Do we still need to pray for Christian Unity?
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will begin Saturday, Jan. 18. In many countries, Christians will gather in one anothers’ churches to pray. Since the 1960s, prayers and readings for the week have been jointly planned by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches.
Christian unity was a chief goal of the Second Vatican Council and signified the lowering of barriers that caused pain within families, between spouses, and in the workplace. The significance of this ecumenical movement is not lost on Rev. Adrian Martens of the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Archbishop Gregory Kerr-Wilson.
So, have we been successful in attaining Christian unity?
Archbishop Kerr-Wilson, Anglican diocesan bishop of Calgary and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land says there has been some success. There is a consensus that “we believe the same things. We have the same God. These similarities weren’t seen 50 or 60 years ago. However, the work is ongoing. Our goal should be to share at one table.”
Rev. Martens, Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Coordinator in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary says, “there have been wonderful strides and some dark periods in the history of Ecumenism. At times, we vary in our degree of Ecumenism. However, if we focus on being joined with Christ, other denominations will want to share much more.”
So, while there seems to be some success in terms of dialogue and mutual understanding of other Christian denominations, has there been any tangible gains?
Kerr-Wilson says “there have been many benefits to diverse Christian traditions. Different traditions have different strengths and emphasise different things. The Anglican Church went through several centuries with no Eucharist or mass unless you went to the early service for the most devout. The ecumenical relationship helped us to recover the benefit of seeing the Eucharist as the heart of Church worship. This is an example of receptive ecumenism, what we can receive from you that can deepen our own life in Church and faith in Christ. The gift of the other.”
“…We need to realise that the other’s gift is our gift as well,” says Martens.
In the eyes of both Kerr-Wilson and Martens, various Christian traditions and values from different areas and places around the world have helped the abundance of faith.
Martens has seen a marked increase in the number of Christians from other countries. “There is also an increase in the number of Anabaptists, Hutterites and Mennonites.”
One aspect of this growth is the level of fluidity between denominations. Kerr-Wilson notes that “some Anglicans from different countries find that the way they worshiped is more similar to a different denomination here e.g., the Nigerian Anglican expression is similar to a Pentecostal church. There are some positive and hopeful aspects of this fluidity as well as some troubling things. The positive is that we see Christian faith in the other. The negative is that we are leaning towards consumerism, ‘if I am not happy with what is going on, I can move somewhere else.’ There isn’t that commitment to persevere in the midst of the struggle, which is an essential part of the discipleship.”
The looming question for Kerr-Wilson seems to be not whether we still need to pray for Christian unity, but rather, how can we act more together?
“When we talk to each other, we need to recognize that we are not talking to a Catholic, Anglican or Presbyterian. We are talking to a brother in Christ, a sister in Christ. I have seen that when people engage in prayer and bible study together more regularly, that brings them closer together. I would love to see a monthly service where we gather as Christians to pray for others to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We should be fueled by our faith to act together on social justice initiatives.
Martens agrees that such joints actions will help remove barriers in families of mixed Christian denominations. “We can do more to make other denominations feel welcomed. Prayer is the best thing. We can lead the Prayer of the Faithful to pray for local churches.”
By Nadia Hinds
My most enduring memories of youth have to do with the place of faith and prayer in my family. I didn’t fully appreciate the gift that was given to me then. Now I do. And in all honesty, neither did I fully grasp, in my first years as a husband and dad, the beautiful gift, the responsibility, and the opportunities family prayer was. I still remember the prominent weekly ritual of our family getting ready for Sunday mass and the privileged role of Mary in our Polish home. I fondly recall the persevering prayer life of my mother, the power prayer had for my dad when dealing with cancer, the image of my grandfather in prayer, so often with a rosary in hand and ever so contemplative.
A perfect family? Far from it. There were moments of harmony, but also conflict. Unity and cohesion, but also misunderstanding, hurt and pain. There was health, but also sickness and death. Rejoicing with successes, crying with betrayal, and conflict followed by repentance, conversion and forgiveness. How did we ever get through it all? Now, after all those years, I look back and see that it was all grace.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes: “A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God” (No. 316). He goes on to say, “If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them” (No. 317). Given the conviction of the Holy Father and Tradition of the Church on the power of prayer in the life of individuals and families, you may also find relief knowing that there is scientific support to Fr. Patrick Peyton’s maxim, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
One study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, explored this adage and identified 7 themes.
