Sunday, March 21, 2010

Focolare Movement - Part two: some hints to the organization of the structure

Published by Uyulala On 16 Mar 2008

In this second part I am using the article published on the blog “clero fobia”, modifying it slightly. I noticed, in fact, that some parts might not be clear to those who know absolutely nothing about the Focolare Movement. If you are curious, moreover, you can comment the articles, keeping in mind that since the time that I went away I had nothing to do with them and do not know about the changes, if any, which might have been modified the structure and organization.In the meantime, I met my first boyfriend (I was not 16 years old yet) who became, after a few years, my first husband. That boy was atheist and this caused many problems to me, but I think that I myself gave him too many troubles. Anyway, I am going to talk about this later.Here I would like to talk a bit about the structure, the backbone of the movement.So, GEN: A group of young members was called UNIT, but in the case of the pre-GEN, of course, was called pre-unit. In both cases, they were coordinated by an older member, who was not necessarily older by age, but she/he must have had a longer experience in the movement. This person was called "pivot" because it was to this person that the others had to refer. He/she was also called "white": I am going to explain why later.

This was what we were told during our “journey”. The "white" also belonged to a special unit, which was called "the white unit": it was made up of young people who had this role within other units or pre-units. The coordinator of all the Gen was a focolarino (or focolarina, according to the sex of the person of persons), who was responsible for the GEN movement. As for the structure of the movement, I would say that is organized in fractions: it is made up of many small groups of people, coordinated by the “whites”, coordinated by groups of whites, coordinated by the focolarini who are headed by a “white”, belonging to a group headed by a local coordinator, headed by a national coordinator, led by continent coordinators who are, ultimately, led by the central focolare: Chiara’s focolare.

Furthermore, the groups of whites, as well as being coordinated by the focolare, are part of a local group called "Rainbow Unit" (I am going to try to explain the special "esoteric” meaning, which the colors assume in the spirituality of the movement ). Honestly, I do not remember at all what were the other structures of the movement.However, this organization was a typical feature of all sectors of the movement. In addition to the focolarini and the GEN movement, there are the so called “volunteers”, who are people who live the spirituality wherever they are: they are usually male and female workers who are particularly involved in the society. They are also divided into small groups. Also, there are groups made up of families, which are nota s involved as the others in the movement and, I believe, the only mixed group (male and females together) because husband and wife participate together.

The Gen are divided by age: there are the Gen 2, approximately aged between 15-16 years until they have organized their social life (with a job, a marriage or a religious choice ). The Gen 3 are aged between 8 and 13-14 years, the Gen 4 from their birth until they are about 8 years.
The Focolarini are the very soul of the Focolare movement. They are people who have expressed the three monastic vows (chastity, poverty and obedience). They live in small groups called "Focolare" and they do not wear a uniform or anything external in clothing or accessories in order to be recognizable by everybody. They usually have a job that allows them to support themselves, but when they do not have it, they are supported by the movement itself. They are subject to move, as well as it happens in every monastic order, and they can be asked to change their life completely in just a few days, sometimes moving to the opposite side of the planet.

Another particular aspect of the movement is the existence of married focolarini. These are people who have made the three monastic vows but have the vow of chastity related to their marital status. As I said in another post, the difference between a vow and an obligation is linked to the fact that breaking a vow is a sacrilege, while not following an obligation may be a sin and nothing else. These are very closet o the focolare, but, and I guess you can easily understand why, they do not live with the “virgin” focolarini. Usually, married focolarini have to deal with the families of the movement. Although by the organization is always stressed that married focolarini are not to be considered "focolarini Series B", I noticed that in fact this is exactly what happened, because living in absolute chastity is considered the perfect application of the love of God.

People with children insist their children attend the focolare practically since birth, bringing them up by following strictly the spirituality of the movement.There is, finally, the whole group of people who belong to the clergy. Anyone can be part of a religious congregation and ALSO of the movement. It is not hard to believe that, among other things, some important prelates are closely linked to the movement itself.For all categories, there is a similar path, in stages, during which people learn very gradually about issues related to spirituality, to life, to the structural characteristics of the movement. A feature of this graduality, among other things, is to learn to keep secret the information learnt. With these writings I am knowingly violating a commitment made many years ago.

