Chiara Lubich was the first of four children born into a poor family in Trent, Italy. She was born on January 22, 1920. From the beginning the townspeople could see leadership qualities in young Chiara, as well as a compassion for others. These virtues followed her through grade school, high school and college and she returned in the early forties to impart her wisdom to the young children as an elementary school teacher. But it was not an easy time for the Nazis had invaded her village and war was a harsh reality. Rather than being bitter, she turned to the Gospel and rallied a group of women in her neighborhood to live the Gospel, turning their lives over to God to help others.
Under her astute supervision the Focalare movement came into being in 1943. The name is taken from the Italian word for "hearth" to signify the warmth of a home and family. And that is what Chiara wanted to preserve in the midst of all the poverty and tragedies of the war that had left Trent in such ruin. Daily families were forced into air raid shelters in hopes of escaping harm's way and it was here that Chiara ministered to the people with love. She would bring the bible with her and share passages of Sacred Scripture with all, Christian and non-Christian alike. From this evolved an opportunity to share with children, youth and adults of all walks of life, rich and poor, the dignity of man as God intended.
Her work during the war is legendary in Trent and after the war she met with Igino Giordani, a member of the Italian Parliament, who was also a writer and journalist. Giordani wrote about the Focalare movement and introduced her to the Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi who felt not only in Italy, but also throughout Europe the task was daunting but Chiara was not daunted and vowed to help as many people as she could materially, morally and spiritually. The next year she established in the Dolomite Mountains, a favorite vacation place of Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, a community where people from all over Europe could come during the summer to learn the meaning of the Focalare movement and how they could be living examples of the Gospel in their own communities based on trust and mutual love for all. Hate, greed and jealousy had no place in the vocabulary or actions of a member of Focalare. Over the years this first small "city" in the Dolemite Mountains mushroomed to "mini cities" throughout the world, called "Mariapolises" which means "mini cities" but could also be translated to "cities of Mary" the Mother of God for it is her Divine Son's Gospel Message that is the heart of the Focalare Movement.
It wasn't long before Lubich's movement became models for a new humanity. Growing out of this in later years with less emphasis on spirituality and more on material aid has been Habitat for Humanity. But it was the purity of the Focalare movement that allowed it to spread. Chiara leaned heavily on Christ's words in Matthew 18: 20, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in their midst" and "May they all be one. As You, Father, are in Me and I Am in You; may they also be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me" from John 17: 21. Unity and spirituality were the watchword with the image of a special coin minted for the group which depicted unity through the Cross of Christ. On one side is the word "unity" and on the other "Jesus Crucified and Forsaken. The thickness of the coin contains all the words of scripture put into practice. The reasoning behind this coin concept was that Christ paid the price for all of us and showed us all the path to unity through His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.
Outside of Italy, the first "New Humanity Movement" occurred in Budapest, Hungary when Soviet tanks invaded that country in 1956. Lubich went into action, sending out an appeal that produced numerous volunteer men and women to help and to press for Human Rights for all. Three years later in the first Mariapolis in the Dolomites, Chiara invited a group of European polticians to shed their nationalistic tendencies and go beyond their own borders in reaching out to other nations with the same kind of love they showed their own homeland.
The next year Chiara took Focalare behind the iron curtain to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Rumania, Russia, Yugoslavia and Poland where a young Bishop Karol Wojtyla first came in contact with this movement while teaching at the Polish Academy of Sciences. What Chiara was promoting was close to his heart for, like her, he had lived through the war and experienced the poverty and suffering. He would remember the importance of Focalare and its ecumenical message of love when he became Pope some thirty years later.
Until 1960 the movement had attracted mostly Catholics but it was in the Fall of that year that a group of Lutheran ministers invited Lubich to Germany to share with them the spiritual experiences and if it would work with their congregations. Chiara showed them how it would and through this ideal of unity the Focalare movement quickly began catching on in non-Catholic churches.
In 1962 Pope John XXIII gave Papal Approval to the Movement much to the joy and gratitude of its foundress Chiara Lubich, forty-two years old at the time. Five years later as the fabric of the family began to break down and the so-called "age of innocence" began to vanish, Chiara formed the "New Families Movement" which was a crusade committed to helping keep the institution of the family in tact and defending Human Rights for children. As the sixties became more "far-out and radical" Chiara challenged the rebelling youth who were clamoring for change to live the radicalism of the Gospel for Christ was truly a revolutionary in the purest sense. The difference was that Our Lord achieved peace through love, not violence. This was the essence of the message Chiara sought to spread to all youth and adults as well the world over.
From that first Mariapolis evolved one in Loppiano, Italy just outside of Firenze where a two-year "school of life" was established on how to live the Gospel. Today there are more than 700 people from fifty different nations, most of them young adults, living there. Over the years similar sites were established worldwide including the United States at the Luminosa "mini city" in Hyde Park, New York.
In 1977 Chiara received the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion which gave credence to the Focalare movement among all faiths since the committee, based out of London, is composed of representatives of various religions. In their release they praised Lubich: "By stressing love, Chiara Lubich has contributed much to the spiritual development of many people of various denominations. Her work of building unity is one of the most important contributions to the relationships among churches and religions today."
