The Focolare Movement, which has had a very significant role in my journey over the past three years, gathered in Italy for their annual General Assembly last week. Pope Francis used the occasion to send a special address to the members of friends of the movement. I share the English translation and encourage you to get to know this work better and to pray for the Focolare. The members of the movement been an immense blessing to me personally.
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I greet you all, who form part of the General Assembly of Mary’s Work, and want to live it fully inserted in the “today” of the Church. In a special way, I greet Maria Voce, who was reconfirmed President for another six years. In thanking her for the words she addressed to me, also in your name, I express to her and to her closest collaborators cordial wishes for profitable work at the service of the Movement, which has grown in these years and has been enriched by new works and activities, also in the Roman Curia.
Fifty years after Vatican II, the Church is called to undertake a new stage of evangelization, witnessing God’s for every human person, beginning with the poorest and the excluded, and to make humanity’s journey toward unity grow with hope, fraternity and joy.
Mary’s Work – known by everyone with the name Focolare Movement – was born in the heart of the Catholic Church from a small seed that, in the course of the years, has given life to a tree which now spreads its branches in all the expressions of the Christian family and also among members of different religions and among many who cherish justice and solidarity together with the search for truth. Without a doubt, this Work flowed from a gift of the Holy Spirit – the charism of unity that the Father wishes to give to the Church and to the world to contribute to fulfill incisively and prophetically Jesus’ prayer: “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).
Our thought goes with great affection and gratitude to Chiara Lubich, extraordinary witness of this gift, who in her fecund existence took Jesus’ perfume to so many human realities and to so many parts of the world. Faithful to the charism of which it was born and of which it nourishes itself, the Focolare Movement finds itself today before the same task that concerns the whole Church: to offer, with responsibility and creativity, its particular contribution to this new stage of evangelization. Creativity is important; one cannot go forward without it. It is important! And, in this context, I would like to give three ideas to you, who belong to the Focolare Movement and to those that, in various ways, share its spirit and ideals: to contemplate, to go out, and to school.
First of all, to contemplate. Today we have more need than ever to contemplate God and the wonders of His love, to dwell in Him, who in Jesus came to pitch His tent among us (cf. John 1:14). To contemplate means, moreover, to live in the company of brothers and sisters, to break with them the Bread of communion and fraternity, to cross the Door together (cf. John 10:9), which introduces us in the heart of the Father (cf. John 1:18), because “contemplation that leaves others outside is a deception” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 281). It is narcissism.
Inspired by God in response to the signs of the times, Chiara Lubich wrote: “Behold the great attraction of modern times: to penetrate in the highest contemplation and to stay mixed among all, man beside man” (Spiritual Writings 1, 27). To realize this, it is necessary to widen one’s interiority to the measure of Jesus and of the gift of His Spirit, to make contemplation the indispensable condition for a solidaristic presence and an effective action, which is truly free and pure.
I encourage you to remain faithful to this ideal of contemplation, to persevere in the search for unity with God and in mutual love with brothers and sisters, drawing from the riches of the Word of God and of the Tradition of the Church the breath of communion and unity that the Holy Spirit has aroused for our time. And make a gift of this treasure to all!
The second word – very important because it expresses the movement of evangelization, is to go out. To go out as Jesus went out from the bosom of the Father to proclaim the Word of love to all, to the point of giving himself on the wood of the cross. We must learn from Him, from Jesus, “this dynamic of exodus and gift, of going out of oneself, of walking and sowing always again, always beyond” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 222), to communicate the love of God generously to all, with respect and, as the Gospel teaches us: “You received without pay, give without pay” (Matthew 10:8). This sense of gratuitousness: because the Redemption was accomplished in gratuitousness. The forgiveness of sins cannot be “paid.” Christ “paid” it once and for all! We must act the gratuitousness of the Redemption with our brothers and sisters. We must give what we have received with gratuitousness, freely. And gratuitousness goes together with creativity: the two go together.
To do this, we must become experts in that art that is called “dialogue” and that is not learned cheaply. We cannot be content with half measures, we cannot dally, but rather, with God’s help, we must aim high and widen our look! And to do this, we must “go forth to Him” with courage “outside the camp, bearing abuse for Him” (Hebrews 13:13). He awaits us in the trials and groaning of our brothers, in the wounds of society and in the questions of the culture of our time. One is sick at heart when, in face of a Church, of a humanity with so many wounds, moral wounds, existential wounds, war wounds, which we all feel every day, to see Christians beginning to engage in philosophical, theological and spiritual “Byzantinisms,” what is useful instead is an outgoing spirituality. To go out with this spirituality: not to stay shut-in <a quattro mandate>. This is not good. This is “Byzantianism”! Today we have no right to Byzantine reflection. We must go out! Because – I have said it other times – the Church seems like a field hospital. And when one goes to a field hospital, the first task is to cure the wounds, not to analyse the dosage of cholesterol … that comes later. Is this clear?
And, finally, the third word: to school. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Saint John Paul II invited the whole Church to become “house and school of communion” (cf. n. 43), and you took this order seriously. As the Gospel exacts, we must form new men and women and, necessary to this end, is a school of humanity to the measure of the humanity of Jesus. In fact, He is the new Man that young people can look to at all times, that they can fall in love with, whose way they can follow to address the challenges that are before them. Without an adequate endeavor of formation of the new generations, it is illusory to think that a serious and lasting project can be carried out at the service of a new humanity.
In her time Chiara Lubich coined an expression which continues to be very timely: today – she said – “men-world” must be formed, men and women with the spirit, heart and mind of Jesus and, therefore, able to recognize and interpret the needs, the concerns and the hopes that shelter in every man’s heart.
Dear sisters and dear brothers, I hope that your Assembly will bear abundant fruits, and I thank you for your generous commitment. May Mary, our Mother, help you to walk always with confidence, with courage and with perseverance, with creativity, gratuitously and in communion with the whole Church, on paths of light and life traced by the Holy Spirit. I bless you and, please, I ask you to pray for me, because I need it. Thank you!