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: www.sacroprofano.net), 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