The breakthrough to other non-Christian beliefs came in 1981 when Chiara was invited by the founder of a Buddhist lay movement to Tokyo where she shared the principles of the Focalare movement with 10,000 Buddhists. This translated to a harmonious relationship that spread throughout the far east and eventual dialogue with Muslims and Jews in this decade in truly taking the Focalare concept internationally to all God's children. Chiara was invited in May of 1997 by Imam W.D. Mohammed, head of over two million black Muslims to speak in a Harlem, Mosque dedicated to Malcolm X on spiritual love and unity between the races. Quite a breakthrough considering the platform of Malcolm X and which Mohammed called Lubich's dialogue "a new page of history" that had been opened; likewise n Argentina the next year when Chiara met with 150 influential B'nai B'rith Jews from the Buenos Aires area to seal a "pact of unity" between Christian and Jew. In 1988 the United Nations approved the branch of New Humanity within the Focalare movement as a non-governmental organization (NGO) of the UN. That same year she received the coveted UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, following in the footsteps of Mother Teresa who had previously been awarded the prize.
Chiara has been in regular contact with the Holy Father and Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. Cardinal Arinze dedicated the Focalare Center for Dialogue at the Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park at 200 Cardinal Road in August this year, sharing the dais with a Rabbi and Moslem Imam among others. Chiara has been at the forefront of lay movements within the Church including the massive conference of lay groups last Pentecost in Rome where the Holy Father praised the efforts of many and singled out Chiara Lubich for her dedication to living the Gospel and sharing it with all she meets. The Pope, Cardinal Arinze and Chiara have huddled more than once on ecumenical efforts and bringing unity to places where strife exists and upholding human dignity for all. This was true in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and most recently in Kosovo and currently in Africa, South America and Indonesia, specifically East Timor. Wherever there is a trouble spot, it is likely Focalare will be there just as it has for the past fifty plus years. Over that time it has been the "motor behind projects in favour of human rights, which promote education and projects for peace and universal brotherhood, a new model of economic system, a fertile dialogue, activities of solidarity, projects in favor of the family and the dignity of the woman." Strongly pro-life, Focalare has seen to the adoptions and foster care of over 9,000 orphaned or battered children.
Today over 100,000 members belonging to 300 different Churches and Ecclesial communities share the spirituality of unity in various ways. No other organization has been as successful in bringing together Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Sihk, Muslim and Jew as well as people of no faith as the programs within the Focalare movement. John Paul II based much of his philosophy and theology on the essence of Focalare in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint - "That all may be one" released on May 25, 1995.
While the Focalare movement has indeed become ecumenical, Chiara Lubich has been sure not to ever compromise the principles of Catholicism for everything professed is in accordance with Catholic doctrine and that is as it should be since the Catholic Church is the only Church that can trace its roots directly back to the Originator of the Gospel - Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Whom everything is based. Chiara keeps this in focus each month with her "Word of Life" newsletter which presently reaches over 3 million people globally in 80 different languages. For more on Chiara, and the Focalare movement we refer you to www.rc.net/focolare/.
The same age as John Paul II, Chiara, like the Holy Father, has no plans on slowing down for there is much work yet to be done. Also like our Sovereign Pontiff, Chiara Lubich has helped breakdown discrimination and resentments through promoting the Gospel of love and peace. What started out of necessity in the ruins of World War II has blossomed into a dismantling of age-old prejudices and knocking down walls of hate in order for more of God's children to live, work and understand each other in harmony. All this because of Chiara Lubich's selfless fiat to God in hopes that someday all may be one!
The purificator is an oblong piece of linen, folded three times and draped over the chalice and under the paten. The priest uses the purificator to purify the chalice and paten as well as wiping his mouth after the Ablution.
The pall is a small square piece of linen starched stiff and used to cover the chalice. Before Vatican II all of these holy cloths were used along with a veil to cover the chalice with the burse on top. The color of both matched the liturgical season.
The vestments commonly worn by the priest to say Mass are the alb, stole, and chasuble. Before Vatican II, the vital garments for saying Mass were the amice, cincture, maniple, and biretta. The latter is the black three-ridged square cap worn by the priest when he enters the sanctuary. Since the sixties this has pretty much vanished, going the way of “Going My Way”.
The chief vestments worn by the priest have been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. God Himself gave directions about the vestments of the priests in the Old Testament as detailed in Exodus 28:4-5, “These are the vestments they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a broadcaded tunic, a miter and a sash. In making these sacred vestments which your brother Aaron and his sons are to wear in serving as My priest, they shall use gold, violet, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen.”
The ephod is similar to the amice taken from the Latin word amictus meaning "cloak." It is a piece of white linen cloth which covers the priest´s shoulders and is still in vogue today if the alb does not cover the ordinary neckwear. Before vesting the priest recites "Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil." The prayers said as the celebrant puts on each piece of clothing reveal the meaning attached to them by Holy Mother Church.
