Nine days from now, the Church celebrates the feast of St Paul’s conversion. Paul, of course, is the great “Apostle to the Gentiles,” who greatly contributed to the spread of the Christian faith in its embryonic years.
Consequently, the feast recommends itself as an occasion to pray for Christian unity. The disintegration of the Mystical Body on earth is nothing short of scandalous. Every Christian should share our Lord’s desire that Christians might be one.
Some people start a novena for Christian Unity today. This is my own practice. Others wait until tomorrow, and observe an octave of prayer for Christian Unity. So if you read this post a day late, you’ve still got time!
Speaking of time, perhaps you have enough of it to formulate an elaborate pattern of prayer for your novenas and octaves. Perhaps I could make the time myself. I don’t know. I do know that I lack the discipline.
I used to make all sorts of ambitious resolutions which I’d heroically observe for three or four days before collapsing in a heap. Big goals mean big falls, and big falls invite a spiral of discouragement which puts an end to all of it.
I think the enemy figured that out before I did. But once I became alert to it, I confounded the enemy by “thinking small.” A modest task, performed with love, becomes great anyway. So make it easy on yourself. Think small and childlike! For my part, I will recite this prayer by Bl John Henry Newman each day, and I will perform a small act of self-denial.
Why the mortification? I think it’s one of the secrets of the saints. When I’m faced with a problem or challenge, I tend to act to resolve it. The saints, in contrast, in the first place pray for a resolution to the problem or challenge; in the second place, they’d fast and atone; and only in the third place would they act – often, by then, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit!
Anyway, here’s Cardinal Newman’s prayer for Christian Unity:
O Lord Jesus Christ,
when you were about to suffer,
you prayed for your disciples to the end of time,
that they might all be one,
as you are in the Father,
and the Father in you.
Look down in pity on the many divisions
among those who profess your faith
and heal the wounds which the pride of man
and the craft of Satan have inflicted on your people.
Break down the walls of separation
which divide one party and denomination
of Christians from another.
Look with compassion on the souls
who have been born in one or another
of these various communions
and bring them all into that one communion
which you set up in the beginning:
the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Perhaps this prayer is not ecumenical in application, insofar as it may arouse objections from Protestants and Orthodox if it was prayed in their company. But certainly the prayer is ecumenical in spirit and intent, and perfectly suitable for private prayer.