Love generates Wisdom
Continuing her series of talks on various aspects of the Focolare spirituality, Chiara Lubich looks at some points relating to the theme of wisdom as it has been lived and experienced within the perspective of the charism of unity.
While love creates communion, and while it radiates, uplifts, heals, makes a home, and unites, it is also capable of generating light, wisdom. There is a well-known episode in our history which we have always considered to be a founding and fundamental moment with regard to this aspect. I’m referring to that day, during the forties – between 1940 and 1950 – in the first focolare in Piazza Cappuccini, when I left my studies by putting away, in the attic, the books I loved so much.
In doing so, I was resolving a contradiction which had become so evident to me: that of seeking truth in philosophy while it was wholly present in the Eucharistic Jesus I received each morning. In fact, a light of the Holy Spirit had made me understand clearly that I would find the truth, the full, authentic, indisputable, sublime and profound truth in him, the Truth: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). This episode, I believe, can be considered as the beginning of the aspect we are dealing with.
So in this regard, I recently found in the archives of the Movement a letter I had written to a friend during those early days. “You see,” I had written, “I am a person who lives in this world. I’ve seen many beautiful and good things and I’ve always felt attracted to these alone. One day, one indefinite day, I saw a light. I felt that it was more beautiful than all the other beautiful things and I followed it. I realised that it was the Truth.”
This letter was such a surprise to me: How had I been able to say, to write that? And I assumed that the light that I spoke about there was that of the charism which the Holy Spirit had given to us and which the Church then studied and approved with its gift of discernment.
What I found interesting in all the various writings, talks, and diaries regarding this aspect, which I will simply call the “indigo”, are not for the most part the lengthy, meditated reflections. Rather, it was those drops of wisdom, perhaps, or simply drops of sound human judgment, that can be added on to or better explain things already known. Some are brief deductions I wanted to highlight simply because they are beautiful, because they possess, I believe, a ray of the beauty of God, that is, at the same time, the truth of God. Others are predictions which are truly astounding because they’ve been fulfilled years and years later.
Let’s begin. We are in the fifties. In 1954 the Holy Spirit enlightened us concerning the seven aspects of love. And we have been speaking of the indigo since 1955. One very surprising fact is this: it seems that even then the Holy Spirit wished to communicate to us his plans for our Movement – in 1955, so 46 years ago – he made us understand that there would be three periods of time in the Work of Mary, specifying them with three names: Assisi, Paris, Hollywood. These periods were already present in its DNA, so to speak, because of the charism that brought it about and continues to guide it, but they came to light fully decades later.
In a conversation in 1988, I commented: ”In our Movement, we can single out three main periods: the first is that in which our spirituality was born, our lifestyle. And we called it “Assisi”. The second was that in which I began to study in order to compare the aspects of our spirituality with the doctrine of the Church. We saw that they coincided, even though we foresaw the opening of new horizons. And I communicated this to everyone. In this regard, we were deeply affected, among other things, by a remark attributed to St. Francis who was concerned that his friars might become attached to books: “Paris, Paris, you destroy Assisi”. We affirmed: “We want Paris, but also Assisi. We live the spirituality, but we want to study it too.” And now, as we all know, the third period has already opened which we named after another symbolic city: Hollywood. It will present the message of our Movement to the public through various artistic expressions and the wide-ranging communications media.”
The following is from a book written in 1964:
“The gift of wisdom puts the soul in contact with eternal realities (…). It scrutinises the depths of God and discerns its radiant beauty. It beholds that which it cannot repeat and drinks from this inexhaustible source without ever being quenched, with an ever-growing desire – as a deer longs for streams of water (…). But, having discovered and almost savoured God, with this light in one’s eyes it is possible to look at the world and to see it clearly, judging everything from a divine viewpoint, almost projecting over everything the light of God’s infinite gaze.
“In the mind of a wise Christian person there is, as it were, a reconstruction of the ideal order that exists in the mind of God. The unfolding of eras and ages, the interweaving course of events, the flow of things, the historical process, the development of one’s own life, everything is seen in its dependence-convergence relationship with a divine plan, having the same mental synthesis as God who sees each thing in the Word (his Son), who loves each thing in the Spirit, and who knows all by loving and loves all in the very act of his infinite contemplation.” 
