Chiara Lubich's Address at International Marian Congress
Focolare Founder Presents "Way of Mary" as Model for Christians
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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, MAY 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt of Chiara Lubich's address on Monday at the international Marian congress here. The founder of the Focolare Movement described the "Way of Mary" as a model for a Christian's way of perfection.
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Since Mary is the prototype and form of the Church, it is evident that all Christians can find their model in this sublime creature. And so it was also with us. In fact, we discovered in Mary our form, the model of our way of perfection.
Although the different moments in her life as presented by the Gospel were extraordinary, they appeared to us as successive stages that we could keep in mind to find light and encouragement as we passed through the different moments of our spiritual life.
This clarification was so strong that we called our way the "Via Mariae," the "Way of Mary."
Here are some of the stages in a very brief synthesis, little more than headings.
The first event in Mary's life is the Annunciation (Luke 1:25), when the Word became flesh in her womb.
Looking at the lives of several saints, we can notice that something similar happened to them.
When people go to visit St. Damian's Church in Assisi, where Clare lived, the guide who explains that sacred place to them might sometimes say: "Here Christ became incarnate in the heart of Clare."
Although Clare of Assisi had been living already a fervent Christian life, her meeting with St. Francis, who was the personification of the word "poverty" for the world, through a charism of the Spirit, brought forth a new reality in her. It made Christ grow in her soul to the point of making her one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church.
Similarly, when people come face to face with the charism of unity and agree to make it their own, something similar to what happened in Mary and certain saints takes place in them. Christ, in their heart, can truly grow spiritually in fulfillment of the reality of baptism.
The second episode in Mary's life is her visit to Elizabeth. She went in order to help her. However, as soon as she arrived, having found in her relative a person who was open to the mysteries of God, she felt that she could share with her the great secret she had in her heart and she did so in the Magnificat, in this way narrating to Elizabeth her extraordinary experience.
All those who get to know the Movement and choose God as the ideal of their life realize that in order to translate this choice into concrete terms they must begin to love. And they do love. But love is a light, and understanding something of the action of God present within them, they perceive, for the first time, the golden thread of his love in their life. And they willingly tell what they have understood to their brothers and sisters. It's their experience.
The third event in Mary's life is the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25). In the Movement we love and we are loved in return because everyone wants to love.
This mutual love brings about the presence of Jesus among people. It is -- as I mentioned earlier -- a "generating of Christ," in imitation of Mary.
Mary presents her Son in the Temple and meets the old Simeon. It is a moment of joy for her, because this just and holy man confirms that her child is the Son of God.
At the same time though, it is a suffering. Simeon turns to her and says: "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35).
Those who want to live the spirituality of the Movement go through a similar experience.
It is when they come to know that in order to walk along this way, it is necessary to say "yes" to the cross. It is the announcement of the mystery of Jesus crucified and forsaken as being essential to the life of unity.
Quite soon after Simeon's warning, Mary suffers during the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13), undergoing a persecution that was marked by the blood of many innocent children.
To a certain extent, something similar happens to those who follow the Via Mariae. The ideal that they live and present to the world is in antithesis with the world. It is no wonder then that when they begin to spread this ideal, the first signs of opposition can appear. In those moments, they need to respond by loving Jesus forsaken, the victim of persecution par excellence, in these crosses so that the risen Lord may continue to shine forth in their heart.
When Jesus is 12 years old, he stops in Jerusalem to speak with the doctors in the Temple. When Mary finds him again, she says: "Son, why have you treated us so? Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" (Luke 2:48). And Jesus responds: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49).
This is a new step in Mary's life. We could compare her frame of mind in that moment with a typical period lived by those who follow our way. They become aware, perhaps after years, that various temptations, painful aridity, long since gone due to the effect of the charism they embraced, now resurface with acute insistence.
This makes them suffer and they turn to the Lord, saying: "Why have you left me?"
Then the Lord seems to answer them: "Did you not know that all the good and beautiful things that you experienced were mine, that you received them only out of pure grace?"
This lays the necessary foundations of humility so that Christ may live and grow in these persons. This period might be the so-called night of the senses which the mystics speak of.
Also for Mary, the loss of Jesus in the Temple was, in a certain way, a "night of the senses": She no longer saw him, she no longer heard his voice. His presence had been taken away from her mother's love.
After this trial, as far as we know, Mary lived a long period of intimate family life with Jesus.
Likewise, those who humbly accept and overcome the preceding stages and trials frequently find a new and deeper union with Jesus.
This period can last for a long time, even though crosses are not lacking.
Then Jesus begins his public life and Mary follows him in his mission with her heart, at times, also physically.
All this reminds the people of the Movement of that period in their spiritual life in which, having acquired the habit of listening to the voice of Jesus in their heart, they become keenly aware of it and they follow it.
During his public life, Jesus pronounced words of eternal life, he worked miracles, he formed the disciples and he founded the Church.
Persons of the Movement who have reached this point are involved in similar facts performed by Jesus who is present in them and in their midst. In them too, Jesus pronounces words which have the flavor of eternity.
Through them also, he works miracles of conversion, for example. His presence in them knows how to shape his disciples and thus to bring about new developments in the kingdom of God.
And now comes the hour of immolation for Mary. It is Mary desolate about whom we have already spoken.
In the Movement there are sufferings similar to those of Mary desolate. We have noticed in several members authentic signs of the "night of the spirit," when God permits the terrible trial of feeling abandoned by him, for example, or when faith, hope and charity seem to fade away.
And after the desolation? Mary is at the center of the Upper Room with all her maternal charism toward the apostles, beside Peter whom Jesus had constituted their head.
Mary no longer "follows" Jesus. Now, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, we can say that she is transformed into him. And as another Christ, she too contributes, in her own way, toward the spreading of the Church.
Those who live the spirituality of unity, proportions made, aim at reaching this goal, and they can indeed reach it. This would be the step which the mystics call the "transforming union," when the reality of Martha is joined to Mary: A very special activity for the good of the Church is united to a very special contemplation.
And finally, the Assumption, when God calls Mary to heaven. Only those who have experienced this event know what it is.
Before dying, St. Clare of Assisi said these words: "Go confidently, my soul, because you have a good companion for your journey. Go, because the One who has created you ... has sanctified you ... has loved you tenderly."
"Blessed are you, Lord," she added, "for having created me."
Perhaps she meant to say: because in creating me, you glorified yourself. We could even think that she died out of love.
May heaven grant that something similar, at least, may happen to us! Then we too will rise up to meet with our Mother, our saint, our model, she who on earth was our Head, Queen and Mother.
This is the Via Mariae, a journey which each one takes, although in different ways, depending on each one's response and on the graces that God freely bestows on whomever he wills.
[Translation of Italian original published at http://www.focolare.org/live.]