On the anniversary of the birth of the foundress of the Focolare Movement (January 22, 1920), we remember her with a few words by Michel Vandeleene, a Belgian focolarino, psychologist and theologian, and one profoundly knowledgeable of Lubich’s spirituality. Vandeleene left us suddenly on January 19th at the age of 64, leaving us with a great loss and deep sense of sorrow. For years he taught young people in Loppiano. The choice of one of her writings is a small token of our gratitude. The text is an excerpt from an article published in Città Nuova (4/2020).
By Michel Vandeleene
In 1980, Chiara Lubich was 60 years old. A long stretch of life was now behind her; it was time to take stock. The idea of death was in her thoughts, and she felt that she was not ready. She thought back to when, in 1944, it seemed to her that Jesus had revealed to her his most intimate wound, the one hidden in the cry of the abandonment. A question resonated insistently within her: “It is to you that I made myself known as the Abandoned One. For twenty centuries I have been aiming at you. If you do not love me, who will?” She felt that she could no longer waste time. She asked Jesus to give her the decisive push to help her conclude her life in the best possible way. On December 31st, 1980, speaking to a thousand young people, Chiara invited them to take off together on a journey, a race, with the aim of loving her abandoned Jesus “always, immediately and with joy.”
Thus began what, a few months later, she would call the “Holy Journey,” a journey traveled together with the Movement, with eyes fixed on the goal of the encounter with God. Soon thousands of people, from all continents, joined the first group, all wanting to “sanctify themselves together”, loving one another for the love of God. Every 15 days, through a worldwide conference call, Chiara Lubich communicated a spiritual thought on which everyone focused, so that each person could then live it in his or her own place in society.
Circumstances, through which God’s providence often manifests itself, made it possible for the Focolare centers around the world to be linked by telephone. In this way, the means of social communication were put at the service of personal and collective evangelization, allowing an increasing number of people to feel like one heart and one soul, simply by putting into practice the spiritual thought that Chiara offered them.
Chiara confided during the world conference call at the beginning of January 1981: “We have seen that our motto, ‘Always, immediately, with joy,’ corresponds precisely to what it takes to make oneself holy. So, here in Rome we all set out to begin the year 1981 by wanting to love Jesus forsaken always, immediately and with joy, loving Him in small and even big trials. I would be very happy here if, also in all the continents, as many people as possible in the Movement would begin with us the year like this.”