As stated and repeated in various writings, and in our different Statutes: “Members of the Movement must possess wisdom.” It’s a command. But we might wonder: how is it possible to have wisdom? It is possible because in this case, the same Holy Spirit who commands something (through the Statutes he inspired) also gives us the answer. And the answer, in time, became increasingly clear to us.
Wisdom can be obtained in four ways: by asking God for it, by loving God and neighbour, by loving Jesus forsaken, by bringing Jesus into our midst.
1) We have always prayed for wisdom – ever since the earliest days – when, in order to prepare ourselves to speak before our small audience in Trent, we sometimes stayed even for an hour in front of Jesus in the tabernacle repeating to him: “You are everything, I am nothing”, so that he and he alone would speak through us. Everything began there, from his light – we should remember this.
We pray now too. For example, we pray to the Father together in unity in a consenserint (this is what we call this way of praying that Jesus taught us: “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father” [Mt 18:19]). We often pray in this way before giving a talk, in order to have the Holy Spirit.
2) Another way to obtain wisdom is by loving: by loving God and neighbour.
It has always been our conviction that loving brings light. In fact, right from the beginning, these words of Jesus have had a special place in our hearts: “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn 14:21).
St. Bede used to say: “Whoever loves the Word (in which Christ is present) will also be given the intelligence to understand the Word that he loves; whereas whoever does not love the Word will in no way savour the delights of true wisdom. Even if he believes that he possesses it because of his natural gifts and studies, he does not possess it.” 
During the early days, we explained further that to have wisdom we need to be another Jesus and in order to be another Jesus, we must love: wisdom is the light that comes from loving. Just as the lamp lights up when peddling certain bicycles, similarly, wisdom is turned on in us when we love.
And we recalled an Oriental proverb: “Give me your heart – that is, love – and I will give you a pair of eyes,” which means: love, and you will see. So wisdom is attained by loving.
3) We also acquire wisdom by loving Jesus crucified and forsaken. Chapter VI of the current Statutes states: ‘The people who are part of the Work of Mary try to possess above all else true Christian wisdom. ‘For God loves nothing more than the person who lives with wisdom” (Wis 7:28). Therefore, by embracing the cross and abandonment with Jesus, they will try to make the risen Lord shine out in their hearts. He will give them the gifts of the Spirit” (art. 58).
Back in 1967 I said that we acquire wisdom by loving Jesus forsaken: “If we do not love the cross, if we live for anything else except for the cross, we do not have true love for God and neighbour in our hearts and we do not have wisdom. Each morning we offer our day by saying, as we did when we were born to this new life: ‘Because you are forsaken, because you are desolate’. We find all wisdom in him and we understand why St. Bernard said that his highest philosophy was in the crucifix.”
We read in a book published by New City Press that Bernard of Clairvaux once said to a professor in Paris: “I heard that you comment on the books of the Prophets. But can you truly say that you understand their lessons, and in particular, their teaching on Christ? You would understand Christ better by following him than by teaching about him.”
De Montfort almost identifies wisdom with the cross. From him we understand that the tree of the cross distills eternal nectar: wisdom, a ray, a reflection, a participation in the eternal Wisdom which is the Word of God. He says that suffering teaches things that cannot be learned from any other art. It sits on the highest cathedra. It is the teacher of wisdom and whoever has wisdom is blessed. Blessed are those who suffer. They will be consoled not only with the prize in the next life but with contemplation of heavenly things in this life.
4) The fourth way to have wisdom is to bring Jesus into our midst. “Moreover,” continue the Statutes, “the (members of the Movement) will strive to be united so that Christ who is present where there is mutual love may pour forth the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their midst” (art. 58).
We are more and more convinced that ‘we must have wisdom individually (having the risen Lord in us) and collectively (with Jesus in our midst). We must learn (from this) to be ‘overflowing fountains”.’
