Ecumenical prayer service highlights unity week
Witnessing to the desire to be united and trusting that Jesus will provide what is needed for the journey is stressed during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated this year from Jan. 18-25.
The week will be highlighted on Sunday, Jan. 25, with an ecumenical prayer service and reception at St. Justin Martyr Parish, 11910 Eddie and Park Road in Sunset Hills, at 7 p.m. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will help lead prayer.
To begin the week, Archbishop Carlson was to celebrate the Mass for Social Justice Jan. 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at 2:30 p.m.
The Church Unity Octave, a forerunner of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was developed by Father Paul Wattson, SA, at Graymoor in Garrison, N.Y., and was first observed at Graymoor from Jan. 18-25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites the Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus "that they all may be one" (John 17:21).
This year the scriptural theme comes from the Gospel of John, when Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, "Give me a drink" -- in our quest for Christian unity, Jesus will give us the living water we need for our journey.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity recognizes the richness and value in others and asks God for the gift of unity, according to material from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. The theme and text for each year's observance are chosen and prepared by representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches.
Father Joseph Weber, pastor of St. Justin Parish, cited "grassroots ecumenism" such as SAJE Senior Ministry, which is a collaboration of St. Thomas-Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church of the Advent, St. Justin and another Catholic parish, St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Crestwood. The ministry "brings a community together as people of faith," Father Weber said, noting the importance of working together as brothers and sisters of Christ.
Javier Orozco, executive director of intercultural and interreligious affairs for the archdiocese, said that the tradition of praying for unity is "a beautiful witness to our desire to be united with one another. Our archdiocese continues that commitment -- a real witness of commitment to pray and work for unity of faith and humanity."
Pope Francis has said, "We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must ... turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God's face."
Pope Francis also noted the "longing that resides in the heart of every disciple, to proclaim to all the joy of encounter with Christ and His universal call."
Early in his ministry as the Bishop of Rome, he cited "the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions." Last year, in the Week of Prayer, he said: "Let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to Him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts."
In November, Pope Francis urged continued prayer for unity and prayer with other Christians. "Spiritual ecumenism," he said, is "a global network of moments of prayer that, from the parish to the international level, spread through the body of the Church the oxygen of a genuine ecumenical spirit; a network of gestures that see us united, working together in many works of charity."
Some information for this story was provided by Catholic News Service.
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