Chiara Lubich, a schoolteacher and Third Order Franciscan, was born in Trent, Italy. Her true vocation took form in 1943 under the Allied bombing of her city when she and a number of other women determined that love was the fundamental reality of life and the purpose of their existence. In the next months, while caring for victims of the war, Lubich conceived of a new movement, the Focolare (meaning “hearth”), to promote unity, reconciliation, and the spirit of love.
The message of the Focolare was simple, but it spread quickly in Italy and elsewhere in war-torn Europe. With its joyful spirit, its emphasis on the role of the laity, the promotion of Scripture, liturgical renewal, and ecumenism, it fostered the spirit of renewal that took definite shape in Vatican II. Based in small communities of both married families and single people, the Focolare eventually spread to 180 countries, promoting a unity across all borders of religion, race, and nation. Lubich was embraced by Pope John Paul II and always remained rooted in her Catholic faith, but she gladly accepted invitations to speak to Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish audiences around the world. She died on March 14, 2008.
“What is the secret? It is that we risked our life at the beginning for a great Ideal, the greatest: God. It is that we believed in His love and then we abandoned ourselves moment by moment to His will. If we had done our own will there would have been nothing of all this today. Instead we plunged ourselves into the divine adventure.”