Focolarini, volunteers, Gen, Gens (gen who are going to become priests), religious people and families are part of the inner structure of the movement. Around them, there are many other people, whose role is extremely variable. I remember that when I was part of the movement we were encouraged to keep the structural pattern of the movement secret. The writings and conversations of Chiara invited us to take these matters confidential. She often used very elegant metaphors. About this, for example, she said that the structure of the movement was like the skeleton of the human body or the trunk and branches of a tree: it was useless to show the skeleton because what you must see is the whole human body, or the tree with its leaves, flowers and fruits.
In this way, as well as for many other things, we were kindly asked not to share with strangers many aspects of life within the movement, with the result that the members we tightly linked to one another, and were strengthening more and more. We, instead, were separated little by little from the “others”, those who did not share our experience and the ideal. In fact we were to build invisible (but very solid) barriers between who was inside the movement and who was not.

After a long period, this would have had a devastating effect on members.


Translated by Laryssa from the original article at Movimento dei focolari – Seconda Parte: alcuni accenni dell’organizzazione della struttura

written by Uyulala

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Focolare Movement: my experiences in it. Part 1

Published by Uyulala On 15 Mar 2008

I am adding to this blog, little by little, a series of articles that I posted about two years ago in the blog “clero fobia” (now moved to this address:, hoping to continue the long (very long) story that I had stopped, due to “patience run out”. I wrote these articles very long before Chiara Lubich died and I intend to keep the tones used two years ago.

Ever since I was a little girl, as I have already told you elsewhere, I had a kind of "natural religion" which was derived from Christianity but, as I realized in retrospect, had little to do with it. My troubles about dealing with my parents and particularly my mother made me rather fragile and very needy of love. What happened was that during the second year of high school – between the age of 15 and 16 - one of my classmates invited me to an event organized by GEN, the youth branch of the Focolare Movement. It was a sort of meeting held in the town theater, and it was organized so that boys and girls belonging to the movement mixed involving personal experiences and catchy songs. The thing that struck me particularly was the joyful and peaceful expression of these guys and the fact that we spoke a lot about love. This obviously caught me instantly because those words, their strong experiences, those songs were exactly what I needed in that period.

Furthermore, (now it makes me laugh, but then it made me feel very ashamed) on the stage, among the youth who told about their experience, there was a wheat-blond boy, who had "angelic" blue eyes ... So, I asked Cristina, my classmate, how I could subscribe to that group or association, and Cristina, in an enigmatic way, told me not to worry: there was no subscription, and, since I had left my data, they would have contacted me.

After a short time, the kind voice of a girl called me, inviting me to attend a more “restricted” meeting. She gave me the address of an apartment which, incidentally, was so close to my house, that I could go there walking. I have always been punctual and so I was on that occasion: I was one of the first people arriving at the meeting. I waited anxiously to see the young man with the hair of the color of wheat, but in vain: the meeting was only attended by girls. When I realized that, I felt a little bit guilty about my thoughts, I brushed them away and started participating actively in that meeting. During the meeting, we were given the lyrics of their songs and sang altogether. Some of the older girls told their experiences, and invited us to do the same afterwards. I overcame my usual shyness, and spoke several times.

During the meeting, I read it with "religious attention," the "Word of Life." I still remember one of those first meetings: "By your endurance, you will gain your souls." The “word of life” is a phrase which is mostly taken from the gospel, but sometimes from the Acts of the Apostles, which Chiara Lubich, the founder of the movement, said every month. It is printed on a flyer along with her comment, and distributed both to the people who are part of the movement and to those who show interest.

The members of the movement are required to follow the “word of life” of the month and are invited to tell their experiences they gained by living that phrase of the Gospel at the end of the period. We were all invited to attend the meetings of the movement regularly, once a week, and I enthusiastically joined this initiative. During the meetings we got to know, little by little, some episodes of the life of Chiara Lubich: she was born in Trentino, she experienced the war, she discovered that the Gospel and single phrases taken from the Gospel could be lived day by day, etc. I was fascinated by that environment: they were all so kind and thoughtful, all ready, for example, to leave the most comfortable chair to you and then sit on the floor.

