+JMJ+ This is the first post in a short series for the Week or Octave of Christian Unity. The practice of praying for several days for Christian Unity goes back—well, in a sense it goes all the way back to Jesus and the Apostles, but this particular practice goes back to 1897, though it was then observed during the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost. These days we observe it “during the octave which precedes the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25.” So it begins today, Monday, January 18.
I got all of that from what I’m reading tonight in my go-to set of daily meditation books (other than the Rosary and the Divine Office): In Conversation with God,* by Fr. Francis Fernández-Carvajal. (I’ll refer to it as ICWG with volume number hereafter. See notes and links at the end of this post.) Fr. Carvajal reminds us that the desire for Christian unity is not some modern idea (though there is a modern idea of it that is not Christ’s nor the Church’s idea) but the Lord Himself expressed His desire for this unity in His Priestly Prayer on the last night with His Apostles before His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
“That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”John 17:21 DRB
Unity is one of the four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, apostolic. The Church has all of these marks & must have them. Our Octave of Christian Unity is a call and invitation to unity and the fullness of the faith. And, oh, how I long for my separated brothers and sisters to have this fullness that their joy may be complete.
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.”John 15:11 DRB
Christ preached about “the one flock and the one true shepherd,” that “a kingdom divided againt itself cannot stand.” (ICWG, Vol 6, pages 22-23.)
“Union with Christ is the cause and the condition of the unity of Christians. This unity is a great help for humanity, since the one Church beckons all people to believe in Jesus Christ, the one true Saviour. The Church continues Christ’s salvific work in the world. In its decree on ecumenism, the Second Vatican Council has taught that the unity of the Church affects her universality and her salvific mission.”ICWG, vol. 6, 23. Quoting Vatican II, Unitatis redintegratio,1.
Fr. Carvajal says that the Fathers of the Church “looked upon division as the worst of all evils.” And he mentions that “false ecumenism which holds that all Christian religions are equally valid.”
“They reject the existence of one visible Church linked to the Apostles and fulfilling the Will of Christ. According to the Second Vatican Council, Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord, but they differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ himself were divided. Certainly, such division openly contradicts the Will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.”ICWG, vol. 6, 24.
But he also reminds us that we have much in common with our separated brethren. (They haven’t thrown out everything they had from the Church, after all.) But many respect and revere the Bible as a rule of faith and life, and have a sincere love for the Lord and a zeal for souls, and who are “sealed in baptism which unites them to Christ” and this is a reason for us to treat them with respect and love, even while remaining mindful that, dare I say it, our union is not complete, our communion is not full.
We have to be honest about this but not obnoxious. We desire in our heart of hearts to draw them (and all) on to full unity with the Church and with the Lord, with the Body of Christ. We don’t want to drive them away but draw them onward. We want to win not arguments but souls. How easy it is to allow ourselves to be provoked into a heated argument when we should stop and pray for real unity, not fake unity but REAL and deep union.
I’ve experienced this temptation when non-Catholics show up in the midst of a prayer thread on social media and demand that I convert to whatever their particular flavor of the faith happens to be or else and at best I’m no Christian at all, and maybe even a demon seeking to ruin souls, at worst. That is worse than most of the attacks from atheists that I’ve withstood, since they usually just say something silly (sometimes disgusting). But the insults from a Protestant can be the most hurtful. Truly, they must not know what they are doing. Note: I grew up Protestant but I wasn’t anti-Catholic and I had no idea how anti-Catholic some people could be until I began to convert. Wow. I can’t imagine behaving that way to anyone.
I’ll be mentioning the Octave of Christian Unity in our Live Rosary Thread this week. Follow me @disciple96 on Twitter at 7pm Central, Tuesdays and Fridays, for a little while longer. I post some preparatory tweets beginning a few minutes early, usually about a quarter ’til. I hope to post some thoughts on there about real Christian unity during the week, too. Then maybe I’ll gather them up and post them on here, too.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and become who you were meant to be: a saint! May the Lord bless and keep you, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- In Conversation with God, by Fr. Francis Fernandez Carvajal. 7 volumes, vinyl cover with dust jacket, in a boxed set. So excellent, I’ve used these since my early days of conversion, so since the mid-nineties, though I collected them one at a time. (Amazon affiliate link. See Full Disclosure below.)
- Not to be confused with that other set of books, Conversations with God. That’s a New Age set of books and not at all the same thing. I always need to point this out because there’s always someone who thinks I’ve jumped ship or lost my mind. Nope, I haven’t, either one. Hey, I heard that! ;)
- Vatican II, Unitatis redintegratio.
- Live Rosary Threads: Follow me @disciple96 on Twitter at 7pm Central,
Tuesdays andFridays. See the Rosary Project Live Archives to see what the threads are like.
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