There is value in creating a culture of family prayer. To do this means prioritizing time for prayer and intentionally setting aside distractions. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). In essence, that is what prayer is all about. Responding to His initiative, and inviting Jesus, who loves me and my family in an intimate and unrepeatable way, into our homes and hearts.
By: Anthony Banka, Family & Youth Coordinator
Note: Chelladurai, J.M., Dollahite, D.C., and Marks, L.D. (2018). The family that prays together: Relational processes associated with regular family prayer. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(7), 849-859.
Throughout our Catholic tradition, the book of sacred Scripture has been the honored symbol of God’s living word present among us. Processions, bowing, candles, and incense express our church’s reverence for the inspired word as it is enthroned, opened, and proclaimed in Catholic worship. This prayer service brings the ancient practice of Bible enthronement to Catholic homes, so that it may be a continual reminder to seek and live God’s word each day.
“I would like so much for all Christians to be able to comprehend ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ, through diligent reading of the Word of God, for the sacred text is nourishment of the soul and the pure and perennial source of spiritual life for all of us.” – POPE FRANCIS
Prayer to enthrone the bible in your home - Download Leaflet here
Reverently place the open Bible on a mantle, table, shelf, or bookstand. You may adorn the space with a candle, crucifix, icon, or flowers. It will serve as a spot for regular Bible reading and prayer. As you pray this enthronement service together, different family members may volunteer for different reader parts.
We begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We gather together to enthrone the Holy Bible, the sacred book of our church. Since ancient times, the open book of Scripture has been enthroned at church councils and in cathedrals and parish churches. Since every Catholic home is a “domestic church,” we continue this tradition in the place of our ordinary lives, asking that this enthroned Bible remind us that God teaches, encourages, and challenges us through its open pages.
Let us pray: Ever-living God, send your Holy Spirit so that this Bible may be for us a source of strength, comfort, inspiration, and guidance. Give us a deeper love for sacred Scripture, a desire to read and reflect upon it, and a longing to follow more faithfully the way of Jesus.
Let us listen to Jesus as he offers us truth and freedom through his Word. A Reading from the Gospel according to John:
Jesus then said to those who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Pause for a moment of silent reflection.
Reader: Let us all respond: “O God, teach us your word.”
R/: O God, teach us your word.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the living word of Scripture. May it always be the center of our home and our lives. As you have inspired that word with power and truth, now give us confidence to read the Bible in ways that form us into disciples. Fill our hearts and kindle in them the fire of your love, so that you may renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray together as Jesus taught us.
R./ Our Father, who art in heaven …
Reader: Let us offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace.
(This enthronement service may be easily adapted to a classroom, community room, or whatever space you wish to dedicate to the sacred Scriptures.)
A place for listening and prayer
Now that the Bible is enthroned in your home, this spot is a place to come regularly to read the Bible, individually and as a family. Choose a book of the Bible to read over a period of time, the Sunday Mass readings, or a Bible study book. Then follow the five stages of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina to guide you.
Read the verses aloud, slowly and carefully, realizing that God is speaking through the sacred text. Imagine the scene, notice the feelings evoked by the text, and consider the type of writing used by the author. If done in a group, members share with the others what they have discovered in the text.
Considering what particular phrases or images have caught your attention, ask yourself what the text is saying personally to you. What insight, comfort, or challenge is God offering you? If in a group, feel free to share your thoughts with the others.
Respond to God who has spoken to you in the text. In words of thanks, praise, repentance, or petition, speak to God from the heart. In a group, this could be prayed aloud or in silence.
Simply rest in God’s presence. Trust God to work within you and form you in the divine image. Stay in silence and savor the Holy Spirit.
Determine how you can turn your prayerful reflection into practical experience. Let the power of God’s word have an effect in your life, making you a more committed disciple of Jesus.
Text & Prayer from Catholic Initiatives
Written by Steven J. Binz
Pope Francis has declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride” (Aperuit Illis, 2). In 2020 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 26.
