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Mariapolis: When Mary Is the Mother of the City The Mariapolis is originally a summer spiritual gathering of the members

of the Focolare Movement which then became an annual appointment all over the world where the Focolare Movement or Work of Mary (Opera di Maria) is found. It is coined from the Greek words “Maria” for Mary and “polis” for city. Mariapolis therefore literally means “City of Mary.” Like many other things of the Focolare, the Mariapolis came without a plan but as an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, the foundress loved to tell. It came about spontaneously in the summer months of 1949, when Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare, went together with a few of her first companions to rest in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy upon the advice of her doctor. However, it was an uncommon vacation. First, it was no ordinary family going together to the mountains to rest and recreate. Secondly, it was composed of an amalgam of people from all walks of life who, having already met the Focolare’s spirituality rooted in the experience of living the gospel and with the horrors of World War II and the seeming futility of life still fresh in their memory, they wanted to continue in this divine adventure which Lubich and her friends started few years earlier in the city of Trent. Without any formal arrangements, people from all over Italy flocked to the valleys of Fierra di Primiero to join Chiara and her companions to live together this unusual experience. And, as what is true in the stories of the many charisms born in the Church, the same thing happened to what ought to be a simple vacation. In their day-to-day coming together animated by the desire to live the Word, they came to experience what can be called the fruit of the gospel when it is lived out—Jesus in the midst. Jesus in fact promised to his disciples “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. In fact, it is within the experience of the Church, where humanity gives space to the divine in order to allow the Word to live in him, that Christ in his Word gives light to many realities of life and faith because of the many extraordinary graces which God in his great love bestowed to them. Similarly, the first groups who came to the first “Mariapolis” experienced this extraordinary presence of the divine in the simplicity of their stay together permeated by mutual love whether they were gathered in meditation, through simple conversations, sharing of experiences or in long hours of trekking along the side and peaks of the Dolomites mountains. Hence, in the succeeding summer of following year, they went up to the same little village again but this time they were joined by other persons and families who already live this life with them. Thus, began the tradition of the Mariapolis. Since then, year after year for 10 years, the Valley welcomed a growing number of people of all vocations, lay, religious, priests and nuns, people of every age and social condition: the poor and the rich, the educated and simple people, those in authority like bishops, ministers and so on. They were to compose a scale-model of society renewed by the Gospel lived out.

They would share goods among all to help those who were coming from faraway places or did not have enough money to pay the cost of the Mariapolis. Each one felt at home and one could see that everyone started to love. In 1959 about 12,000 people passed through the Valley of Primiero, coming from 27 nations of the 5 continents. It was precisely in that Mariapolis that a desire arose to seal a pact of reciprocal love not only among those persons, but also among the peoples they represented. That year saw the last of those unforgettable Mariapolises that took place in the Dolomites. From the 1960s on, this unique vacation was to be repeated around the world where this way of life had arrived. In the Philippines where the Focolare arrived in February 1966, the first Mariapolis was held two months later at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City and, in June of the same year, it was held first in Cebu City with the presence of then Card. Julio Rosales. Here in Davao the first Mariapolis was in April of 1989. This year, hundreds of Mariapolis gatherings were held in more than 80 nations with thousands of people in attendance coming from different social backgrounds, ages, cultures, called together by the common goal to build a “temporary city” inspired by relationships of reciprocal love. Externally, maybe the Mariapolises are different from one another. But they are all the same with the same characteristics of universality, fraternity and love. All over the world the Mariapolises are cities where Mary is the mother, where Jesus is present and where all feel that they are brothers and sisters. Then the Mariapolis’ continue to be a beacon of light everywhere, a concrete and decisive step towards “that all may be one.”

-The Focolare Community of Davao-