Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 29, 2009
Focolare lives the spirit of unity, love
Predominantly Catholic followers love as Jesus called us to love
The Focolare Movement is present today in more than 180 countries and reaches millions of people.
Lubich, together with a small group of friends, concluded that God is the only ideal worth living for and as a result they focused their lives on the Gospel. Many others followed. Their goal became one of striving towards the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer to the Father: "May they all be one" (John 17.21).
A spirituality of unity resulted and gave rise to a movement of spiritual and social renewal.
More than 30 small "cities" throughout the world strive to be an example of a society renewed by the Gospel message of unity.
One is Loppiano, a city of more than 800 people near Florence, Italy, which was built on land donated by the family of one of the participants. In the United States the small city of Mariapolis Luminosa is located in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Focolare appreciates the whole tradition of individual spirituality and individual prayer, but there is also an emphasis on the spirituality of community - "trying to go to God together and help each other in our journey towards God," Flaman explained.
Edmonton followers try to live the Focolare spirituality in their everyday lives, starting by being kind to everybody, beginning with their wives and children.
"If you are asked to do a certain thing by your spouse, you do it with love," noted member Guy Levaque, a member of Focolare since 1969. "We try to live in unity with people, first of all, your wife, your neighbours."
Levaque, a retired nurse's assistant, also tries to put the Gospel into practice by volunteering for Meals on Wheels and bringing Communion to seniors at a nursing home.
Levaque joined the movement in Rome in 1969. In Canada, he has been a member of Focolare groups in Quebec and Ontario. He and his wife Jeannine have been part of the Edmonton group for the past five years.
"I joined because it's putting the Gospel to life, in the practice of your life," he said.
During their regular monthly meetings, group members "talk about how they apply the Gospel in their daily lives."
"The main goal of Focolare is the union among people, anybody; it doesn't matter what religion you belong to," Levaque said.
Flaman joined the Focolare movement in Edmonton in the late 1970s after visiting Loppiano while he was studying theology in Rome.
He joined the movement in 1979 "when I realized the spirituality of the movement was for me."
He has been active in the Edmonton group since 1983. His wife Maggie is also a member. The Flamans' three adult children grew up with the movement but their participation is now somewhat limited.
Flaman said membership in the group has helped him to become more caring and loving. "I find that the Focolare spirituality - which is rooted in the Gospel and in the Trinity - helps me keep focused on what's really important."
There are Focolare groups in several parts of Canada, including Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec. Members are constantly raising funds to support development projects and schools in Africa and Haiti.
"We are trying to support any good work," Flaman said, noting some members support families in developing countries through monthly donations.
Every summer the movement holds local retreats - more than 100 worldwide - called Mariapolises, where members and newcomers come together to discuss the movement and its spirituality while putting it into practice. More than 200,000 people attend a Mariapolis each year.
About four Edmonton families, Flaman and his wife Maggie included, are planning to attend a four-day Mariapolis to be held at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., July 16-19.
Mariapolis means Work of Mary, who is seen as a model for the group.
"By her being open to God's will, she was an instrument of God in bringing Christ's presence into the world," Flaman said. "So in a certain sense she is a model for people in the Focolare to try to be open to God's will so that he can use us to hopefully bring the presence of Christ to our different environments - families, work, parishes."
Mark Anielski, an Edmonton economist and author who also teaches corporate responsibility at the University of Alberta School of Business, started attending meetings of the movement last year because he is interested in helping create a more just economic system.
"I wouldn't say I joined the movement, but as an economist I'm interested in what they call economy of communion - a local economy where individuals and businesses cooperate together and share profits for the well being of the community."
Several Edmonton people, mostly academics, have a conversation going on how to develop such an economy here, "but we don't have a formal economic arrangement like in Loppiano," he said.
In 2007 Anielski, 49, released a bestseller called The Economics of Happiness, which proposes a road map to developing an economy of well-being. The book is in line with Pope John Paul II's call to develop a civilization of love, one of Anielski's interests.
Anielski said he believes the organization that is best equipped to develop the Focolare ideals in Edmonton is the Greater Edmonton Alliance, of which he is a founding member.
"GEA should learn from the Focolare principles as it begins to develop its relational network," he said.
At the same time, Focolare should begin operating "in a kind of business environment" and establish connections with GEA.
"I can tell you right now, Focolare for me in Edmonton is just a coffee club; it is not operating like a business association where we share resources," he said.
"I'm kind of a practical guy. I want to see it (Focolare) become a practical cooperative structure of some kind, but I don't think the nature of our group is that. We are not a bunch of small business people who could pool our resources."
If Anielski had his way, "Focolare should simply be out on its own, in a little village somewhere (operating) basically as a relational network of people who agree that is better to share than (to hoard)."
For more information about Focolare Edmonton call Paul Flaman at 780-436-2771.
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