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 have been an immense blessing to me personally.
This translation has been revised and edited by Focolare member, and ACT3 Network board member, Tom Masters. Tom is also editorial director for New City Press, the publishing house for the Focolare in the United States. The first edition of the pope’s address that I posted earlier today had some inaccuracies that Tom has now graciously corrected. An “official” translation from Italian has not yet been offered by the Vatican.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you all, who make up the General Assembly of The Work of Mary, and seek to live it fully inserted in the Church of “today.” 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 those who work most closely with her my 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 to every human person, beginning with the poorest and those who are excluded, and to make humanity’s journey toward unity grow with hope, fraternity, and joy.
The Work of Mary – known by everyone as the Focolare Movement – was born in the heart of the Catholic Church from a small seed that, over the years, has generated a tree that 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 flows 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’s prayer: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
Our thought turns with great affection and gratitude to Chiara Lubich, an extraordinary witness of this gift, who in her fruitful life introduced the fragrance of Jesus’ presence to so many human realities and to so many parts of the world. Faithful to the charism from which it was born and by 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 present three ideas to you, who belong to the Focolare Movement and to those who, 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 (see Jn 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 pass together through the Door (see Jn 10:9), which takes us into the bosom of the Father (see Jn 1:18), because “authentic contemplation always has a place for others” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 281). If it does not, it is narcissism.
Inspired by God in response to the signs of the times, Chiara Lubich wrote: “This is the great attraction of modern times; to penetrate to the highest contemplation while mingling with everyone, one person alongside others” (Essential Writings 169). To put this into effect, it is necessary to widen one’s inner life to the measure of Jesus and of the gift of His Spirit, to make contemplation the indispensable condition to act effectively, in solidarity with others, an action that 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 heartfelt desire for communion and unity that the Holy Spirit has called forth in 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 of himself completely on the wood of the cross. We must learn from Him, from Jesus, this “drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 21), to communicate the love of God generously to all, with respect and, as the Gospel teaches us: “You received without payment; give without payment.” (Mt 10:8). This sense of gratuitousness: because the Redemption was accomplished in gratuitousness. The forgiveness of sins cannot be “paid for.” Christ “paid” for it once and for all! We must put into action 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 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 perspective! And to do this, we must “go [forth] to Him” with courage “outside the camp, bear[ing] the abuse He endured” (Heb 13:13). He awaits us in the trials and groaning of our brothers and sisters, in the wounds of society and in the questions of contemporary culture. One is sick at heart when, before a Church, before a humanity with so many wounds, moral wounds, existential wounds, wounds of war, which we all feel every day, to see Christians beginning to engage in philosophical, theological and spiritual “Byzantinisms,” instead of in a spirituality that goes out. To go out with this spirituality: not to stay shut-in within our four walls. This is not good. This is “Byzantinism”! Today we have no right to such Byzantine reflection. We must go out! Because – I have said it other times – the Church resembles a field hospital. And when one goes to a field hospital, the first task is to cure the wounds, not to check the cholesterol levels … 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 “the home and school of communion” (see. n. 43), and you took this order seriously. As the Gospel requires, 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 for 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 – “world men and women” 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 reside in every person’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!
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT, revised by T. Masters]