Who we are
The Gen 4 are children from 4 to 9 years of age who are part of the Focolare Movement. They live the spirituality of unity with the other members of the Movement, trying to do whatever they can every day to create unity among the people around them. They consider this to be their contribution to promoting peace among all and working for a more united world. In fact, their goal is that the whole world might live together as one family.
“Let the little children come to me” (Mt 19:14).
This sentence of Jesus has always meant a lot to the members of the Focolare Movement. From its very beginning, children have always been part of the movement. Its founder, Chiara Lubich, was a primary school teacher, and always had a very direct relationship with children. She understood them and they understood her. She never made a distinction between adults and children in passing on the spirituality, which she gave in its entirety while respecting the needs of each age group. In 1966 she said: “We shouldn’t look at them only as children, but rather see them as persons with a soul, and the soul is neither young nor old – it is always the soul.” (C. Lubich, Loppiano, 19.8.1966, cf. AAVV, Love one another as I loved you, CNx, Rome, p.4)
Lubich understood that children are the ones who in the future will bring the mentality and lifestyle of the Gospel into every aspect of society.
In 1988, comparing the Movement to a large tree full of flowers and fruits, she added: “The children are like the ‘little buds’ on this tree. Therefore, they are very precious because they are the guarantee of the tree’s growth. They are ‘buds’ of hope for a better world.”
1972 | The Gen4 come to life
Chiara Lubich gave the name “Gen 4” to the younger children in the Focolare Movement – also known as the “Work of Mary.” There are the adults (Gen 1), the youth and young adults (Gen 2), the children and teens, aged 10 to17 (Gen 3) and the younger children, aged 4 to 9 (Gen 4). Chiara recounted: “I realized that in the Work of Mary there was an immense gap! (…) The first thing Mary did was to take care of Baby Jesus (…) and so, if we do not bring to life a branch for the Gen 4, Mary will ask me the reason for such an enormous omission!” (C. Lubich, Loppiano, 03/23/1972, “Love one another as I have loved you”, CN, Rome, p.20)
1988 | First International Congress
“When will we have a Gen 4 Congress?” This is what the children asked Chiara Lubich. So the first Gen 4 International Congress was held in Castel Gandolfo (Italy) in 1988. Eight hundred children arrived from all over Europe with some representatives from other continents, boys and girls from 4 to 9 years of age. “It was an extraordinary experience!” Chiara commented, “They understand everything! (…) They are so taken up by God that they forget everything else.” (C.Lubich, Castelgandolfo, 27.1.1989)
1991 | Gen4 "cottage industries"
All over the world, the Gen 4 have started small “cottage industries” because they want to help those who are less fortunate than themselves. They make and sell necklaces, bracelets, greeting cards and candy or cookies. This is their way of living the culture of giving and sharing, which is the basis for the Economy of Communion project that involves businesses worldwide. This project began when Chiara Lubich visited Brazil in 1991 and was saddened to see the immense inequality between people living in skyscrapers in Sao Paulo and those in the slums or favelas surrounding the city like a “crown of thorns.” (http: //www.edc-online.org). She began the Economy of Communion whose goal is to use part of a company’s profits to help raise the standard of living of those in need.
1997 | “They have evicted Jesus”
All around the world, thousands of girls and boys have responded to Chiara Lubich’s invitation to bring Jesus back to the center of Christmas. Together with their parents, friends and the local communities of the Movement, they go out into the city squares, along busy streets, in front of local institutions, in schools or in market places and offer people small plaster statues of Baby Jesus, which they make themselves. The basket also includes a copy of the meditation of Chiara Lubich entitled, “They have evicted Jesus.”
1998 | The Art of Loving and the Cube of Love
In their 1998 International Congress, Chiara Lubich explained the “Art of Loving” to the Gen 4. She summed up six aspects of loving taken from the Gospel and which have been part of the Focolare life since its beginning. She gave them a small cube, or dice, with one phrase on each of the six sides. The children roll the dice in the morning and try to live whatever comes up and then share their experiences. This unique “game” has spread all over the world and teaches thousands of children a simple way to live the Gospel at home, at school and with their friends.
2004 | The culture of giving and sharing
In 2004, again during an International Congress, Lubich helps the gen4 to broaden the horizon of sharing. Giving is not just about material things (helping the most needy), but everything we have as talent, time, availability (giving help, a smile, listening …): it shall and can become a “lifestyle”, a new “culture of giving and sharing”.
and the story continues ...
- After the first congress in 1988, various international congresses were held in Rome and until 2006, the founder of the Focolare, Chiara Lubich, was always present at them. After her death, the current president of the Movement attended their meetings and spoke to them or answered their questions.
- Currently, most Gen 4 congresses are held locally in various countries, either within the same region or together with Gen 4 in neighboring countries. The purpose of these congresses is to create a wide network that can reach young children wherever they are, rediscovering together the beauty and value of a community of people who come together to educate the children.
- The Gen 4 also promote numerous projects with the goal of helping children in need, or spreading the mentality of peace or increasing respect for nature.
