This month, the Church joins Christians of other traditions in observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Every year, from January 18–25, millions of Christians of all denominations offer the prayer that Jesus himself prayed to his Father, “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).
Jesus made this plea to his Father as he gathered with his disciples at the Last Supper shortly before his passion. But his heart didn’t go out just to them; he prayed that all of us would be united in him. Jesus suffers over any divisions among his Father’s children, just as any of us would suffer over our own children if they were estranged from one another.
So I invite you to join Jesus in this fervent prayer this month. Every day, and especially during that special week of prayer, let’s all beg the Holy Spirit, the source of all unity, to deepen our love for our Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters. Of course, we should leave it to the Lord and to our bishops to work out theological differences, but we also have a part to play. As St. John Paul II wrote, “The movement promoting Christian unity is not just some sort of ‘appendix’ which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism . . . must pervade all she is and does” (That They May Be One, 20). Unity is a concern for all of us!
Witnesses to Unity. This month, we will learn about Christian unity through the lens of three ecumenical pioneers.
First is Fr. Paul Couturier, who promoted “spiritual ecumenism,” the belief that in addition to praying for one another, we must reach across denominational divisions and pray with one another.
Next is St. John XXIII, who placed the goal of Christian unity at the heart of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John once said, “Whenever I see a wall between Christians, I try to pull out a brick.”
And finally, we’ll look at the life of Brother Roger, the son of a Protestant pastor and the founder of an ecumenical community in the tiny village of Taizé, France. The community of Taizé was such a beautiful witness that St. John Paul II once said, “one passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water.”
These three pioneers had committed all their hearts and much of their energy to the cause of Christian unity. I hope that their stories inspire in you a deeper longing for an end to all divisions among the children of God. May we all join with one voice and pray, “Lord, bring all your scattered children together in unity and love. May we become one just as you and your Father are one!”