One sign that someone is speaking with wisdom is the exclamation “How beautiful!” on the part of whoever is listening. Such a comment is never in reference to hearing a purely human way of reasoning, but to the supernatural. For example, if our words are able to show the golden thread that links all the events of our life, filling us with admiration, it means that there is wisdom here.
And there has been abundant wisdom in our Movement, in outlining its spirituality as well as its structure.
We often recall that even before this adventure of ours began, I wanted to know God and I seemed to have heard these words in my heart: “I will be your Teacher”. And so he has been, for me and for many others. This is why I was able to say at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) in 1998:
“It is with surprise that I can affirm now, only for the glory of God, that after decades spent in following this splendid and demanding way, the Lord, in his goodness, led me, and those who are part of the Movement, to know something of his infinite wisdom. This did not concern only the study of God, theology, but also other realms of knowledge, thus giving us an insight into how we could animate different disciplines of human knowledge from within, in order to make them authentic, true and pleasing to him.”
This is what we find in the Book of Wisdom with regard to this:
“And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
(…) For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom” (Wis 7:27-30).
Study at the service of Wisdom
Let’s look now at the topic of studies. Studies are needed but with this clarification: ‘The “indigo” is not so much study but wisdom, because it is a colour of love: the love that becomes the wisdom that enlightens’.
Thus studies are not something added on to wisdom, but a means for amplifying it, for making it more radiant. “The alpha and omega,” we read, “is always wisdom. The origin is wisdom and the end is wisdom: God.” We also point out the place of study: “Study is… the footstool of wisdom.”
In any case, studies are important to us. We have always believed that “study is needed in order to increase wisdom”. And among us, thanks be to God, so far we feel that we can say that “Paris has not yet destroyed Assisi”. Study has been at the service of wisdom.
Also studies are encouraged by saying: “Studies could serve wisdom much more. A seventh part of our life (considering the seven aspects of love) should always be devoted to studies.”
Back in 1960 – 40 years ago – we find written:
“Wisdom will be complemented by the knowledge of theology and of any other worldly knowledge useful towards these goals. However, theology should never suffocate wisdom, but rather, wisdom should help theology.”
And we insist:
“I was filled with joy at the thought that in our Movement studies are viewed as a ‘seventh’ expression of our life, as an aspect of love. This can be so, however, on the condition that they serve love of God and neighbour. Otherwise studies are an obstacle, they are Paris destroying Assisi.”
One thought (among many others) makes it clear to us that also studies in the fields of science and humanities are a precise will of God for us. In time, this point proved to be true, and especially now in view of the so-called inundations.  With regard to the studies of the focolarini, as early as 1966 we said:
“As far as studies in science and humanities are concerned, the focolarini should keep themselves updated professionally and continually improve.
We should keep in mind that with the passage of time many focolarini with the same profession will be grouped together in various works that will arise. Consequently, they will have to put in common, with Jesus in their midst, also the ideas, notions and insights they will have acquired day after day. For example, Jesus in the midst of those who work in the same profession will enhance the presence of Jesus in that sector and it will also enlighten the profession itself. At the same time, these focolarini will act as leaven in the Centers of the Movement” (and this was the “inundations”).
“With regard to theological studies, the focolarini will attend University courses in theology”. And a frequent recurring thought is the following:
“In our theological studies we will examine in depth the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. This doctrinal patrimony concerning the Body of Christ will be shared with all in the Work of Mary and it will be a precious treasure for the Church as well.”
And here is another important concept:
“Naturally, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ (which implies living in accordance with the trinitarian model) will have repercussions also on the social body which then, at least for those who work in the Work of Mary, will be edified in the image and likeness of the Body of Christ.”
With regard to the way to study, in 1974 a gens  asked me the following question: “How can we study theology without the risk of being overtaken by it and of losing sight of the radicalness of the Ideal and of the Gospel?” I replied:
‘It’s very simple. I studied, too, and I was told 14 times to stop and then to start again. I remember the last hour I spent studying. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on a rug on the floor, with an atlas on one side and my notes on the other. I was studying for a geography exam. I said to myself: “Now, I really want to study well in order to do the will of God, and I won’t go ahead unless I know what I studied before as well as I know the Hail Mary”. And this is what I did in that hour.
