Christian Unity Week… another point


This is the annual week for Christian Unity.

Is there not another angle here?

In Summorum Pontificum we read:

Art. 5, § 1.  In parishes, where there is continuously present a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition, let the pastor willingly receive their petitions that Mass be celebrated according to the Rite of the Missale Romanum issued in 1962.  Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously brought into accord with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, by avoiding discord and by fostering the unity of the whole Church. 


Also, in Pope Benedict’s accompanying letter, wherein he explains something of his mind about the Motu Proprio:

Pope John Paul II thus felt obliged to provide, in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988), guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal; that document, however, did not contain detailed prescriptions but appealed in a general way to the generous response of Bishops towards the "legitimate aspirations" of those members of the faithful who requested this usage of the Roman Rite. At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to assist the Society of Saint Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more painfully. Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about. Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio. On the other hand, difficulties remain concerning the use of the 1962 Missal outside of these groups, because of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because Bishops, in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council would be called into question. Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio. The present Norms are also meant to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations. 


Well, I emphasized that last part just as a little shot at some episcopal fussbudgets who are overly evalulating everything having to do with the old Mass, but I digress.

The Pope continues…


I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: "Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!" (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Christopher Mandzok says:

    “…The present Norms are also meant to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations….Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”

    Unfortunately, priests, who want nothing to do with the Tridentine Mass, care little about those two lines from the Holy Father. I, respectfully, requested the Tridentine Mass from my parish priest by letter. His response was the Diocese was examining the matter. I politely pointed out that the Holy Father stated that this was a parish priest issue. Although he did not give me the finger in his written response, he made no attempt to speak with this sheep of his flock, who he knew (and knows) feels as though he is lost in his own parish.

    I look around at the various parishes – all Novus Order – near my home. Father Zuhsdorf, these priests do not want us! It breaks my heart and tears well, but the truth is the truth – they don’t want us.

    I told my parish priest that I felt like the prodigal son wanting to come home to the parish where I married, where I used to adore the Eucharist, attend Benediction, go to Confession, and receive the Eucharist. The parish priests knows exactly who I am. He did not even have the decency to phone me, to communicate directly with a sheep of his flock that he knew was having problems. I explained that my parish life was dying. Not even a freaking phone call. This is “sheparding” your flock?

    I am lucky that my parents instilled the one true faith within me. I am moving on to where I now receive the Eucharist, but the experience and all that I read have convinced me that most parish priests do not want us.

  2. Will says:

    Fr. Z. There’s an open italics or em tag in this post that’s italicizing the whole blog.

  3. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    You also have a bold tag to close here.

  4. Father M says:

    Dear Christopher,
    I will pray for you. As strange as it may sound to you, many of us who are priests experience the same thing–from bishops, fellow priests, and also from parishioners–as soon as we try to implement Summorum Pontificum. The difference is that we can usually find at least a small group of people like YOU who sustain us in the parish. Then there is another small group of people willing either to be patient with their pastor and try the older forms, or at least (I imagine) to humor us. Keep at it, Christopher, because what you do is not only for yourself, but for others who may not speak out. And in fact you do it for your pastor as well, although he may not recognize the tremendous good you are offering him. Fr. Z has said so well that SP really is about restoring the spirituality of the priesthood first. It is so hard to understand why so many of my fellow priests recoil from something that would give life and breath to their priesthood. Sounds like your pastor needs your prayers.

  5. Simon Platt says:

    You make a very good point, Father.

    I was sorry to hear about Christopher’s experience. I’m afraid it is a common problem – many priests these days are keen to affirm their protestant neighbours, but really behave quite badly to catholics, their parishoners even, who are distressed by the state of the church and desire a traditional liturgy and spirituality. At least that has been my experience in England, and it is apparently similar where Christopher is.

    But I think it is not all bad. There are many supportive priests, at least near where I live, and I sense a change in the air since last July. I hope I am not being overoptimistic, and I have to take care not to become impatient.

    I shall remember you in my prayers, Christopher.

  6. Alexander says:

    I think it is inappropriate to mention the SSPX as an object for Reunion with the Roman Catholic Church in this Week for the Unity of Christians. The SSPX is indeed an interior case, and “full unity” does not mean there is no communion or that the adherents or clerics are outside the Catholic Church. Full unity could also mean unity of command and opinion and operation etc. There is no unity between the American episcopate and the Pope at this stage either, e.g. in abortion issues or even liturgical guidelines for the New Missal of Paul VI 1970/2002 edition.

    Anyway, the Episcopalian presbyter Paul Wattson started the Prayer Week, and he converted to the true, one, holy, apostolic, Catholic and Roman Church and become sacerdos of Jesus Christ.

