Not long ago, I was invited to address a Catholic organization in the United States that’s experiencing tensions with other sectors of the church. (I know, I know, who isn’t?) A couple of bishops also took part in the meeting. After my usual shtick about avoiding the trap of tribalism, someone asked if I saw any concrete signs of hope.
I was on the brink of answering when one of the bishops -- a guy known for being fairly middle of the road -- volunteered to tackle the question. He said if what we’re talking about is overcoming divisions, there’s a great resource to draw upon: Focolare, a Catholic movement whose spirituality is premised on unity.
I and maybe two or three other people in the room who had actually encountered Focolare over the years were enthusiastic, while everyone else just looked confused.
The story illustrates three points about Focolare (an Italian word meaning “hearth”), a movement founded by Italian lay woman Chiara Lubich in 1943, which today has 140,000 core members and some two million affiliates in 182 nations:
- In a time of bitter divisions, Focolare is one of the few outfits with a track record of bringing people together.