They were all smiling and ecstatic, gesturing with characteristic movements, and all very similar. They really seemed to care about me when I spoke and I was feeling taken into great consideration. In the meantime, I discovered, with disappointment (which cost me more feelings of guilt) than in the Focolare Movement, we met divided by gender: women attending the female focolare and males meeting at the male one. The situations in which there might be a joint meeting were sporadic and mostly limited to public meetings. However, when I asked why all this, I was told it was a choice that dated back to long ago and it was made because we needed not to be “deconcentrated" while following the path of spirituality.

At that point, I accepted as a "good thing" that separation between the sexes and that attention to "purity”, which I later found very heavy... On the other hand, I was wondering why my classmate Cristina was not attending those meetings, and when I asked her this question, she answered evasively. One day at school, she told me in an enigmatic way and with a satisfied smile, that there was a surprise for me, but despite my insistence she did not tell me much. That week I went to the meeting, and at the end of it, the “coordinator” of the group called me and other 4 girls and asked us if we wanted to attend “deeper” meetings. I felt a "chosen one" and I said “yes” with enthusiasm.

I began to attend closer meetings, I think we were about 6 girls and a "coordinator", who was a girl who had more years of experience in the ranks of the movement. What happened since then was characterized by a slow and gradual indoctrination, and an equally slow and gradual discovery of the structure of the movement, of its organization, spirituality and logistics. We were told things very slowly, and there was never a new issue before we had learnt the previous one.

The youth movement is called the Gen Movement, an acrostic meaning “new generation”, and members called themselves GEN (I think that they still do it). Without being aware of it, I became what was called a pre-GEN, i.e. a person who began to get into the movement and who would have become a Gen. It was a journey that lasted an average of 2 years, but it could be shortened or lengthened, depending on the time when the people from the movement decided that I was sufficiently mature to make that step.


Translated by Laryssa from the original article at Movimento dei focolari: le mie esperienze al suo interno. Prima parte
written by Uyulala

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chiara Lubich was called Silvia

Published by Uyulala

I was part of the Focolare Movement. I met Chiara Lubich, who died at her house, a cottage in Rocca di Papa. I was part of that movement from the age of 15 to the age of 23-24 years.

I remember the reverence we had (and, I assume, many more people have right now) for her. I remember the Congress in January, when I was still part of the movement. I remember the meetings in January, which took place at the convention center of Rocca di Papa, or Sassone, males and females strictly separated. I remember when Chiara came to read one of her spiritual conversations. Then, for a short period of time, males and females were mixed and we huddled trying to stay as close as possible to the stage, hoping to be able to make eye contact with her or to be dedicated a fleeting smile. I remember that we were running, when she was coming out of the conference center where we were, we were running to greet her.

In that period I was feeling "split". On the one hand, I wished I became like all the other Gen, and this pushed me to behave and to "feel" some kind of emotion, but on the other hand a strange feeling of detachment led me to wonder: why all this?

Why so much idolatry toward a person? For it was not love or simple admiration. We adored that woman. I could feel it in the way everybody, me included, prounounced her name, in the flash of light that enlightened the people who had had the chance to interact with her.

Everything had to be filtered through her "spirituality." There could be nothing outside of it, nothing but what, in one way or another, could be finally linked to that. Any kind of freedom was denied, and you were kindly invited to give it personally up. And we did it with a smile, offering the pain of those "cuts" to Jesus on the cross.

Chiara's real name was Silvia. She chose her name in the occasion of her original and unusual consecration. This is a common act to many forms of consecration by which you let what is on earth to take a different identity.

My experience of the Focolare Movement has given me deep wounds that I had to treat in many years and which probably have not yet healed. But there is one thing I learnt: I have finally learnt that never, for no reason at all, I may consider another human being on earth as an emissary, a spokesman or prophet of any god, nor as Guru or teacher. And this is the only thing I can be truly and deeply grateful to Chiara: she has been my vaccine.

Now you're back Silvia. I am sorry for those who will be horrified by my words but I am deeply convinced that now you, Silvia, you will know how many mistakes are being made in the name of a spirituality which was exclusively yours. And how much bad is hidden in the folds of the word "good."


Translated by Laryssa from the original article at
written by Uyulala