Every year from 18th to 25th January the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together invite us all to pray for the unity of all Christians. This ancient octave of Peter and Paul – running from the historical feast of the Chair of St. Peter (18 Jan), called the Confession of St. Peter in the Anglican tradition, to the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25 Jan) – is now called “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”. This year the week runs from Sunday to Sunday.
The octave was initiated in 1908 by Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Episcopalian Society of the Atonement (more commonly known as the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement). Fr. Paul, his fellow foundress Sister Lurana White and the friars were fervent supporters of corporate reunion between the Catholic and Anglican Churches and one of the principal missions of the Society of the Atonement was (and is) prayer and work for Christian unity.
In 1909 the Friars were received into the Catholic Church – the first community to be received corporately since the Reformation – and Fr. Paul was ordained a Catholic priest in 1910, remarkably swiftly considering that the bull Apostolicae Curae, declaring Anglican ordination “absolutely null and utterly void”, had only been promulgated fourteen years earlier, in 1896.
“Chair of Saint Peter”, “Atonement” (At-ONE-ment), “corporate reunion” – Fr. Paul Wattson (like Fr. Fernand Portal, whose tomb I visited last year on behalf of the Expats) can truly be considered one of the forerunners of the Anglican Use and the Ordinariates, and his Octave of Prayer should have a special place in our own mission and our hearts.
So I am wondering what the individual Ordinariate parishes, missions, sodalities, groups are planning for this year’s Week of Prayer and would be grateful for any comments you could add below.
Might I myself make a few humble suggestions – which maybe cannot be realised this year because of lack of time – but which might form a basis for next year’s planning? Most of my ideas are inspired by the mission of the Ordinariate to bring elements of Anglican patrimony into the Catholic Church as gifts to be shared – this concept is extended to the whole of Christianity in Lumen Gentium, 8, quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum Coetibus.
- ecumenical bible study on several (or all) evenings of the week
- an ecumenical “Songs of Praise”, where the choirs and congregations of all the local churches are invited to an evening of congregational and choral singing with readings and prayer (each choir presents a piece of its own choosing – some choirs might cooperate to sing one piece)
- an ecumenical Evensong (with several choirs from different denominations or with a guest choir from an Anglican parish) – cf. St. Gregory the Great‘s plans for January 28th
- exchange of preachers (opening the way for a rousing evangelical sermon or an erudite Anglican sermon in your church and giving you a chance maybe to introduce the Ordinariate’s view of ecumenism to others)
- a discussion evening on the theme “What do we understand by ecumenism?”
- a prayer service, maybe using the materials prepared by the WCC and the Pontifical Council (this year’s theme is John 4:7, “Give me to drink”) – followed by a lavish fellowship session, not just a coffee and cookie
- early-morning ecumenical prayer gathering every day of the octave – with breakfast
- etc., etc.