The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has long been a favorite of mine. Once I left the religious and cultural homogeneity of my small home town in the Midwest and saw how deeply divided Christians were, often bitterly so, the Week of Prayer took on a real sense of immediacy. A close confrere of mine, a dedicated ecumenist, is quick to put it in perspective, saying, “We seek that unity which Christ prayed for and the Father wills for his church.”
This year, though, my prayer will include heartfelt supplication for healing in our own Catholic community. The closing months of 2018 — Synod of Bishops and all — were very hard, beginning with the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report about alleged abuse and coverups decades ago, followed by an almost daily barrage of stories from around the country and elsewhere about similar circumstances.
On the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, you will find the beautiful “Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse.” Let me quote just one paragraph from it:
Hear our cries as we agonize
over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers;
soothe restless hearts with hope;
steady shaken spirits with faith;
show us the way to justice and wholeness,
enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.
Protecting the children and vulnerable adults among us must be our highest priority going forward, as well as healing the brokenness and pain of those who have endured abuse.
There is more than enough sadness and shame to go around. We all feel it, and we agonize over it. Hence, we cry out to God: “breathe wisdom into our prayers . . . soothe restless hearts . . . steady shaken spirits . . . show us the way to justice and wholeness, enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.”
In the present storminess, as the fragile boat of the Church is “tossed about by the waves, with the wind against it” (Mt 14:24), we catch sight of the risen Lord in the distance walking on the water and bidding us, as he did Peter, “Come.” We step out in faith and walk across the water toward him. But aware of the waves and the wind, and overcome with fear because of our weakness and sin, we falter . . . until we fix our gaze again on Christ. He alone is our Lord and Savior!
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closes with the feast of The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle (January 25). Think of all that we and the Church are experiencing as a call to conversion, a breaking with past patterns and the undertaking of a new way of following Christ and serving our sisters and brothers. My prayer is that God give us the wisdom, courage, humility, and grace to act with justice, and so find healing and peace in his Son.
In This Issue
This issue introduces us to two men who lived in the energy of Vatican II. As a young auxiliary bishop, Marcos McGrath attended the first session of the council, was inspired by its agenda, and dedicated himself to renewing the local church he served in every aspect of its life and mission, particularly with regard to the role of the laity. Basil Pennington was a Trappist monk and one of the founders of the Centering Prayer Movement that promoted an ancient form of scriptural prayer for a new age. The Eucharist was important to each of them. James Kroeger, MM, concludes his reflection on the missionary challenges of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, challenges applicable everywhere in our world. I suggest reading “A Celtic Prayer” in the Eucharist & Culture section as a starting-point. Let us be gentle with the Eucharistic bread Christ blessed for us!