Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I have just returned from Rome where I spent the hardest and most beautiful week of my life…. As many of you know, the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich, concluded her earthly journey on March 14, 2008. I happened to be in Rome that day, at the conclusion of the tour which followed an interfaith workshop for a small group on “Love of Neighbor and the Legal Profession” held in Loppiano, the Focolare’s international community near Florence. So I received the enormous gift of being present for the wake at the Movement’s headquarters in Rocca di Papa, and for the funeral on March 18, held at the papal basilica St. Paul Outside the Walls.
The church was packed, with overflow crowds (the reports run from 20,000 to 40,000) following on big screens in the courtyard, and through internet and satellite links throughout the world.
Her coffin was adorned in the simplicity of three red carnations, in memory of the flowers she bought for a few cents to celebrate her consecration to God in 1943; and the open book of the Gospel, the guiding and revolutionary force for the beginning of the movement and throughout her life.
The message from Pope Benedict read by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during his homily captures the sentiments of gratitude that permeated every detail of the funeral: “There are many reasons for thanking the Lord for the gift given to the Church of this woman of intrepid faith, humble messenger of hope and peace, founder of a vast spiritual family that embraces many fields of evangelization. I would like to above all thank God for the service that Chiara has rendered to the Church: a both silent and incisive service, always in harmony with the teaching of the Church.”
Cardinal Bertone’s homily captured in a stunning way the heart of her life and her legacy: here is Zenit’s summary. I had the challenge of being in the translation booth when the Cardinal’s own voice started to crack as he quoted one of Chiara’s own poems: “When I arrive to your door and you ask me my name, I will not say my name, I will say my name is ‘thank you’, for everything and forever.”
If you’d like a taste of the atmosphere, here’s a snippet, and further coverage by Zenit. And at least for the moment the entire ceremony is up on the web and accessible. The first half an hour prior to the funeral includes tributes from representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities that were touched deeply by her work in interreligious dialogue, followed by moving messages from Greek Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican bishops. The parts I found especially moving were the witness of a Buddhist monk (on the counter at about 9:06); Cardinal Bertone’s homily (at 39:45); and the concluding good-byes (on the counter, 2 hrs and 2 minutes).
Together with hundreds of thousands of other people throughout the world, I have countless reasons to be thankful for the gift that Chiara's life was for the Church and for humanity, and now simply pray for the grace to be faithful to the profound legacy of life and love that she leaves, so as to continue her work toward the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “that all may be one.” Amy