“A pen does not know what it is going to write.
An artist’s brush does not know what it is going to paint.
In the same way, when God takes someone into His hands
in order to begin some work of God in the Church,
that person does not know what he or she will have to do.
He or she is an instrument.
And generally all God’s instruments are characterized
by this quality: littleness, weakness…
‘…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.’
And while the instrument moves in the hands of God,
He forms it with thousands and thousands of painful
and joyful devices.
In this way He makes it more and more suited
to the task it must carry out,
and it can say with competence: I am nothing, God is everything.”
– Chiara Lubich
One of the four pillars of discipleship is communion. Those who have had an encounter with Christ (side note: an emphasis on the importance of this as a necessity in the life of every Christian has been a main tenet of Pope Francis’s teaching) and want to drop their nets, pick up their cross and follow Him – those individuals naturally want to be around other individuals whose lives have been similarly touched by the Holy Spirit. We aren’t meant to walk alone. This is a vital piece of the Christian life that helped St. Paul bring Christ to the Romans: “see how they love one another!” It is an invaluable mainstay of the Christian life.
A terrific flesh-and-bones example of this is Chiara Lubich, a 20th century Italian woman who founded the Focolare movement. Born out of a desire for unity – “that [we] may be one” as Jesus and His Father are one – this movement seeks to live a life in which community is not just a hokey word, but a transformative reality. A parish is not just a building, but also a family of those who live life side-by-side. It is a realization that we need, not just to hang out with like-minded people, but to be involved in each other’s lives through support, accountability, shared battles and joy.
Chiara founded this movement in the 1940s and today it has approximately 2 million adherents in 182 countries. At a time in history when people live, perhaps more than ever before, in isolated loneliness without any genuine relationships, Chiara has cast a vision for a “more excellent way” that embodies a foundational necessity for every disciple.
It is important to keep in mind that, though the movement she birthed is now quite large and expansive, it did not start that way. She was an “ordinary” Italian girl from Trent, but one who gave her life to Jesus as a total gift – willing to be whatever “instrument” He needed to bring souls to Himself. Is her life not a testament to the fact that equally great things can be made of our lives if we let Him have control, if we let Him transform us into what He longs for us to be?
The words of her life say to us, “We must give ourselves as this gift, and when we do, we will need each other.” But of course, she borrowed these words from Someone greater: Jesus. Let us intentionally and radically offer our whole lives to Him and, as we are led on the greatest adventure life has to offer, let us not listen to the lie of self-reliant, hyper-individualism. Instead, let’s band together in communion in this battle for souls.