This month, a book Chiara Lubich: Essential Writings, which contains the essence of this charism, has been published. Sally McAllister presents it to New City readers.
[New City Magazine – April 2007]
Throughout the history of the Church, outstanding figures, renowned for the holiness of their life and the originality of their thought, have made their mark on the development of Christian spirituality. One such person in our own age is Chiara Lubich.
As World War II raged through Europe, sweeping away the dreams and hopes of her generation, Chiara recognized in the passing of all, that God alone remains, and so she decided to make God the Ideal of her life. She saw beyond the exterior events of the war and addressed the inner damage done by the destruction of ideals. This vision gave answers to the search for meaning at the heart of each person.
From the 1950s onwards Chiara Lubich has produced an impressive array of published work, with many titles going into a number of editions and languages. Her spiritual insights have inspired academics, theologians, sociologists and politicians of diverse persuasions to apply her thoughts and teachings in their own field of endeavour with far reaching results.
In Essential Writings we have an excellent anthology of texts which shows the original and contemporary nature of her writings, as well as her faithfulness to the Christian tradition. The book is attractively presented and comes in a paper or hard back edition.
A New Culture for today
Compiled and edited by Michel Vandeleene, the book is divided into three main parts. In the first part, ‘Mysticism for the Third Millennium’, we have a presentation of the origins and originality of the spirituality of unity which underpins the Focolare Movement. It highlights its communitarian nature and the characteristics of this new way of giving one’s life to God.
The second part, ‘A New Look at Faith’, examines what this spirituality means in its essence and how it can be lived by all. Beginning with the vocation of every person to be love, it concludes by looking at the impact of this way of living in the creation of a new culture for today.
Part three, ‘Reflections of Light upon the World’, draws out the implications of this culture. In this section we find an alternative approach to an enormous range of topics, from theology, philosophy, economics and politics, to the world of the family, young people, women, the arts and communications. Chiara demonstrates how to generate constructive dialogue based on Gospel values. This is both timely and extremely relevant in our 9/11 world when the spectre of global terrorism hangs over us all.
Rowan Williams’ insight
The Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, once described spirituality as what happens when ‘faith goes bowling alone’. This is certainly not spirituality as Chiara Lubich intends it. In this book, which is subtitled ‘Spirituality, Dialogue and Culture’, we see spirituality as the expression of a Gospel-inspired way of living which affects every aspect of life, a point which is underlined by Rowan Williams in his very fine introduction to the book.
Archbishop Rowan Williams is admired by many people beyond the Anglican Communion who recognise him as a man of wisdom and insight with a deeply spiritual nature. Reading his introduction to Essential Writings, one has the impression that he has truly grasped what lies at the heart of this spirituality. He highlights the essential elements of the spirituality, drawing out their theological worth and he shows the practical application of the spirituality in ‘the complex world of public policy and rhetoric’. It would be worth buying the book for the introduction alone! Yet, of course there is so much more. Williams’ introduction is a gentle way in to this very deep but very beautiful book. It also provides an ecumenical key which will be of insight for all, and not only for those non-Roman Catholic readers he addresses when he refers to the role of Mary in Chiara’s exposition. The wisdom and insight with which this introduction has been written will make it extremely helpful to Catholics too.
This book is most certainly of value to readers beyond the confines of the Focolare Movement, though it should be the treasured possession of every one of its members. It has value because in an age where people flounder in an uncertain sea of confused doctrines, it is a font of deep, spiritual insight and solid theological teaching. It is contemporary and upbeat in its style, but completely orthodox in its presentation of the Christian message. It provides the reader with a treasure house to dip into randomly for spiritual nourishment or to meditate on in a more systematic fashion.
This is a book to give to those many people who are looking for ‘something more’, something which can speak to the hearts, minds and souls of lay people, clergy and religious, dealing with the age old mysteries of faith, in a contemporary manner.
In time this book will be recognised as a true spiritual classic so it is also time to give your self a gift. Treat yourself to the extremely economical hard-back edition of Essential Writings. The price of this book, in both hard and paper back, of over 400 pages, is considerably less than similar volumes because it has been supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Some thirty years ago in 1977 the Templeton Foundation awarded Chiara Lubich the ‘Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion’. This was the first public recognition of this work of the Holy Spirit and was, undoubtedly, a prophetic sign of the future direction the Focolare Movement would take in dialogue among Christians, with believers from other Faiths and with the many men and women throughout the world who wish to live for unity, while professing no religious belief.
I would like to conclude by quoting Chiara’s note to the readers, which is published at the beginning of the book. In it she makes a distinction between the gift she has been given and her own person. This note has the quality of a spiritual testament and underlines the humility of the instrument God used to bring this work about and the greatness of the gift she received which is for people of ‘every age, race, faith and culture’.
‘If my words in this book have any value, it is to be attributed to the charism that the goodness of God wished to entrust to me: a gift of the Spirit which by its nature, as other similar gifts poured out on the human race, is meant to be given to everyone in the world who wishes to receive it.
I hope that some glimmer of his light and some gleam of true love issuing from him may give a new impetus to those who have already received its benefits, and touch, illuminate, spur on, comfort, guide to noble goals, men and women of our times, of every age, race, faith, and culture.’
If you can only buy one book this year, make sure it is Essential Writings.