A meeting arranged in heaven
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-07-15
Your Chair Wrecker has been very privileged to be made an instrument in facilitating a meeting made in heaven. Last Monday, July 9, movers of Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the Focolare Movement gathered for a milestone-setting meeting at the Focolare’s main Philippine headquarters in Tagaytay.

At the Philippine premiere of the internationally previewed trilogy “Paraiso” last June 12, Gawad Kalinga stalwart Tony Meloto asked me to arrange a meeting with the Focolare. Tony and some of the Responsibles (Zone Managers) of the Focolare have previously met on several occasions but this particular meeting was especially significant. Tony felt that it was time for workers in the same vineyard to explore the option of having a more dynamic partnership.

The GK-Focolare meeting was a most uplifting experience, the sharing of two quintessential examples of living Christ’s great commandment: “Whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do unto me.”

Tony Meloto expressed his admiration for the many initiatives of the Focolare, the movement started by Chiara Lubich in Italy in 1943. The Focolare Responsibles were very happy to hear first hand the GK success story from the GK prime mover himself.

Members of both movements exchanged common but also distinct experiences in living Christian love. Tony’s experiences in social engineering provided inspiring perspectives to the Focolare who are also into similar endeavors.

Tony praised the many unnoticed initiatives of the Focolare and encouraged the Responsibles to consider taking a more active stance in media – citing media as a major contributor to the GK success in promoting social engineering. The GK’s outstanding achievement in getting even rival companies and political affiliations to support their cause fulfills the goals of two Focolare initiatives – the Economy of Communion (EoC) and Unity in Politics.

A GK-Focolare partnership can yet be the best thing that can happen to a nation that can’t seem to find an end to worsening poverty. I’ve often written about the GK and Focolare’s Bukas Palad Community Development Program in my past columns, referring to them as the best development models for solving our serious socio-economic-political problems.

Most Filipinos, rich, poor or middle class, are familiar with GK. GK’s unrelenting pursuit of its goals to restore dignity, to provide homes to the homeless and hope to the hopeless has caught the attention of media and the corporate community. It is not usual for rival leading dailies like the STAR and the Inquirer – to give prominent front page play to the same GK community development story, a development story that has become so imperatively newsworthy.

But very few Filipinos know Focolare the organization, much less its meaning in Italian, which is the term for fireplace or hearth, the symbol for warm and loving gatherings. I often flag the Focolare for what I regarded as their seeming lack of appreciation for the importance of public awareness. I have reminded the local Responsibles of Christ’s admonition on the Mount: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”

Also known as a Movement for Unity, The Movement of Mary and a movement that fostered the living of the Gospel of Christ in daily life – I considered this lack of public awareness as a violation of the Master’s admonition. Unable to illuminate, we fail to show the least of our poor brethren the clearly lighted path so vigorously kindled by people behind the Focolare ideal and initiatives.

No less than the late Pope John Paul II exhorted the Focolare to “Go out.” The late Pope was a great supporter of the Focolare and even gave the movement an entire building in Castelgandolfo, the Pope’s lakeside summer residence. It was the Focolare’s Gen (youth group) Festival which gave Pope John Paul II the inspiration for establishing World Youth Day early on in his papacy.

For a movement so closely identified with the Vatican, the Focolare has achieved major strides in promoting inter-religious and multi-cultural dialogues. The Focolare is officially welcomed in Islamic States, among them Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Turkey. You’ll find Buddhists, Hindi, Muslims actively involved with the Focolare which is now in over 180 countries.

So unknown to the general public is the Focolare that in 2004, when we raised funds for Philippine media delegates to the NetOne International Media Congress (organized by the Focolare and held at Castelgandolfo), most of the donors we approached only knew the Focolare Carpentry Shop and not the Focolare Movement, which had been in the country since 1966.

I would make a joke of the Focolare’s lack of information management as a result of their genetic kinship with the Italian Mafia who taught them the practice of “Omerta” or the code of silence.

The great tragedy of mankind is not the emergence of world-class villains like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin and Pol Pot. It is a given that such evil will occasionally surface in history ever since Lucifer bolted from the Forces of Good and Light.

The great tragedy of mankind is when the Forces of Good and Light fail to spread their wings in order to love and to serve the greatest number of the least of their brethren.

Living the life of a hermit monk and doing nothing but pray is not what Christian Sainthood is all about. Christian Sainthood is all about living the lives of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine – men who dared to love even and until it hurts, without reservation or limits.

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