    Week for Christian Unity also called Week for Reunion of all Christians in the true Church

    January 18 Feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome
    The union of all Christians in the one true faith and in the Church
    January 19
    The return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See
    January 20
    The reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See
    January 21
    The reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See
    January 22
    That American Christians become one in union with the Chair of St. Peter
    January 23
    The restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church
    January 24
    That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ
    January 25 Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
    The missionary extension of Christ’s kingdom throughout the world

    Is this compatible with Vatican II, actually? Our priest might not think so. The parish chaplain wants to start hosting communal prayer services with the local Protestant United Church “because things are getting too expensive to stay alone”.

  7. Alexander says:

    History of The Chair of Unity Octave

    On October 3, 1899, the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Rev. Lewis Thomas Wattson, an Episcopal clergyman later known as the Very Rev. Paul James Francis, S.A., arrived at Graymoor, N.Y. to establish a community of Episcopal [Anglican, Anglo-Catholic, though Protestant] Franciscans called the Friars of the Atonement. A year previously, Miss Lurana White, a devout young woman, had founded in the same place a community of Episcopal nuns known as the Sisters of the Atonement.

    For ten years the two communities were jointly known as the Society of the Atonement and lived the monastic life as members of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Looking about him on a largely irreligious world, Father Paul grieved most because Christians seemed divided into warring sects and factions. He began to preach corporate reunion of the Episcopal Church with the Roman Catholic Church. Because of this he was banned from the pulpits of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

    In his brown robe and sandals, Father Paul took his message to the streets and parks of New York. He caused quite a sensation. Father Paul James Francis was determined to carry on a vigorous apostolate for the return of all separated Christians to communion with the Holy See. To further this aim, he inaugurated in 1908 the Chair of Unity Octave (Jan. 18-25).

    One year later, the members of the Society themselves received the grace of conversion, and on October 30, 1909, they entered the Catholic Church in a body. It astonished no one when he took his own advice and brought his community with him into the Catholic Church. With the blessing of Pope St. Pius X, they were permitted to continue as a religious society in the Catholic Church and were commissioned to carry on the apostolate of Christian unity as their community aim.

    The Chair of Unity Octave was also approved as a Catholic devotion by Pope Benedict XV in an Apostolic Brief in 1916. In 1921, at their annual meeting in Washington, the Catholic hierarchy of the United States unanimously adopted the Octave for all the dioceses in the country.

    Under the patronage of St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, and St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Chair of Unity Octave has flourished and grown. It is now observed in many parts of the world.

    >>>>>The above is quoted directly from the officialUnity Octave prayer book (“Devotions for the Chair of Unity Octave”) published by the Atonement Friars of Graymoor, New York, United States, 1960, pp. 5-6.

  8. Matt Q says:

    Alexander wrote:

    “Is this compatible with Vatican II, actually? Our priest might not think so. The parish chaplain wants to start hosting communal prayer services with the local Protestant United Church ‘because things are getting too expensive to stay alone.'”


    Alexander, I understand very much where you’re coming from. First of all, what does that mean, “too expensive to stay alone?” No doubt this priest is going to adulterate his Catholicism and go the way of the UCC?

    Secondly, I just can’t understand such mentality. Just where do these whack-jobs come from and how are they allowed to remain in ministry as such? Just one of those “mysteries” of the universe, I suppose.

  9. Maynardus says:

    A couple of years ago we celebrated the “Octave of Christian Unity” in a fitting (but unusual) way at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Providence. Each night we had Mass or Divine Liturgy in a different *Catholic* rite or use: Roman (1962 and 1970), Melkite, Ge’ez, Braga, and Maronite. Unfortunately there was a major snowstorm on which forced the cancellation of the Armenian rite liturgy, but many cradle Catholics got their first experience of these noble and beautiful liturgies in their own parish church. Quite an udertaking but well worth the effort I would say.

  10. What a useful comment from Maynardus.

    Unity, like Charity, begins at home.
    Look at the divisions and arguments over the “old” Missal and the “new”, which have continued or even intensified since the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” juridically established parity between the two Missals.

    And the Latin rite (although the largest and most widespread,) is just one of over twenty different rites within the Catholic Church.

    The more Catholics of the Latin rite see of other Catholic rites, the better.
    I am speaking, of course, like Maynardus, of rites which are in communion with Rome, the Melchite, the Maronite, the Chaldean , etc., each with its own liturgy and liturgical language.

    The more you see of these rites, the more you realise that Unity does not necessarily mean liturgical uniformity.

    That is why it is essential for traditional Roman liturgy to resume its lawful place in the life of the Church.

    Imagine telling Emmanuel III, Cardinal Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, that we Latin Catholics were no longer going to tolerate his rite having its own liturgy.

    Let unity within the heart of the Catholic Church be our priority.
    Only the Catholic Church has the fulness of Truth.
    And unless we follow Truth, there can be no unity.

  11. flabellum says:

    At the Solemn Vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls the Holy Father appeared to be flanked by two Cardinal Deacons. A first for this pontificate at this venue?

  12. Flabellum says:

    At the Solemn Vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls the Holy Father appeared to be flanked by two Cardinal Deacons. A first for this pontificate at this venue?

  13. Flabellum says:

    Sorry for duplication (sticky website).

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