By Laurie Tanner
EVEN today the mutual love of the first Christian community comes vividly to us from the pages of the New Testament. "See these Christians how they love one another!" Ilow we must wish the Church was still like that, with our families and neighbours living together in true charity. Of course, the spirit of those early Christians was drawn directly from the words and example of Jesus himself —but that was 2,000 years ago.
Inevitably the message has lost its force With the passage of 20 centuries, and practical Christians have naturally had to come to terms with the radically changed conditions of today.
BUt not everyone takes that view. Those in the Focolare movement see no reason to come to terms with anything but the Gospel. They are not biblical fundamentalists, but they accept Christ's words without equivocation or compromise and believe he meant what he said.
Each month they take some saying of Jesus — their Word of Life — and try to live it moment by moment. It sounds highly impractical until you meet them and see how it works — with children, teenagers, houses', iv es, working men, priests and religious.
They meet monthly in small groups -- • Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists
and others to consider the Word of Lfe and dis,uss their difficulties and experiences.
They come together in Christ's name and as he promised, Jesus is in their midst. No impartial onlooker who encounters them would question that the spirit of God is active among them. And never more so than when they assemble for their yearly meeting which they call Maria/Wis. Recently 800 of them gathered at a college in Hull, with caravans and tents supplementing the residential
The Word of Life is a commentary on a saving of Jesus prepared every month by Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare movement. It is used by two and a half million people throughout the world in all walks of life to help them instil their daily routine with the teaching of Christ. Beginning next month the Word of Life will appear in our first issue of each month.
accommodation: young and old. toddlers teenagers and married couples. Catholics and Nonconformists., ministers, priests, bishops and religious, healthy and handicapped of diverse nationalities. 1-or a week they lived the Gospel together in unity and mutual charity and found it uplifting. It was a spontaneous do-it-yourself type of conference to which all who wished could contribute. At the centre of each day was the Agape — the Roman Catholics at their Mass with the sanctuary lined with concelebrants, and those of other denominations at their Eucharists.
As last year there were more Anglican than Roman priests and they impressed all by their deep spirituality and outgoing ministry.
Already this year some 80 countries have held their ltlariOrdis as the Focolare movement V% orks to renew the world in Christ.. It has become an increasing influence throughout Europe and in all five continents, but despite the success at Hull it has yet to gather full force in Britain.
Around Liverpool, Greater London and the industrial belt of Scotland the map is close-dotted with groups, but elsewhere the Focolare presence is sporadic. Why are Birmingham and the Midlands so sterile? Should not priests and people there be asked the question which the disciples put to the stranger on the road to Emmaus: Do you not knots lie things which have come to pass in these days?
It was the havoc and destruction of the last war which led a group of girls in northern Italy headed by a young teacher, Chiara Lubich, to decide to live the Gospel together with absolute sincerity.
Chiara still guides the movement and prepares the Word of Life commentaries, There is no membership as such people just 'come along' to the local groups and learn how to incarnate the Gospel into every activity and state of life.
There are special sections for those able to commit themselves more fully, but organisation is kept to a minimum.
Why Mariapolis -which means City of Mary? The annual gathering is given this title because it is looked on as the place where the work of Mary is done again and Jesus brought back into the world, as indeed he was for those happy folk in Kingston-uponHull last week.