THE GEN 5 ARE ENTRUSTED TO THE GEN4
In 1995, when Chiara was in Trent, she greeted a group of young mothers holding their babies, and she thought: “Why can’t these little ones be part of the Movement, too?”. Later, she spoke about it to the Gen 4 at a meeting in Rome, telling them:
“That’s when the Gen 5 were born! (…) They are children from birth to three and a half years of age. (…) These children are entrusted to you, Gen 4! You have to help them to grow, play with them, teach them the Ideal, teach them how to love (…). They understand what they see others doing, and so, if you behave well and love everyone, they will learn from you and say, ‘Oh now we know! We have to love everyone!’ And so they too will start to love…”
“Dear Gen 4, as you may already know, the Gen 5 have been born! Even though they are small, they understand many things, especially about love. I entrust them to you. Be their guardian angels!” Chiara
(C.Lubich, in Gen 4 magazine, n. 1-2 January-February 1995 page 3 and insert
Companions on the journey! To promote the harmonious growth of children
Chiara Lubich always gave special attention to the education of children, supporting the idea, which is widely confirmed by scientific study, that the first years of life represent a fundamental phase of development, one that is central to the formation of even dimension of the child’s life, both humanly and spiritually.
Furthermore, this focus on an integral formation of children has led the Focolare Movement to put forward an educational paradigm Furthermore, attention to the child, to his/her integral formation, has led the Focolare Movement to put forward an educational paradigm ( the person in relationship) that helps children and young people become protagonists of their own conscious choices and renders them better able to form positive relationships.
To support this holistic development of the various dimensions of the person (biological, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, historical, environmental), we have also come to recognize the educational value of the “art of loving” ,” (see below, drop down box) a method that is offered to children in collaboration with their parents, who are the primary educators. This practice allows children the opportunity to better understand and express their emotions and to grow in relationships with others. Furthermore, the Up2Me program: (http://up2me.afnonlus.org/) through periodic meetings for both children and parents together, offers guidance about : certain aspects of education in affectivity, according to the various stages of childhood development.
An educational method for the integral development of the child
To promote the harmonious development of all dimensions of the human person (personal/interpersonal, social/global, spiritual)
Give value to both the educators and assistants as well as the wider community that helps to form the children. Provide formation courses for educators. Underline the need to follow the directives in the official policy of the Focolare on the “Wellbeing and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults.”
ACTIVITY AND MEETINGS
Discovering the Gen4! What do they do when they meet?
The Art of Loving – The Golden Rule
The guiding principle for our formation of children is the “Golden Rule”, which is expressed in the Gospel as: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12), and is also found in the Sacred Texts of most of the major world religions. This concept conveys the value of universal fraternity and therefore is also shared by many people who have no particular religious affiliation but hold to this essential value. Thus children of other religions or of non-religious beliefs participate in the Gen 4 activities.
The “cube of love” is a fundamental and very useful tool to deepen and experience all the facets of the art of loving. (Click here to go to the page of the page on the cube and the art of loving )
The “culture of giving and sharing“ helps people become more aware of the multiplicity of gifts they each possess and can share with others. (Click here to go to the page on the culture of giving and sharing)
Models of life
Since we promote a style of formation that is not only theoretical, but is lived in daily life, we propose to the children models of persons who have lived the Gospel in this way.
- The founder, Chiara Lubich, and other people within the Movement as well as outside of it, who give witness to values such as solidarity and fraternity, and whose lives contributed to building a better world;
- Children like themselves, who perhaps live in different countries or of other cultures, but give witness that children their age can live in this way and thus prove that it is possible to live the Gospel in daily life;
- Episodes in the life of Jesus, in which they discover, together with the whole community in which they are inserted, that every phrase of Scripture can be lived (click here for the Word of Life page). For the Gen 4 of other religions, sentences from their faith tradition are chosen for them to live.
In addition to the personal commitment to live the art of loving, the Gen 4 also work on projects together by:
-Loving the poor: The Gen 4 are struck by the life of the first Christians as well as that of the first members of the Movement, who shared everything they had and provided for the needs of the poor. The children learn to discover Jesus present in those who are poor and so they act accordingly – they give their toys, save their money to buy what is needed, start small “Gen 4 cottage industries”, making and selling necklaces, bracelets, greeting cards, candy and cookies. This is their way of living the culture of giving and sharing which is the basis for a new initiative by hundreds of businesses called the “Economy of Communion.” (See eocnoam.org)
Inspired by the reflection of Chiara Lubich entitled, “They have evicted Jesus,” the Gen 4 promote a particular project during the season of Christmas. They want to remind people of Jesus, who is the one to be celebrated at this time, as well as doing what they can to bring happiness to people around them, and also to collect donations for children in need. (refer to the page “They have evicted Jesus”)
–Share your joy with others: every Gen 4 activity (giving, actions for peace, the Christmas project) can be the occasion to involve other children so that they too can experience that happiness is found in giving. The Gen 4 also give special attention to the Gen 5 (children from birth to three and a half years of age).
BIG Magazine for children
The BIG Magazine is published in Italian (there is no English version yet) by the Focolare publishing house, Citta’ Nuova. It is a monthly magazine for children up to 10 years of age, with games, comics, narratives, true stories, and interesting facts. It promotes positive values for the formation of children, such as, acceptance of others with their differences, promoting peaceful relationships, living in solidarity with others, aiming at universal brotherhood.
Each issue is based on a theme that the children discover while having fun, and there is also an insert for educators on a variety of topics.
One of the goals of the magazine, in fact, is to provide support and ideas to adults who are working with children, together with articles by experts in various fields (education, psychology, family life) on the stages of development of children in this age group. In these years BIG has successfully proposed several guidelines that can be followed, in particular about social and emotional skills. An upcoming issue will deal with discovering the values of friendship. | Subscribe immediately>