I felt my studying was like incense offered to God because of the effort of doing the will of God well. I had the impression that that last hour of study was a real masterpiece. When the hour was over, it was time to do another will of God: to prepare the meal for the focolarine who were coming back from work, since I was the only one at home, the others were out at work.
That day I was told to leave my studies permanently. I was happy because life is love, life is not studies. What mattered was doing the will of God because that was the way to love. If we study in this way, there is no danger that we will become attached to our studies.’
We try to study well also because “studying well can favour contemplation.” Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church, was convinced of this and she was an expert in contemplation. She felt that the learned, “if they are truly learned, are facilitated in contemplation,” and therefore, in acquiring wisdom.
The following words from 1960 tell us more about the attitude we should have towards studies. “Studying has no value for us unless it is a fruit of our love, that is, of doing the will of God. It has been said ‘surgunt indocti, the unlearned rise up and snatch the kingdom of God, and we, with our studies, are going to the depths of hell.’ This was how it was for those who gave more importance to studies than to the spirit of piety, of prayer.”
For us then, love must be the reason for dedicating ourselves to study. I found this writing:
“Why do we want to study? Why do we never want to stop studying? Because we love God and when you love someone, when you fall in love, you want to know everything about the other person. We want to know all we can about God so that we can love him more and more. In this way, studying will not be a burden for our soul, something that turns off our spirit of contemplation, but it will be like adding fuel to fire…”
Moreover, study must not only be the effect of charity, but it must also serve charity. For us, as for St. Bernard, all worldly knowledge, and the knowledge of Scripture itself, must “serve charity”. Bernard himself, in a famous sermon, said: “All my lofty philosophy today consists in knowing that Jesus is, and that he was crucified.”
And when Bernard began to journey with his first companions along the path that God had indicated to him, when “he chose God alone”, it is written that “his life with these companions was charity. People who saw how they loved one another recognized that God was in them.” So it must always be with us, also with those who dedicate more time to studies. Love must be the soul of studies.
Speaking to a group of intellectuals, John Paul II said that scholars and theologians should keep before them, as their model, Teresa of Lisieux, because love is what can make theology come alive . He could have thought of St. Thomas as the model. Instead the Pope indicated Teresa of Lisieux.
We have long thought that the charism of unity, or better still, the life of unity would give birth to a doctrine. In fact, we always say that as the Father generated the Son, his Word, his Light, his Beauty, the life of unity will bring forth a theory, a doctrine.
Here are some thoughts in this regard:
“This doctrine could not exist without your life because the Father needs to exist in order to generate the Son, and the doctrine is like the Son in relation to the Father. This new reality (the doctrine) which embraces us all, would not go forward if we were not living in this way (…).”
“This gospel-based life is like a school, indeed, like a source of a new doctrine that sums up and broadens the fields of knowledge already acquired.”
“This doctrine will be a new synthesis because the ideal of unity brings about the unity of opposites. In the theological field there are many schools of thought. The charism of unity has the power, with Jesus in the midst, to bring about a synthesis and not a compromise.”
And we see that this doctrine is related to Mary.
“A new theology will emerge, a theology of the Church, that is also a Marian theology because it is the theology of the Work of Mary. The presence of Mary here, with her particular charism, will help us to gather all the fruits that have emerged down through the centuries from all the charisms, all the schools of thought, so as to bring about a new synthesis, a Marian synthesis, the synthesis which humanity awaits today. And this will enhance the countenance of the Church not only with charity, but with light, because Jesus is the light that came into the world.”
One day, while I was speaking with a Papal Nuncio in Africa about the “seeds of the Word” present in every culture, I seemed to understand that the doctrine that blossoms from the charism of unity, is not based on any human culture because it comes from the Holy Spirit.
And so it is a light that has no specific colour. It can pierce the depths of every human being because Jesus is the Man, not a man, he is the Man.
