Chiara Lubich — A laywoman whose idea changed the world | National Catholic Registry
The film Chiara Lubich: love conquers all begins almost immediately with Chiara’s appearance before a tough board of five Vatican officials, mostly cardinals, ready to consider the charges against her and her “movement.” Chiara calmly insists that she did not seek to found a movement. Yet seven years earlier, after half a dozen girlfriends got together, their joyful Christian life began to inspire so much that it became what became known as the Focolare Movement.
EWTN will air this film version of Chiara’s story made in 2021 on Saturday, July 9.
Flashbacks become the vehicle as Chiara’s story unfolds through her eyes. For the back page, she recounts the details, beginning in her hometown of Trento, Italy, in 1943. World War II was about to reach the town, where she was a very compassionate schoolteacher. The peaceful scene is interrupted by war as the city is bombed for the first time.
These scenes artfully bring the horrors and atrocities of war, without the violence and bloodshed of Hollywood, to compassionate human levels. It’s in the midst of suffering and destruction and its “Why?” that she meets the Blessed Mother in a statue in a street side shrine with little damage. Chiara told a priest she thought she heard the words, “Consecrate yourselves to me. In this simple beginning, she does not want to be a nun but believes that God wants her to devote herself to him as long as she remains in the world.
Quickly, she takes advantage of it. As the bombardment of the city begins again, she and two other girls who need her relentlessly and with the force of conviction, save the life of a drunk by dragging him to the bomb shelter. There, Chiara reads the gospel. A fight begins; the saved man begins to sing a song to the Blessed Mother; Chiara joins us; soon everyone follows. The peaceful song calms the fight and restores brotherhood.
A friend told him to read more: “There is still time for the gospel. Why? “It’s good when we try to put it into practice, like today.” There, the seeds germinate. And quickly begins to grow.
On the other hand, soon the five girlfriends and a newcomer leave for a day in the mountains to enjoy the serenity. During the wonderfully happy moments of the afternoon mountain adventure, the girls wonder why they experience so much joy. Chiara opens the Bible and reads, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst,” then adds, “If that’s what it says, then Jesus is here right now. Yes, here with us! she exclaims. On further questioning from one of the girls, she tells them, “I’m going to live my usual life – it’s just that I’ll try to live what he taught us.”
One after another, scenes unfold with her setting an example of doing just that. The girls come together, read the scriptures and put the words of Jesus into action in their lives, helping the poor and oppressed in truly joyful and very poignant encounters too.
Moving encounter with Chiara and her brother, a doctor who gave up his practice to fight the resistance. She tries to convince him to give up revenge on those who became enemies during the war. Added to this is a nice meeting with her friend Ines, whom she had not seen for years.
More than once, Chiara reminds us that we must live and work in such a way that Jesus’ prayer to the Father is answered: “Let all be one” (John 17:21). This gospel passage summed up his mission to work for universal brotherhood “as a prerequisite for dialogue and peace among men.”
Touching scenes follow one another in this film made in Italy. Leaving the dialogue in Italian (with easy-to-follow subtitles) keeps the story fairly authentic, as if we were unseen observers watching Chiara’s life and movement unfold. It’s the kind of human drama that most American filmmakers have forgotten.
There’s a good reason the story is gripping, compelling, and moving. It was directed by award-winning Giacomo Campiotti – not exactly a household name, but a director who seems to understand the dimensions of the Catholic faith and brought us stories of various saints such as Bakhita: From Slave to Saint and the winner Saint Giuseppe Moscati: Doctor of the poor, Saint Philip Neri: I prefer heavenand also Mary of Nazareth.
He is a director who understands the human element in a story and uses the camera in many close-ups to allow us to better understand the characters, to feel closer to them and to empathize with them. It attracts people’s emotion and thoughts without words in many cases. If we want to get technical, he uses the camera like a master artist would use brush, colors and composition to make the scene or portrait tell us his story.
Not knowing the great Italian actresses and actors, in this case, also enhances the film, bringing greater reality to the true story, much more than what would happen with familiar actors. Each of the actors and actresses are finely tuned, bringing out the nuances and depth of their characters, making them real people and not cinematic cutouts. The focus becomes the story of Chiara herself – what we can learn from her and her.
As Chiara awaits the verdict of the 1952 court, she holds a rosary. Only one thing seems understated, and that’s something that isn’t mentioned. The true official name of the Focolare Movement has become “Work of Mary”, as noted by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which states: “The Work of Mary has received this name because of its particular link with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and of all men and women, of whom he wants to be the reflection on earth, as far as possible”.
In addition to the film, Chiara herself said: “We love Mary, we pray to her and we have pictures of her in our homes. There are churches and monuments built in his honor. It is present in the Catholic Church and in the other Churches, and in the hearts of the faithful. I think it is our duty to take Mary into our homes and live with her like John did. Such a great mother can nourish our starved Christianity and enlighten us with her guidance.
For the record, Chiara and her mission were supported by the popes in her life, and she had a very close collaboration with Saint John Paul II. His cause for beatification was opened in 2015.
Globally, Chiara Lubich: love conquers all is a beautifully directed and memorable film with a story that touches the heart as much as it inspires.
Airs on EWTN Saturday, July 9, 8 p.m. EST