ON THE EVE of His passion, Christ prayed, “That all may be one. Even 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)
Far back in the fifth century St. Prosper of Aquitaine wrote, “The Church pleads before God everywhere, not only for the saints and those regenerated in Christ, but also for all infidels and all enemies of the cross of Christ, for all worshipers of idols, for all who persecute Christ in his members, for the Jews whose blindness does not see the light of the Gospel, for heretics and schismatics who are alien to the unity of faith and charity.”
Early in the twentieth century Father Paul James Francis, S.A., conceived the idea of an octave of intensified prayer for Church unity, to take place from January 18, feast of St. Peters Chair in Rome, to January 25, feast of the conversion of St. Paul. The object of the “Chair of Unity Octave,” in Father Paul’s words, was “the Unity of Christendom around the Apostolic See and the conversion of the world to Christ.” Abbe Couturier of the Archdiocese of Lyons, a promoter of the unity movement in Europe, express its aim in prayer, “That Our Lord may grant to His Church on earth that peace and unity which were in His mind and purpose when, on the eve of His Passion, he prayed that all might be one.”
The spirit of Christian unity is the spirit of humility, sacrifice and love. Mankind will be won to unity when it becomes our Christian habit to approach men humbly, to win men’s allegiance to Christ through giving ourselves to men limitlessly, to capture men for Christ through revealing to men that we love them selflessly. For the unity of mankind to Christ it is insufficient merely to establish the validity of the Catholic position. Mankind must experience the beauty of Christ. “God is charity.” Every Catholic will be a true crusader for unity if he manifests in his daily concern for men the same love Christ expressed toward all mankind.
Grace be with you, in Christ, Joseph
Maryknoll Missal 1959