gaze of a daughter, but a daughter who saw her real self in her mother.From a talk to the men and women focolarini, 1972
As a daughter who saw her real self in her mother. In a twist, I had this experience the other day, but as a mother who heard her real self in her daughter. And friends, it wasn’t exactly a pretty sound. I was upstairs changing a diaper and I heard a conversation between Clare, who is 7, and Gabriel, who is 2. Gabe was asking for help in his sweet and overbearing 2 year old manner. Lots of insistence, lots of NOW, little please or patience or care that he was interrupting Clare’s book. Finally, Clare huffed and said in a tone all too familiar to my ears, “Gaaabe! Do I have to do everything for you!?” She did, to her credit, get up and help him with what he needed. But what I heard come from her could have been my voice, my tone. I was totally caught off guard at this revelation and immediately thought of this last passage which I had just finished reading only a few moments earlier.
If my children are to become little Mary’s, they need an example to follow. If they are to become Christ-bearers, they need to witness what that looks like in everyday life. What I heard from Clare is that I’m coming up short.
Rather than taking this as a discouragement, I’m trying to use it as guidance for the way forward. None of us is perfect, least of all me. I do not think any of this was a coincidence and I am thankful I was aware enough to receive the lesson. My prayer and focus now is that I actually learn from it. Pray for me friends!