Jan. 18, Christians around the world (including Catholics) began the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This commemoration of prayer culminates June 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. We are all invited to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. We especially pray for all our Christian neighbors, family members, co-workers, friends, etc. We pray that the Lord’s desire that “they may all be one, Father, as you and I are one” may grow among us. This commemoration provides an opportunity for us to focus more on what binds us together than on what divides us.
Before the pandemic altered our lives, I remember this as the time of year when various Christian churches would meet together for a common prayer and song experience followed by a social. Sometimes this group would also do a joint service project together. When I was a campus minister at the University of Cincinnati, this Sunday was the day the Lutheran pastor and I would trade pulpits to preach at each other’s Mass and Service. While I was pastor at St. Clement the last time, several St. Bernard Christian churches had a unitive song and prayer time together. I hope such things can happen again in better times.
Speaking of praying for unity….Monday was the national holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His memory inspires us to share the dream where the first impulse toward other people is one of peaceful interchange rather than fear or violence. On one of my visits to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a group of us Franciscans stood near the pulpit from which Dr. King preached. Some of the friars wanted to stand in that pulpit to connect with history. I joined the group of friars who just didn’t feel worthy to do that. Perhaps I will someday, when I do a better job at unity building and not being prejudiced.