Here are five liturgical suggestions for making the most of this universal invitation from the Pontiff.
Focus on the centrality of the Bible for Christians. In the Gospel, Jesus quotes what we heard in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. The word of the prophet is the foundation for his teaching and the call of the first disciples. In the second reading Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus did not send him to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel and that “it is the power of God”.
2. Bless Ministers of the Word
Following the Homily, invite ministers of the Word to stand (e.g. lectors, psalmists, leaders in RCIA, liturgy of the word for children, and scripture study). Bless them with hands extended:
Blessed are you, Lord God,
Source of all light and all goodness,
you sent your Son, your living Word,
to reveal to humanity the mystery of your love.
Look with mercy upon these women and men who proclaim your word
and lead your people closer to your teaching.
Bless X them in their ministry
so that they may be nourished by your Word,
be transformed by it and faithfully announce it
to their brothers and sisters in your Church.
We praise and thank you, Father,
in the name of Jesus your Son,
and in the love of your Holy Spirit,
God of glory for ever and ever.
Adapted from the blessing of lectors in Celebrations of Installation and Recognition, copyright Concacan Inc.,2005. All rights reserved.
3. Universal Prayer
Introduction to the petitions:
Dear sisters and brothers,
nourished and formed by God’s Word
let us bring our needs and petitions before Him.
In addition to the petitions you have prepared for today, include some for the Word of God to come to life in your community, for example:
Prayer at the end of the petitions:
Grant, O God, that our lives be marked by your living word.
Hear these, our prayers,
and help us to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
4. Eucharistic Prayer
You might use Eucharistic Prayer III for Various Needs and Occasions (Jesus the Way to the Father). Its Preface focuses on Christ as the “Word” of God. Roman Missal p.764ff.
5. Enthroning the Bible (For use in homes, schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups)
The faithful have shown reverence to the bible as the inspired word of God since ancient times. The enthronement of an open bible has often served as a symbolic invitation to delve into the sacred text as the source of our spiritual life. You might use this short ritual from the American Bible Society to enthrone the Bible at home, in schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups.
The story of St. Paul’s shipwreck on Malta from Acts 27:18 – 28:10 leads this year’s Prayer for Christian Unity. The diverse group of passengers on the boat were at the mercy of the force of the sea and the violent storm around them. They had lost of hope of being saved but an angel of God had come to St. Paul and assured him that God would grant them safety. Through his faith in God, St. Paul encouraged the group. When they ran aground, the people on the island embraced them with “unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2).
The question to ask during this week of Christian unity is whether we show “unusual kindness” and become witnesses of God’s loving providence to all people.
Hospitality is a much needed virtue in our search for Christian unity. It is a practice that calls us to a greater generosity to those in need. Our own Christian unity will be discovered not only through showing hospitality to one another, important though this is, but also through loving encounters with those who do not share our language, culture or faith.
The Week of prayer for Christian Unity takes place January 18 – 25.
Acts 27:18-19, 21
Acts 27:22, 34
With the disappearance of decorated Christmas trees from bay windows and the appearance of dried up evergreen trees free of ornaments, tinsel and lights now lying on our curbs we can easily perceive an atmospheric change in focus. However, Liturgically, Christmas ends with the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on Sunday, January 12.
So, even if your Christmas trees have come down and decorations have been returned to storage, we invite you to consider keeping out the Christmas crèche a while longer and placing it in a prominent place in your home where you can gather with family and pray.
You may light a candle (mindful of everyone’s safety) and pray these words…
“O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practising the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ”
Did you know that the Vatican has their life-size nativity scene up until February 2?
Just as the Blessed Virgin spent 40 days contemplating the Divine Fruit of her womb before going to the temple to fulfil the Law, we also can ponder, explore, and live out the fruit of the Incarnation in the period of Ordinary Time leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. While this feast day is not part of the Christmas season, it is a feast that points back to Christmas and leads us forward to Easter.
And so, building on the #I Am Blessed campaign, we invite you and your family to keep in mind the words of Pope Francis: “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman” Pope Francis, Admirabile Signum.