The Alb, similar to the brocaded tunic of the Old Testament, is the white linen tunic which covers the priest's entire body. The word Alb means "white garment" derived from the Latin alba. In vesting, the priest says "Purify me, O Lord, from all stain of sin and cleanse my heart, that washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal delights."
The cincture is the cord fastened around the alb. It derives from the sash of Aaron. The prayer while fastening the cincture is "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may remain in me."
All of the above linens are considered inner vestments in contrast with the outer vestments which consist of the stole, chasuble, dalmatic, and tunicle. Again, since Vatican II, the maniple, a short narrow strip of cloth which matched the stole and chasuble in material, has since been eliminated. It hung over the priests left arm.
The stole is the long silk band that fits around the neck and is crossed on the breast of the priest; on a deacon it is worn over his left shoulder and crossed on his right waist. The stole is the symbol of authority in the Church and is the most blessed of all the vestments because it is the mandatory vestment of all sacraments. Upon putting on the stole the priest prays "Restore to me, O Lord, the state of my immortality which was lost to me by my first parents, and although unworthy to approach Thy sacred mysteries, grant me nevertheless eternal joy." The final garment the priest dons is the chasuble which hangs from the shoulders in front and behind down to the knees and beyond. It is the color of the liturgical season or Mass for that day and is adorned reverently with a religious symbol of appropriate design. The chasuble is similar to the robe of Old Testament times. Before Vatican II the chasuble was more like a large scapular that only came halfway between the waist and knees front and back- Since then, the chasubles have developed into longer flowing robes which cover the arms. These are called ¨Gothic chasubles¨. In vesting with the chasuble, the celebrant prays "O Lord, Who has said ´My yoke is sweet and my burden light,´grant that I may carry it so as to obtain Thy grace." All of these preparatory prayers as well as prayers of thanksgiving after Mass are mandatory for all priests according to Canon 909. They are meant to put the celebrant in the right frame of mind for the august responsibility of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to recall the meaning of his role as priest for the people of God.
The dalmatic and tunicle are modified chasubles worn by the deacon and subdeacon respectively at a high Mass. They are of the same material and color as the celebrant´s chasuble. Altar servers traditionally wear a black cassock to the ankles with a white surplice, which is a short alb also used by the priest outside the Mass. Today the norm for many acolytes is to wear an ankle-length white, tan or gray alb only.
Colors play an important role in the Mass for they identify the Liturgical season and the Mass being said each day. There are five main colors signifying the liturgy with black being eased out in the Novus Ordo in favor of white for funeral masses. Another color, gold, may be substituted for white, and green on solemn feasts. Rose-colored vestments are allowed on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. White vestments, symbolizing purity and joy, are worn on festivals of Our Lord, except for those of His Passion. White is also used for feasts of the Blessed Mother, for virgins and Confessors. Red vestments, representing the color of fire and blood, are reserved for the feast of Pentecost, feasts of the Apostles and martyrs, and of course the Passion of Jesus. Green vestments are in use for the greater part of the year during the Ordinary times of the liturgical year. Green connotes hope and growth. Purple or Violet vestments, representing royal power and dignity as well as penitence, are worn during Lent and Advent as well as Vigils before great feasts and Ember days. The latter have been greatly downplayed since Vatican II.
Benediction, thank God, is making a comeback in many parishes as we enter the third millennium. During Benediction and processions of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest wears the cope, a mantle which clasps in the front under the neck. The word "cope" comes from the Latin word for cape capa. When holding the Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, the priest dons the humeral veil which is a long silk cloth. The word "humeral" evolves from the Latin word humerus meaning "shouldler." Both cope and humeral veil are white or gold.
As you can see great care, detail and purpose is given to the sanctuary furnishing, sacred vessels and vestments because it seems only right to give what is most precious, beautiful and priceless for the glory of God. Non-Catholics and some Catholics critize the Church for lavishing so much money into these things, but consider that nothing is too good for God. The beauty of His house also impresses the beholder and helps devotion. Yet, some worldly-minded people are prone to say "to what purpose is this waste?" It brings to mind this is the very same thing Judas Iscariot question Jesus on when Mary Magdalene anointed Our Lord´s feet with expensive perfume.
Statues, icons, pictures, stained glass, stations of the cross and vigil lights are common in most churches, however in the new modern churches many of these sacramentals have been obliterated in favor of "modern art" and distractions that do anything but prompt one to a proper disposition of prayer. Though this is the modernists´ greatest argument that "the tabernacle directly behind the altar and statues distract from the Mass," yet they´ve thrown out the baby with the bath water, so to speak, by erecting obtuse structures that do nothing to create an atmosphere of prayer and reverence. In fact liturgists, parish councils and architects have replaced God with man by removing the tabernacle and in its place putting the sedelia or chair where the celebrant sits with his servers beside him.
In the next installment we resume on our voyage of the Barque of Peter in the 7th century as the Church embarks on a Holy Campaign to solidify her supremacy in bitter clashes with enemies of the Church.