From an interview with Chiara Lubich on Vatican Radio – for a Brazilian radio programme directed by Tavares Manoel: how can one live a Marian spirituality?
Question: Chiara, in what way does Mary help Christians, especially the youth, to fully respond to their vocation? Chiara: One of the problems today for Christians, which means all lay people, is that they don’t know how to reconcile their spiritual life with life in the midst of the world, with being in the midst of the world. And so they don’t feel the call to holiness – as it says here. They don’t feel it because maybe no one has ever told them about it, has ever explained it to them, or maybe because they don’t see it as possible, outside of the convent, outside of a particular environment, to reach their sanctification. Often they have few models before them, so they say: “Fine, sanctity is fine for those who have consecrated their lives to God, its fine for friars, for nuns, but for us….” They question this.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a telephone call to the members of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich exhorted them not to see the world as divided between winners and losers, but as all being “won over by God’s love” so as to be all “winners” with Him.
Dear Everyone, As our Movement, being God’s Work, has spread all over the world (although in some countries there are only a few of us and we might have come there only recently), we at the Centre follow whatever happens in the world with special interest and concern, so as to share in the sufferings caused, for example by riots and wars; and in the joys, like when large crowds show their faith and love during the Pope’s many journeys; or else when a country regains its freedom after suffering for a long time under tyranny.
How can we learn to love Jesus forsaken immediately and with joy when suffering comes to us? Chiara Lubich spoke about this during a meeting with the Focolare community in the North of Italy.
… Sometimes I’m able to love Jesus forsaken immediately and with joy. I see him, I love him and I’m able to go beyond the cross. But there are other times when I see him but I stay in front of the cross without going beyond it. I know it’s him, but I don’t really love Jesus forsaken because I stay in the suffering. Chiara, can you help me to overcome these moments?
Chiara: Look, first of all, I would like to say something which perhaps not everyone knows. I would like to explain this whole thing clearly, the fact that we see Jesus forsaken in suffering. You might say: “But listen, Chiara, it’s a suffering, it’s not Jesus forsaken!” I always think of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. One day before she died, quite a while before, she coughed up blood because she had tuberculosis. Well, she didn’t say: “I’ve coughed up blood”; she said: “Here is my Spouse”. She was a virgin and she had married Jesus crucified. So she said: here is my Spouse. Was St. Theresa imagining things? Was she being sentimental? Or was she speaking the truth?
During a profound dialogue with the married focolarini, answering one of their questions, Chiara Lubich shared with them how Mary Desolate was her “teacher” in knowing how to lose (so as to follow Jesus).
I would like to say a few words about Mary Desolate. Mary Desolate is our teacher in losing. Since I must communicate my soul to you, my practice is that when something useless comes to mind, I lose it, because... this useless thing bothers me. At this point our soul is accustomed to things that are light, gentle and beautiful. When something else comes in, a bit of the world... we feel uneasy, so then we understand: there’s an attachment here, a bit of pride there... an attachment to something.... We’re aware of this. So then, the only thing to do is to lose like Mary Desolate. We lose it and plunge ourselves into loving, into going ahead. So let’s live this too.
In an interview shortly after Mother Teresa’s death Chiara Lubich outlined the key stages in their deep friendship, highlighting among other things Mother Teresa’s “feminine genius” in fulfilling the mission God gave her in the Church.
Speaker: Two women in dialogue: Mother Teresa and Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement. Their first conversation took place in 1978. Then, over the years, there were other meetings and many letters. The dialogue between the two women best known in the Catholic Church was very deep, focused on their shared choice of God which was fulfilled in concrete works of different types. What most impressed Chiara Lubich about Mother Teresa? Let’s hear what she said to Adriana Masotti. Chiara: I remember the first time I met her I was very struck by her determination. You could see she was someone who wanted to fulfil the mission God had given her right to the end. Another thing that struck me on other occasions was her simplicity, her constant union with God. And I was struck very much, especially now in these last few days, by her daily heroism.
Adriana Masotti: Is there something in particular about Mother Teresa you would like to mention? Chiara: Perhaps the best thing I remember was when we met for the last time. It was in New York. She was very ill in bed and had terrible back pain. The marvellous thing was that they had said I could stay a very short time, but I stayed 20 minutes. It was almost as though Mother Teresa were saying the Magnificat, because she told me about her Work, the 50,000 dying people who had been helped, as she said, into Heaven; and then the vow she made to help the poorest of the poor. She held my hand and was so zealous and so happy and full of joy. At the end we hugged and I left her.
Adriana Masotti: Mother Teresa and Chiara Lubich: two founders of works in the Church that are very well known today. What was the focus of a dialogue among two such people? Chiara: This is how it was. Already the first time we met she wanted to know something about our Movement. I said just a few words and she answered, “What you are doing, I cannot do. What I am doing, you cannot do”. Then, whenever we met, she always said those words. Both of us had been entrusted something by God, so we understood one another very well. She wrote to me often and the essence of what she said was, “Chiara, become holy because God is holy”. So I realised this was what she was always tending towards.
Adriana Masotti: Today the world is in special need of reference points. Why is it, in your view, that Mother Teresa managed to attract so much esteem and be well thought of not only by believers but also by atheists and those indifferent to religion? Chiara: I think the main thing about Mother Teresa was the presence of God in her. She never betrayed him. She always bore witness to him. She always affirmed her union with the Church of Christ. She never stooped to half measures. But what attracts young people most of all is the heroism she showed in her life, because out of the Gospel she took the role of Jesus himself, who worked, I would say, the miracles of healing and raised people from the dead… Just as Jesus bore witness to his divinity by working miracles and healing, Mother Teresa and her sisters, through the great and heroic things she witnessed to, will continue to bear witness to the divinity of that Work.
Adriana Masotti: Mother Teresa was always called “Mother” by everyone. In your view did Mother Teresa fulfil what the Pope calls “feminine genius” in the way she developed her Work? Chiara: Yes, of course, because in my view feminine genius lies in what was characteristic of Mary. She had not been endowed with a ministry and so on; she was endowed with love, with charity, which is the greatest gift, the greatest gift that comes from heaven. That is how Mother Teresa was.
In this telephone conference call, Chiara Lubich stresses the importance and value of charity, following the example of St Augustine and St Jerome.
… We have been called, above all, to give the world a show of perfect charity, charity which is love for God and which is proved by love of neighbour. We also spoke about charity in the last conference call and many of us were struck when we understood that love for our neighbours does not mean being ready to die for them but to actually die, not being ourselves so as to be the other, to live the others.
Chiara Lubich answered this question put to her during a press conference.
Question: You have chosen God as Your ideal, and Mary as your model. In fact, you have established that the president of your Movement will always be a woman.
Chiara: We think of Mary in the same way as the Church thinks of her. We are not a Marian Movement like the Daughters of Mary, for example. … Our view of Mary is Christ-centred. Certainly, ours is not just devotion; we want to imitate Mary, because devotion is not enough for us. We feel that it wouldn’t be right to have a devotion, and then to lead our lives as usual.
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