In June 2022 New City has published the book ‘Unity – A View From Chiara Lubich’s Paradise ‘49’. This in-depth study, to which many have contributed, will help one understand the meaning of unity, the core of the Focolare spirituality.
If “unity is the specific characteristic of the Focolare Movement”, then it is called to question itself on its patrimony and on how to develop it with creativity and faithfulness. How can the Focolare communities, the “Word of Life” groups live unity today? How can they walk bravely and freely on a road that avoids authoritarianism and individualism, and allows full development of personal gifts and the pursuit of common goals? How can they walk along the difficult path of communion, that needs to safeguard its legitimate autonomy and search for identity and acceptance, integration and openness to diversity? This subject concerns the entire Focolare Movement, but Chiara Lubich’s legacy is much broader: unity concerns the ecclesial world and also relationships between people of different religions, cultures, nations…
The Focolare Movement entrusted the Abba School with a study about all this. In 1990 the Abba School, a Centre of interdisciplinary study made up of 30 experts, was established. The purpose of the Abba School is to explore and discover the effects of the charism of unity in a range of disciplines.
The members of the Abba School have studied this topic of Unity for some time, basing it on Chiara Lubich’s experience during the years 1949-1951, and the fruit of this work is this current book.
The book is divided into three parts. The first section offers a general outlook on unity from a biblical, theological and spiritual point of view. Chiara’s writings are marked by both their depth and luminosity. They show the divine logic of a God, whose interior is not to be thought of as One in which differences disappear, but on the contrary: God is One precisely because he is infinite multiplicity, a dynamic reflected in creation. As Chiara wrote, the Father says ‘love’ in infinite tones, to show the extraordinary richness through which He manifests his infinite love.
The second part of the book presents texts from Paradise ’49 that highlight fundamental intuitions on unity, thus shedding light on writings or practices that the wear of time or inactive repetition may have rendered incomprehensible or unacceptable. Does the life of unity require the annulling of one’s own personality, or does it require the unreserved gift of self, following the logic of God’s life that leads one to ‘run the risk’ of ‘losing’ one’s own life? What does to live ‘in the manner of the Trinity’ mean? Does unity imply putting everyone on the same level or is it rather the manifestation of plurality?
An inexact understanding of expressions such as ‘losing’, ‘dying’, ‘annulling oneself’ that can lead to misunderstandings and derivations are addressed with clarity, and the fruitfulness of a demanding, total love that leads to full self-realisation is highlighted. Chiara affirms that each one of us has a distinct, unmistakable personality, which is the word God pronounced when he created us.
So, unity appears dynamic, constantly evolving, creative; it emerges as something that needs everyone’s input, and that respects one and all. Hence, Chiara’s unique and unrepeatable contribution, as a foundress and an instrument of the charism, is understood.
The third part of the book speaks about different disciplines that receive inspiration relevant to their specific fields from the writings of Paradise ’49. This last part is the one that required a more methodological approach. Since the language of Paradise ’49 is predominantly religious in nature, the question arose of how to write an interdisciplinary book around a multifaceted word – unity – without the risk of speaking about different things and misuse of language. If a Movement and a spirituality that define itself as one “of unity” gives rise to social expressions and academic contributions in the most diverse fields, this means that there is a common denominator, a starting point and a basic foundation that makes it possible for everyone to recognise a common horizon in unity, even though they work in different fields and express themselves in the specific language of their own discipline. In this book there is only space to explore a few intuitions in some fields of social life and thought that will require further development.
This book is the fruit of a gradual process of work carried out by the Abba School. It began around 2017, and for more than two years, Paradise ’49 was read in the light of this specific theme. The twelve contributions are signed by the respective authors, who retained their own specific style, expertise and methodology. At the same time, it is the fruit of communion lived by the whole group; a way of working that requires an exercise in ‘unity’ – in keeping with the theme itself! It has not always been easy to welcome and understand the other in his or her diversity, due to the fact that the authors come from different countries, have different scientific backgrounds and specific disciplinary and methodological fields.
The book limits itself to only some of the pages of Paradise ’49. Therefore, one cannot claim that it exhausts such a vast and demanding theme, though thanks to its depth it offers already great insights which will require subsequent development.