What is a Mariapolis?
The Mariapolis is the Focolare’s annual gathering. It’s a place to live Focolare spirituality together, a place to experience unity (and not just talk about it). It’s sort of like a conference, but for families and people of all ages, including those who have a lot of experience with Focolare spirituality and those who have only just heard about it.
Mariapolis means “City of Mary,” and it generally lasts three or more days over summer. There are dozens held around the world each year, sometimes on college campuses, at conference centers or campgrounds. Depending on the country, numbers can range from a few hundred to a thousand people or more attending.
How the Mariapolis started
The first Mariapolises were vacations. People would head to the foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy in the 1950s, and after a spirituality session in the morning, they would head out and enjoy the mountains. In the evenings they would get together and perform skits and songs for each other. Even early on the Mariapolis brought together people of the most varied ages, professions and social backgrounds.
Their idea was to live a communitarian experience in a spirit of brotherhood, enlightened by the universal values of the Gospel. The goal of a Mariapolis is to become a small piece of society renewed by a love that is reciprocal. It aims to show what daily life could be like if our relationships are based on being gifts for one another.
What happens at the Mariapolis?
Through living together, eating together, discussions, shared life experiences and workshops, people who come to a Mariapolis can experience for themselves what living Focolare spirituality is like. Hopefully they also are able to see that unity Focolare hopes to bring into our world, whether in our homes or in society at large.
Mariapolis is not just about listening to people talk about spiritual stuff. There are plenty of opportunities to offer practical help, take time for deeper conversations and have a lot of fun! Kids love it, and they have special activities as they participate in the whole event with everyone. Having young people at the Mariapolis certainly enhances the experience, especially because they share their considerable talents and their enthusiasm for building a world that is more united.
Chiara Lubich summed up Mariapolis living best: “One day spent like this is worth a lifetime. At the end of the day we will no longer recognize ourselves. A joy we have never felt before will flood over us. A new power will fill us. God will be with us, because he is with those who love.”