Every year the Holy See and the World Council of Churches collaborate in providing material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual observance  unites all Christian churches and ecclesial communities into a shared series of prayers asking the Lord for His grace to bring us close to the unity for which He prayed on the night before He died. The week begins this Saturday January 18, to next Saturday January 25. Two great priests of the last century, Father Paul Wattson, the American founder of the Friars of the Atonement and Father Paul Couturier, a French Dominican, were the first promoters in their respective countries of this observance that now is a pivotal moment each year in ecumenical prayer and commitment.

This year’s theme is HAS CHRIST BEEN DIVIDED? From 1 Corinthians 1:13. Paul, in his letter, speaks of how the Christians in Corinth have been breaking into factions that contradict the unity of the celebration of the Eucharist. He says, “Some of you say I belong to Chloe; others I belong to Cephas.” And then Paul pointedly asks the searing question: Has Christ been divided?

Sadly we know that what happened in Corinth has been repeated and repeated throughout the history of Christianity. We also know that while unity is a gift from God and can be obtained only through God’s grace, all of us who proclaim that Jesus is the Lord do so in the Holy Spirit. Such a proclamation by the baptized demands of us that we pray and work for the unity Christ willed in his prayer on the night before he died:  May they be one Father as I am in you and you are in me.

I am asking all the parishes of our Diocese to make a specific intention in favor of Christian Unity in the Prayers of the Faithful throughout this week. In addition, I urge you all to pray for unity and to deepen your understanding of this central responsibility of our faith: prayer and witness and work “That all may be one.” More materials on this year’s observance can be found on the Vatican website, www.vatican.va Click on to roman curia, pontifical councils, promoting Christian  and you will find reflections and prayers that all of us can use to our benefit and the benefit of the Church which implores the Lord to make us ever more closely one until we all share at the Table of the Lord.