Close to the celebration of Christmas, after the Nativity scene has been set up, gather around to bless and praise God for sending his Son, Jesus. Here is a blessing prayer you can use at home with your family:
Sing a Christmas hymn or carol.
Leader: Glory to God in the highest.
(R/.) And peace to God’s people on earth.
Leader: Let us listen to these words of Scripture.
A reader proclaims one of these readings from Holy Scripture:
Leader: Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who was born for our salvation. Our response to each intention is “Glory to God in the highest.”
(R/.) Glory to God in the highest.
Leader: Eternal Word, you have scattered the darkness of sin and death. (R/.)
Word made flesh, you have made us children of God most high. (R/.)
Incarnate Son, you have united heaven and earth. (R/.)
Lord Jesus, you are the revelation of God’s love. (R/.)
Eternal Son, you are the light of the nations. (R/.)
Emmanuel, you are fullness of God’s glory. (R/.)
Son of God, you were born of Mary with Joseph as your protector. (R/.)
Bread of life, you were laid in a humble manger. (R/.)
Son of David, the shepherds came to worship you. (R/.)
Light of the world, the Magi brought you gifts. (R/.)
Prayer of Praise
Leader: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
you have sent your Son
as the promised Saviour of the world
so that he might share with us your divine life.
Bless us as we prepare this crib,
and let it be a reminder of the Lord Jesus,
who was born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David.
Grant that we may always serve you in faith
as did the angels,
praise you for your saving deeds
as did the shepherds,
and surround you with the warmth of our love,
as did the animals of the stable.
Glory and praise to you, eternal God,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.
Conclude by singing a Christmas hymn or carol.
From Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family.
Ottawa: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004.
"To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Lk. 2:11)
You are invited to spend the Christmas season with Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Check out the Mass times for the Christmas Season in parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary. Click here.
While shops, television, and radio are filling our ears with Christmas music during the “holiday season”, for Catholics most of the worldly festivity does not take place during Christmas at all. It falls rather, during the liturgical season of Advent.
Unlike the red and green of the secular season, the liturgical colour of Advent is violet – the colour of a penitential season. We use candlelight to soften, not eviscerate, the darkness to invite prayer and introspection. We cease singing the Gloria and our hymns reflect the twofold character of Advent.
One of the most popular Advent hymns is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. The text of this hymn originates with the medieval O Antiphons, one of which is prayed each day in Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours and as the verse for the Alleluia verse of the Gospel Acclamation in the Mass from December 17 – 23.
The O Antiphons introduce us to several names given to the Messiah in the Old Testament. Each of the seven antiphons has three parts:
O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
O Radix Jesse
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all people;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
O Clavis David
O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Rex Gentium
O King of all the nations,
the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
O Emmanuel (“God is with us”)
king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people,
come and set us free, Lord our God.
Tonight, as I was driving by a parking lot in the bleak and snowy weather, feeling downcast and discouraged by difficulties from recent weeks, I saw a guy dumpster-diving in a clothing donations bin in the dark. Pulling over to ask if there was anything I can do to help, I was shocked to see a guy probably in his 30's, not older than me.
He said what he needed most was a warm pair of gloves to make it through the cold night, as his was full of holes. Since all the stores were closed, I offered him mine, though they were rather worn. He hesitated, but I insisted that he tried them on – they fit. The look on his face was one of genuine happiness and gratitude, over just my old worn pair of gloves. My heart ached. We made a run to Tim’s to get some food, and I let him know about the Feed The Hungry program every Sunday at St. Mary’s. He shared with me that he went to a Catholic school growing up, so I asked him if there was anything I can help pray for. Looking away, he stood silent for what seemed like a minute, neither speaking or moving. Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked me to pray for his two kids whom he hasn’t seen in a long time. I promised I would pray for him, and in your charity, I ask that you please pray for Mike and his kids too. He was so grateful, but to me he was the real blessing tonight, as he snapped me out of focusing on myself and my own problems. God bless Mike, and may he receive all the graces and help needed to be reunited with his kids. #iamblessed
Shared by Dr. Thomas Fung, parishioner of Holy Spirit Parish in Calgary, Vice President of Calgary Catholic Medical Association. Photo credit: Dr. Thomas Fung
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers