Those Who Knew The Founders ...
Experiences with Chiara Lubich, Andrea Riccardi, Father Josef Kentenich
(mkf) Father Joseph Kentenich, the Founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, died over 30 years ago; neither Chiara Lubich, Foundress of the Focolare Movement, nor Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Community Sant' Egidio, were present in the conference hall in Schoenstatt - and yet they became present as those who know, or knew them, shared the experiences that touched their hearts and moved them to walk the ways the founders walked. The afternoon of the second day of the October Week was marked by mutual sharing about the charisma of the Founders of three Spiritual Movements.
"Those Who Knew Jesus" is the title of a book written by Aloysius J. Wycislo, retired bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a book dedicated to those about whose lives he wrote it: Those who knew Jesus, "that through them we may get to know Him better, and knowing Him, get to love Him, and loving Him, learn how to follow Him."
Some of those who know or who knew the founders sat on the stage of the conference hall this afternoon. In a very personal way, they shared about their encounters with their founders – an enriching and inspiring experience for the audience – 1,000 Schoenstatt members, and several guests from the other two movements.
Friendship, Light, Freedom
Who are these persons who created international movements, who moved people from all walks of life to join the way they walked? What is their relationship to God – and to others? How do they live each day? Questions asked especially by those who did not know the founders in person – and wanted to get to know them better, and knowing them, get to love them... Dr. Cesare Zucconi gave a testimony about Andrea Riccardi's genuine and honest friendship, rooted in the Gospel; Graziella de Lucca, one of the first young women who joined Chiara's group, experienced Chiara as the light leading her in her journey to God. At the end, Father Lothar Penners shared about Father Kentenich as a person who believed in him and his wishes and ideas, thus granting and creating a climate of freedom.
Multi-faced Poverty – Option for Peace
As a young student, Cesare Zucconi joined the group around Andrea Riccardi, who had founded this community at the age of 17. What impressed him when he first met Andrea? It was his friendship, more genuine and honest than usual friendships because it was rooted in the Gospel. Cesare grew up as the son of a diplomat. What moved him to go and make friends with the poor children in the slums of Rome? Andrea went there. The first members of the community went to the children; later, the elderly came to their attention.
"None of us had experienced war - Andrea was born in 1950. But then, two of our members from Mozambique died in the civil war there. We lost friends. That made a difference." Since then, peace is the central focus of Sant' Egidio's activities.
"She was light, just light"
Graziella de Lucca shared about her long and intensive searching for Life, Love, Happiness, and God – a story of being led to the crucial encounter with Chiara, as she understood later. When she met Chiara, she was 18 and "definitely not willing to join any pious club." Her father was a committed communist, her mother a Catholic, and for Graziella faith was not too important in every day life. God gave her all she had longed for - and yet she felt a void. Laughter resounded again and again, when she shared her adventures with a good sense of humor. She spoke Italian, but everything was translated superbly. Graziella loved sports, music, theater; she auditioned for a movie; but by the time she heard that she made it, she had changed her mind and said no. She wanted to study everything, she was successful, and yet there was a longing for more. She felt sincere joy when giving to the poor or visiting in a hospital, and the longing for something that gave meaning to her life was experienced in a very intense way during the bombardment of the town where she lived.
Then she was invited by "a somewhat very holy colleague" to join a meeting. She only went to scandalize the group. Chiara was there, and she shared about her love for the poor. Graziella experienced a total conversion that she could only describe as "the overwhelming experience of the Light of the World, of God's unending love." For her, Chiara was from that very moment a light, the light that led her way – to the day.
Andrea Riccardi, shared Cesare Zucconi, is the experience of a person totally imbued by the Gospel. He would always point at the Gospel. Before meeting Andrea, Cesare had hardly ever read the Bible. His love for the Gospel grew within the community. Already in their first 'headquarters', an old and abandoned cloister in Rome (that they occupied and shared with the mice), Andrea Riccardi taught them not to discuss the Gospel but listen to it, share it, and live it.
"She Walks Ahead, And We follow her"
After some time of growth and widespread acknowledgement, the Focolare Movement was tested hard until they got the church's approval in 1963. Chiara said that the unity that grew in the years of pressure must never become less. Who is Chiara for Graziella? "The light that goes ahead - and we always follow her. We experienced many miracles. Chiara Lubich never made a program. God made the program."
Dialogue – there is no alternative
The leaders of religions' prayer for peace in Assisi became a crucial experience for the community of Sant' Egidio. They asked the Pope to continue this kind of meeting, and they were given the task to do so. Peace, Andrea Riccardi says, is a common goal in all religions. "We can start from there." Many of the difficulties leading to tensions and war among the churches, the denominations, the religions, are not theological problems but historical ones – a history of mistrust, hurts, misunderstandings. "We need to speak with each other, to listen, to share. Dialogue – there is no alternative."
Father Penners, the moderator of this presentation, pointed at Schoenstatt's contribution - the universal Covenant of Love in the meaning of the Third Founding Document.
Granting and Creating a Climate of Freedom
Father Penners belongs to the generation that got to know Father Kentenich after his return from Exile, 1965 - 1968. They had only short encounters and yet these encounters became essential. He did not understand everything in Schoenstatt and in Father Kentenich's teaching, Father Penners admitted, nor did he agree with all he understood. But: "More important than to understand was to meet him in person." His basic experience was Father Kentenich's calmness! He would not lose control, he would not be shocked by anything, "not even with my problems!" The way Father Kentenich responded to him made him understand. Questions exist in order to be asked, problems exist in order to be solved. Father Kentenich firmly believed in every person, he was open for every idea and initiative, thus creating and granting freedom.
"You are in me and I am in you" – this word that Jesus said to his disciples on the eve of his death, said Father Penners, would for him be a word related to Father Kentenich's new presence within Schoenstatt. We could believe that he is in each Schoenstatt member, in each community – and that is a source of hope and a starting point for mutual trust and unity.
In the end, Father Michael Marmann pointed at Chiara Lubich's and Andrea Riccardi's openness for future encounters and mutual inspirations. Since Pentecost 1998, the meeting of the Spiritual Movements in Rome, and since Chiara's and Andrea's visit in Schoenstatt in 1999, many steps have been taken; and all three of the movements are looking forward to the "fruits of communication".
English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin, USA
Letzte Aktualisierung: 24.10.2000 14:03 Mail: Redaktion / Webmaster
© 2000 Schönstatt-Bewegung in Deutschland, PressOffice Schönstatt, hbre, All rights reserved