Thursday, February 22 2024

“Love conquers all”: these are the words that the founder of the Focolarini, Chiara Lubich (whose
hundredth birthday was celebrated in 2020) heard within herself in a moment
of prayer, in the midst of the bombings that were destroying her hometown
of Trent (Italy) during World War II.

Chiara Lubich.
L’amore vince tutto
(“Chiara Lubich. Love conquers all”) is now also the title of a film
dedicated to this incredible woman, directed by Giacomo Campiotti, director
also of Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue (“White as
silent, red as song” and of the series Braccialetti Rossi (“Red
Bracelets”). The film, broadcast in prime time on Rai 1, on January 3,
2021 was the most watched program that evening with over 5 million
viewers––not counting those who can keep watching it on RAI’s multimedia platform.

The movie’s plot

The film catapults us right away into a tried and tired Italy in
1943–– in the middle of World War II. Chiara is a schoolteacher, who loves
children, and is happy to be able to support her family with her salary in
a time of serious economic difficulty. But the situation becomes
much more serious when the Anglo-Americans begin bombing civilians in
Chiara’s hometown, causing deaths and injuries, leaving many children
orphaned, and destroying homes.

Chiara’s family decided to flee through the mountains, but she felt she had
to stay in the city to help those in need: the ill or injured, the orphans,
and all those who were in difficulty and unable to escape.

She chose to stay in an area at risk of being bombed, instead of saving
herself, driven by this conviction: that “love is the true engine of man”
and nothing can extinguish it. In her case, this certainty overpowers even
the fear of dying.

Chiara: one of the first consecrated women without a habit

Chiara consecrated her heart to God, and while remaining a laywoman, she
made a vow to belong only to Christ and to love her neighbour as her
brother in Christ, deciding to not marry or have children. One of the vows
she made was to remain in Trent, no matter what. A very touching scene in
the film is when she asks her father for his blessing to stay, instead of
leaving with them. He, though stunned, gives her his blessing, adding: “God
is lucky, if he can count on you.” Then they said goodbye, without knowing
if they’d ever see each other again.

Some of her friends, who had already been intrigued by her spirit of
service, followed her: they too decided to perform works of charity with
Chiara for the benefit of those who bore the brunt of the bombings’
aftermath.

A hearth that now warms the whole world

The “hearth” of these intrepid girls, which was born underground in a
bunker, with the Gospel in their hands and a lit candle, grew and became a
stronghold in the city, while outside everything was burning after the
bombings. It continued to grow over the years, from something that these
few girls didn’t intend to found – they just wanted only to love one another and
spread goodness- into one of the most widespread ecclesial movements in the
world. The strength and novelty of the charism is its unity. Chiara’s dream
is, in fact, that of Jesus: “That all may be one.”

Chiara really took a chance on love. She put her life on the line. She had
the courage to risk everything for what she believed in, and with her own
hands, she touched the concreteness of the Gospel, teaching even her friends to take it “literally.” When they have little, when food is scarce,
they would give what little they have. “Let’s try to simply do what Jesus
says: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,” she suggests. And
every time they are amazed to see how generous God is with them.


Chiara Lubich: the hostilities and the approval of the charism

Chiara’s movement will be later on examined by the Church since it is a major
phenomenon. As always, prudence is needed before granting the imprimatur on the new Lubich’s charism. Chiara’s life will be
investigated, and certainly she bore some unjustified “hostility” by the
ecclesiastical judges, hostility which surely existed but which is pictured
in a way a bit “too extreme” in the film. This is fiction’s limit. It
eliminates the grey area, and basically shows reality in black and white.

Chiara’s charism came at a time in history that was very different from
ours: As far as the Church is concerned, it is taking place prior to the Second
Vatican Council, an historical event that marked a greater and significant
openness not only to women, but to the laity in general, who were
previously seen as the people of God “to be led,” not leading. Back then,
the role of laity was different to that of today, as it is now recognized
and valued as much as the role of the clergy.

On these aspects, perhaps, the film is a bit too heavy-handed, but we have
to consider that it is describing a time with a quite different cultural
mindset. It is evident that, for narrative purposes, the hero “hindered by
all” is very charming and this helps to show the many prejudices against
Chiara as a woman, rendering her character even more attractive to the
general public. Today, this is a very sensitive issue in regard to women’s
rights.

Regarding women’s emancipation, we believe that Chiara is truly a wonderful
example today.


Chiara: the case of a woman who dedicated her life to serving others

Chiara did not take part in rallies or protests, she did not sign laws,
create slogans or propaganda, yet with her own life she demonstrated the
inestimable value of women, the strength that dwells in their souls, the
beauty of using one’s talents to serve the community, thus changing its
destiny.

In her life, Chiara consoled widows, fed the poor, clothed and comforted
the needy, gave hope to those drowning their sorrows in wine, and cared for
orphaned children. And she did it in a unique, special way, with such
kindness––with the tenderness of a woman.

In a word, Chiara loved. Now, isn’t this what gives purpose to our days?

And how can we not think, looking at her, of

another homonymous figure of our days, of whom we have spoken in our
portal,

Chiara Corbella
?

Although in different ways, both have changed hearts and “given” life.

Both have shown just how much women enrich this world of ours.

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