Tuesday 24 January 2023

Chiara Lubich Servant of Unity - Jim Gallagher - CTS Biography

Chiara Lubich: Servant of Unity
CTS Biographies
Jim Gallagher
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784690786
eISBN 9781784694838
CTS Booklet B764

Over the last 5 years I have reviewed over 330 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. I stumbled upon them while researching works by a specific author. And I love these books and booklets. All the biographies in across a few series series have the CTS Booklet B### format. I loved the books in the CTS Biographies and have read over 75 to date; this is the second from Jim Gallagher. I have enjoyed all of these books and booklets and have benefited from reading them. This volume is another excellent read, in a wonderful series! 

The description of the book is:

“Jim Gallagher tells the powerful story of the founder of the Focolare movement, who dedicate their lives to the poor and the unity of all people.

As a teenager on pilgrimage to Loreto at the start of the Second World War, Chiara Lubich had a premonition of a “whole host” of other young women who would follow her way of total dedication to God. Today the movement she began – the Work of Mary, commonly known as the Focolare – is present on every continent on earth. Encouraged by every Pope since Pius XII, they seek to be a presence of Mary in the Church and the world, and to live and realise Our Lord’s final priestly prayer; “May they be one Father, as I am in You and You are in Me”.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

A Precious Spiritual Legacy
“I will be your teacher”
Finding Companions
Creating Unity
The Little House
Invitation to Rome
From the City to the Mountains and back
First Focolarino Priest
Another Day, Another Soul
Always a Woman Leader
A Wider Community
Steps prepared for us by God’s love

I highlighted several passages during my first read of this book. Some of them are:

“And at that funeral Mass, celebrated by four cardinals, forty bishops and several hundred priests, thousands of people clamoured to pay tribute to this unassuming woman who had inspired them to follow God ever more closely. With the basilica full to capacity, the crowds gathered outside could follow the ceremony on giant video screens normally used at large papal events. Around the world, many thousands of gatherings were held to follow events on the live internet link - up and satellite broadcasts.”

“The reigning pontiff at the time, Pope Benedict XVI, sent his Secretary of State to celebrate Chiara’s funeral Mass. The cardinal also read out a personal message sent by the Pope himself. So many are the reasons for giving thanks to God for the gift given to the Church in this woman of dauntless faith, a gentle messenger of hope and of peace, the foundress of a vast spiritual family which encompasses multiple fields of evangelisation.”

“Chiara remembered that from the age of six, probably as she began being prepared for her First Holy Communion, she began praying intensely before the Eucharist. Gazing at the tabernacle or at the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, she would pray, “ Lord, you who are light and warmth, enter me through my eyes. ” For the rest of her life she would nurture a burning devotion to Jesus present in the Eucharist and she would do much of her studying and her writing on her knees before the tabernacle.”

“About five minutes later this young woman came in. I realised that her whole demeanour was in fact the complete opposite of mine. Who was she ? I was struck by a harmony about her which was even reflected in her dress. As people were arriving and we were waiting for the start of the day, I sat and watched her.”

“I was transported. I felt as if I was being lifted up - right into the heart of God. Everything in my life was being turned upside down and a great love of God was being awakened in me.”

“It was playtime for the children, and Chiara told me to stay with her for a while to have a chat. Although she was completely available to me, I could see that she was still attentive to the children running around. As different children would come up to her to show her something, or ask a question, or just for a hug, you could see that she loved each one of them equally.”

“I asked her why she could not teach this to the whole world. “ Yes,” she said, “the world is waiting. We won’t preach it - we have to witness to it. If we can live this moment by moment, if we can live like Jesus would live, the world will believe.””

“The increasing number of young women who were drawn to Chiara were living through the worst days of the Second World War for the city of Trent. From one moment to the next they could see their homes destroyed, their friends and loved ones annihilated. They came to realise that there had to be more to life, something permanent, transcendent even; their Ideal; God.”

“The women were stupefied. The very Son of God experienced being abandoned by God the Father; all for love of us, to accomplish our salvation. From that moment on Chiara and the ever - growing group of young women would do everything for Jesus Forsaken. Indeed, being part of the Body of Christ, they would somehow live in Jesus Abandoned.”

“When asked for a name of their group, Chiara said they were merely Christians trying to live in unity like the Holy Family. They became known as the focolarine, that is, those who gathered around the hearth. The group and later the large movement became, and is still nicknamed, the Focolare, that is the fireside, the hearth of a home.”

“The page of Unity is for everyone. For me and for all those in the front line of Unity, Jesus Forsaken is our everything.”

“His perception of the twenty - eight - year - old Chiara at that first meeting was that she was someone “who put holiness within reach of everyone. She tore down the grille which separated the world of the laity from the mystical life. She rendered God near, she caused people to discover him as father, brother, friend, present to humanity.””

““ Her answer hit me like a ton of bricks,” recalled Pasquale, “because in that instant I understood that in order to have the Eucharist you had to have the priesthood, the hierarchy. I understood then that you could not separate the Church from Christ. I realised also that we are all Church. It was not ‘the Church ’ that had to change, or ‘the others’ that had to change. I had to change. I had to start a new life.””

“Various restrictions were put in place during those ten years of investigation. Chiara might not speak in public. For some time she could not even have contact with her young male focolarini who were studying for the priesthood. Eli remembered, half a century later, that Chiara was never actually called in to the Holy Office to be questioned. The officials always came to see her, at her residence. They always left in tears, moved by the simplicity, limpidity and evident holiness of this young woman.”

“Pope Pius XII died in 1958. It turned out that he had left a note regarding the Focolare and his wish to see it officially approved. After discussion at the Italian Bishops’ Conference in 1960, Pope St John XXIII appointed a papal commission to oversee the process of fully integrating the movement into the structures of the Church. Once the commission had completed its task, Pope St John XXIII officially and publicly approved the Focolare Movement on 23rd March 1962. All restrictions on its public activities were lifted.”

“Again in Stuttgart, in 2007, another Together for Europe day was held. It produced a type of manifesto. Known as the Stuttgart Message, it comprised a seven - fold Yes: Yes to life; Yes to the family; Yes to creation; Yes to a just economy; Yes to solidarity; Yes to peace; Yes to our responsibility towards the whole of society.”

This is an absolutely fascinating little read. I knew nothing about Chiara or the Focolare Movement when I began this book. It is an excellent introduction to this Servant of God, her life, and her ongoing influence. It is a very accessible read. It will encourage, surprise and challenge readers of all ages. 

I hope those few quotes above will inspire you to pick up this excellent volume and give it a read. It seems every time I read a book from the Catholic Truth Society I find 2 or three others I want to read. I added a few of Gallagher’s other volumes to my to be read pile, after finishing this the first of his I read and have 2 more to go. I have an ever growing wish list of eBooks, books in print, and books out of print from the Catholic Truth Society I want to track down. I greatly enjoyed reading this volume. I learned several things about this woman and the Focolare. This is another excellent read, in a great series. Like the previous volume from Gallagher this book is very well written, and leaves me wanting to find the others from this author in the series. It is another great Biography from the Catholic Truth Society. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Jim Gallagher:
Padre Pio: The Pierced Priest
Mother Teresa – The Life of the famous “Saint of Calcutta”
John Paul II: The Road to Sainthood
Serving the Young: Our Catholic Schools Today
Our Schools and Our Faith: A Pastoral Concern and Challenge

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

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