When I made the decision to return to the seminary in 1988, I was assigned for six months to a parish on the north side of Indianapolis, St. Pius X. That was a great parish experience. They had a wonderful pastor and many great people, and it was a great transition for me as I prepared to begin theological studies in Rome.
While there, I met some people who introduced me to a lay ecclesial movement known simply as Focolare – or more formally and lesser known as The Works Of Mary. From that time on, the essence of this movement captured my heart, and I have remained informally associated with the movement since.
Focolare is today an international ecclesial movement founded during World War II in Trent, Italy by a young woman known as Chiara Lubich. The basic charism of the movement is a spirituality of unity, among individuals, groups, cities and nations. It is a movement as Chiara would say: from God, a work of God. For those who aspire to or are members of Focolare, it is essentially about living the Gospel. This is not just about small faith groups, not solely about reading and studying scripture. It is about putting the Word of God into practice – living the Gospel.
There are twelve foundational components of this spirituality:
- God’s Will
- The Word
- The Neighbour
- Mutual Love
- The Gift of Unity
- Jesus Forsaken
- The Church-Communion
- The Holy Spirit
- Jesus in the Midst
While each point is worthy of greater exposition, one can get a glimpse of the wholeness of this spirituality.
Soon after I became a bishop, I joined a small group of bishops who seek to live this spirituality of unity and communion in our own ministry. We conference call about every six weeks or so to share a scripture passage which is developed by Focolare each month – called the Word of Life. We then simply share our own experience of trying to live this Word in our daily life. For most of us, it is a hit-and-miss participation, as various time zones separate us and our calendars are somewhat complicated from day-to-day. But simply knowing I am in communion in a special way with a few of my brother bishops is a great spiritual support.
I have long admired Chiara Lubich and the beautiful things God accomplished in and through her life. Her spirituality and love for the Church – the Holy Father – and her efforts to untiringly work for the unity of the Church remind me of St. Catherine of Siena. I’m convinced this Ecclesial Movement – Focolare – and its spirituality of unity is much needed in the church and world today. I look forward to this small start of the Focolare movement here in Alaska, and ask you to please pray, not just for us, but that more and more people will have the grace to truly live the Gospel in a manner that builds unity through a worthy witness of love.
To learn more about Chiara Lubich and Focolare, you can find some great information here.