Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

20 January 2013

Come Together

In the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the readings for the day (Sat, 1st week in OT, Year I) are rather appropriate.  I used the proper prayers for the BVM Collection Mass for Mary, Mother and Image of the Church.  Mary, specifically Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been called the Star of the New Evangelization.  Because she is mother of God the Son made Flesh, she is also mother of all who are incorporated into Christ through Baptism.  Mary is the greatest contributor to the motive and content of ecumenism.  If this movement is ever to move, she must be involved.

The Catechism has three short sections devoted to ecumenism (820-822, contained within this link).

CCC 820 mentions, "Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and protect the unity that Christ wills for her."  Our internal unity--our integrity--cannot be taken for granted.  Our times have witnessed this reality.  Statistics galore attest to the division among Catholics regarding doctrinal and moral issues.  These tenets are a "package deal" insofar as they must be accepted as one, and as they tend to be accepted or rejected as one.  There is no room for personal reservations, even though there is no human enforcement of integral acceptance and/or repentance.  Catholics' foursquare embrace of the Faith--in doctrine, liturgy, morality, and prayer--is perhaps the best possible catalyst for the ecumenical movement.  Otherwise, "How can they expect us to be interested if they themselves can't agree?"

821 lists several things that constitute an adequate call to Christian unity:

  • a permanent renewal in our own fidelity (v.s.): the "driving force"
  • conversion of heart, the absence of which causes divisions (v.s.)
  • prayer in common, the "soul" of the movement
  • fraternal knowledge of each other
  • ecumenical formation of clergy and laity
  • dialogue among theologians and members
  • collaboration in service activities
That's a good checklist, an "examination of conscience" for the individual, parish,  deanery, and  diocesan levels.  While the Catholic Church has never backed away from the claim that the true Church of Christ fully subsists in her, this does not give us the right to ignore our brothers and sisters from other faiths.  We have a good number of non-Catholic spouses who attend Mass with their family, and our friendliness toward them has a considerable effect.  This Christmas I made the point, at the beginning of my homily, to include a warm welcome to members of other faiths who came to worship with us (a practice that I first encountered at my first assignment after ordination).  At wedding Masses and funerals, where many attendees are not Catholic, I invite everyone present to pray for the newly married couple/deceased person, as well as for the reunification of all Christians.  As un-ecumenical as it may sound, using homilies and RCIA classes to explain differences between faiths can help everyone to understand the enormity of the task, and perhaps serve as a stimulus to prayer and research.  And we cannot be afraid to give the nod to other faiths for their virtues, as TJ Burdick did very well in this post.

822 reminds us, in fine, that the unification of Christians exceeds our unaided grasp; hence our need to  surrender the outcome to the Lord, who wills it anyhow (Jn 17:21).  Given the considerable, and increasing, differences between Christian communions, we can easily be given to discouragement.  It helps to recall Who is in charge.

One point from the Gospel stood out.  "I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners": You may recall the viral YouTube video that expressed common objections to creedal communities (Catholicism in particular).  Several Catholic responses soon emerged.  The objector cited an old chestnut--that the Church ought not be "a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners."  We would do well to consider the kind of vibes we give off to people who are hurting for whatever reason.  Are we even conscious of the wounds that people in our parishes bear?  We certainly cannot tire of extolling the virtues of the saints and the ways people are called to live; but there must be a way of letting people know that, amid in the various ways they fall short, they have a place here, and a place in the Redeemer's Heart.

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