Here is something else about the indigo:
“What I am interested in is the doctrine of the charism that is being drawn out. It isn’t that I drink wine by eating grapes. No, I drink wine after the grapes have been crushed. The wine would be the doctrine that is drawn out from the bunch of crushed grapes and the bunch of grapes would be our entire experience. The wine would be the doctrine with which we must all be inebriated, so to speak, illuminated, happy.”
The following are rather new thoughts which undoubtedly contain a prediction:
“Our impression is that the Lord is not only developing a new doctrine in the Work of Mary, but he is also incarnating it in the most varied forms of life, which will be like many experimental fields, and they themselves will be part of the school (the “inundations” that are linked to the Abbà  School).”
Consequently, in order to study Christian social doctrine competently (in view of our specific contribution), we will have to consider how people live in the industries and business firms which the Work of Mary will build through the capital of God.
Likewise, to be thoroughly knowledgeable concerning pedagogical problems linked to education, we will have to examine the schools where our Ideal is lived. The entire Work of Mary will appear like a testing ground for this doctrine. At the same time, it will generate this doctrine.”
What we have been saying since 1967 is indeed noteworthy:
“I would like our Movement to give life to a work of light (since the contribution we must give to the Church is not, for instance, like that of the Compagnons Bâtiseurs” ).
“Our spirituality should give birth to a culture, a philosophy, a sociology, a theology. And we truly hope that this comes about. What I mean is that among all the concrete achievements that should emerge from the Focolare Movement, this one is the most appropriate, the most logical.
This would be one of the works, I believe, that the Movement must accomplish, precisely because it has a spirituality.
Since it is Christianity seen with from the perspective of the twentieth century with the needs of the twentieth century that presupposes all that went before, the spirituality must surely have men and women scholars”.
We find signs of the Abbà School already in 1974.
“Reading these pages gave you insights for understanding various things. It gave you a surge of hope that these insights would one day become light. There was a wide variety of ideas: they ranged from the field of sociology to that of politics, science, and so forth. Today we are here to begin gathering these insights.
However, nothing of all this can come about unless we are able to re-create that climate, that atmosphere of unity, that most elevated unity which is the Soul . Today could remain as an historical day, the 2nd of December 1974, because it could mark the forthcoming birth of the Work of Mary’s doctrine.”
Let’s conclude now with a thought taken from the Book of Wisdom:
“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of men's
he who watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of her is the perfection of prudence,
and he who for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free
from care.” (Wis 6:12-15).
Our Lady is the Seat of Wisdom, not because she spoke, not because she was a doctor of the Church, not because she was seated on an academic chair, not because she founded a university. She is the Seat of Wisdom because she gave Christ, Incarnate Wisdom, to the world. She did something concrete. It was a deed. Likewise, we will have wisdom if we live in such a way as to have Jesus in us and among us, so that his presence be there in deed.
- ‘The vocation of the members of the Work of Mary is Love lived personally and in a communitarian manner as the Mystical Body. Love has various expressions that we like to compare with the light that breaks into seven colours. This is why the Focolare Movement calls each of these aspects a “colour”…. The aspect of wisdom and study is called “indigo”’. See Come un arcobaleno Rome: Cittá Nuova, 1999, pp. 17-18.
- R. Spiazzi, Lo Spirito Santo e la vita cristiana, Rome: 1964, p. 229.
- Bede, Commento al Vangelo di Marco Vol I. Rome: 1970, p. 129.
- On the basis of a term used by St. John Chrysostom, the word “inundations” refers to the penetration of the life and light of the charism of unity into human realities.
- The gens represent the seminarians who adhere to the spirituality of the Focolare Movement.
- See Pope’s address to the participants at the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 24 October, 1997 in L’Osservatore Romano 25/10/1997, p. 5.
- The Abbà School is made up of group of scholars who belong to the Focolare Movement. Their aim is to examine in a theoretical and interdisciplinary fashion the doctrinal contents of Chiara Lubich’s charism.
- An association that started in Belgium in 1953 aimed at helping victims of the destruction of World War II.
- This is an expressed used by Chiara Lubich in reference to an experience of deep united she and her first companions experienced in 1949 and then transmitted to the members of the Movement. It recalls the life of the first Christians: “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
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