Today, on January 22, Chiara Lubich would have turned 101 years old. We talked with Andrea Gagliarducci, author of the book Chiara Lubich, L’amore vince tutto, published by Città Nuova and based on the film.
Presuming that most of our readers have seen the film “Chiara Lubich. L’amore vince tutto”, what can they expect from the book? Is it something more than a description of the scenes?
The book is based on the film but doesn’t only discuss the scenes. A film has images, and images help to understand the story. A film has feelings that are also conveyed by the images, but those feelings might also prevent one from thinking about the historical context. I tried to add, to describe the city of Trent as it was back then. I tried to describe what those young people with Chiara were like when everything was just beginning. In other words, to give depth to the script because, if it was just script, it would have needed images to give it depth.
In the introduction of the book you write: “What struck me about Chiara was her simple speech, the tone of her voice.” Could you describe that encounter with her? What other things did you notice about her when you came to know her better?
I didn’t know Chiara, in the sense of ever having talked with her face to face. I was present at one event in Quirino Theater (in 2001 if I remember correctly) and was very struck by how she said things. Her tone of voice, that yes, it really made an impression . . . But the fact is that when I went to study in Rome, I didn’t know a thing about the Focolare Movement nor about any other Movements. So I was able to approach Movements with a certain disenchantment, I would say. Rereading Chiara’s story, looking back over her biography, I was quite struck by the gentleness of her charism. I found that same tone again. She wasn’t a leader in the classical sense that we like to give to leaders. She wasn’t a mercenary leader. But she led. There are collapses in her life, times when she had to rest, to get away. She lived life intensely but also with much feeling. Chiara wasn’t a cold person. But she was confident in her decisions. And she was able to convey that confidence.
Do you see in Chiara, in her story, a light for today’s woman who wants to be her true self in the Church and in the society?
The beauty of Chiara lies precisely in that desire to be nothing but herself. There was no compromising on that. She was radically faithful to her Gospel lifestyle in that sense, to the point of “despising” mother and father and home. And perhaps that’s what’s lacking nowadays, the courage to be oneself. And this is not only true for women, but for everybody. Only by accepting who we are, knowing our place and striving for it with strength, only at that moment will we be able to discover our real place in the Church and in society. And this is something that goes beyond thinking in purely functional terms, beyond any roles and careers that we can play at. Therefore, Chiara is not only a light for the women of today: she is an example for everyone. And she also demonstrates that God always gives the hundredfold.
Chiara would have turned 101 years old today. On January 22, 1955 her brother Gino wrote: “Dear little sister, what can I wish for you after all the nice wishes you gave me yesterday? That all your dreams might come true? Yes, I think that is the best wish I can have for you. Bye, little sister. Gino.” What has remained of this strong and sincere affection between this sister and brother? The figure of Gino really stood out in the film…
They say that behind every great man there is a great woman, or vice versa. But we don’t talk much about brothers and sisters. But Gino had been fundamental, as far as I could see. His courage, his recklessness accompanied also by a strong sense of justice which was the same sense of justice that pervaded Chiara. I didn’t know Gino. I had read some of the things he had written while I was working on the book and found that perhaps he was also a calm person in the midst of his restlessness. But that spurred Chiara. And Chiara spurred him to look at things from a different perspective. They aren’t two sides of the same coin. They’re the same coin. This is what I perceived.
What did it mean for you to write this book? Reading it we feel immersed in the city of Trent, in that experience which was so charged with novelty and enthusiasm. How much were you drawn into that experience?
I felt like I was being drawn in. I returned to Trent with my own experiences, because I was already quite familiar with the city. I looked at the photos of those times, I tried to depict them, to bring in everything from the city in those days, including specific details about the place. That was necessary for understanding not only what happened there, but also why it happened there. We are also the places where we live, and those places permeate us and provide us those specific answers that are also universal. Ultimately, that’s how all things begin. All things begin with an encounter. The encounter with Jesus, of course, was the fundamental encounter for Chiara and, I would say, for every Christian. But then there are other encounters, with our families, our friends, our cities and the cities that adopt us when we follow other paths. Each of these things is fundamental.
Andrea Gagliarducci, the author of the book “Chiara Lubich. Love conquers all”.