In some ways, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25) seems kind of old-fashioned, something we thought more about in the 60’s.
But the more I think and read about the issues around unity, the more I think it is absolutely crucial for the life of any Catholic, and indeed of any Christian. Why is this the case?
Christian Unity is not about giving up our beliefs for the sake of unity. Instead it is about getting to the truth. Those who work in cause of the Unity of Christians tell me that working towards unity is really working to be completely honest, to dig as deeply as we can to see what is at the core of our faith. It is as if we were, each denomination, digging a well, trying to reach this amazing source of water. Each of us has been digging for a while, so the idea of climbing out of our well and using someone else’s is not a viable option. We are already too deep. So the goal is to keep digging, knowing that we will all, eventually, end up at the same spring, the same source. So if we want to live a Catholic life, if we want to get close to the source, which is Jesus, then Christian Unity is an essential part of our life of faith.
What would Christian Unity look like? I don’t think it means that we would close all the churches of the different denominations and worship in one place, at least not all the time. Rather, I suspect it will look more like the relationship between what we call the Latin Rite and the Ukrainian Rite, or the Maronite Rite. We are all of one Church, but over the centuries we have developed different traditions, all of which need to be respected.
So what should I do for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? Well, as Jesus taught, pray that we all might be one. And if we take that seriously, take this week as a reminder to spend some time with people of different Christian denominations. The challenges are to learn something about their prayer, about how they live out their lives as disciples of Jesus, and having the courage to share our lives of faith with them. If you need an excuse, you can blame it on this blog. It’s all part of digging those wells.
–Glenn Byer, is a liturgist and the award-winning author of the Mass Appeal series (All three books in the series, published by Novalis (https://en.novalis.ca/), have won awards from the Catholic Press Association).