Page 6, 23rd May 1958

23rd May 1958
Page 6
Page 6, 23rd May 1958 — Reflections on the Church Unity Octave

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Reflections on the Church Unity Octave


THE memories of the observance of the Chair of Unity Octave during this golden jubilee year are many. Recollections of the Octave carry us -back to 1908 when the movement originated at Grayrnoor with Fr. Paul

James Francis, S.A., its founder and leader.

In 1907 Fr. Paul had conceived his plan of prayer for the reunion of Christendom. That winter he wrote to many fellow Anglicans and some Catholics of the clergy and hierarchy asking them to pray "that all may be one." The most valued reply came from William Cardinal O'Connell of Boston who wrote: "I have your note of January 6, and you may rest assured that I, myself, and my clergy and people, will join their prayers with yours for the holy purpose outlined in your note."

A short time after the Octave's first observance, Fr. Paul was instrumental in forming the AngloRoman Union for the purpose of achieving unity. Its purpose was "to work and pray for the maintenance of Anglo-Catholic principles and to seek the return of the Episcopal or Anglican Church as a body to communion with the Apostolic See, as before the Reformatinn." The Octave today does not envision any form of corporate reception in the sense understood by some outside the Church but considers entrance into the Church a matter of conversion.


ONE New York City paper, " The World," was quick to seize the idea of interviewing Catholic and Anglican prelates on the matter. It is interesting to note that the replies of the Catholic prelates were far more hopeful than those of the Anglicans.

The Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Falconio, 0.F.M., replied: "1 have no knowledge of the movement about which )ou speak.

However, I hope that the day will come when there will be but one shepherd and one flock."

The Archbishop of New York, Mgr. Farley. commented thus: "I would say that the one fold and one shepherd in all Christendom or even between the Anglican communion and us cannot be realised until the unity now plainly existing in the Catholic Church is extended to embrace those outside the one fold over which rules by divine commission Pope Pius X whose supreme authority, universal jurisdiction and infallibility must be recognized and accepted by all desiring the Unity, because Pius X is the successor of Peter, the

Vicar of Christ, and the rock on which Christ built His Church."


PR. PAUL and his

I associates, seventeen in all, including Mother Lurana Mary Francis, S.A., foundress of the Atonement Sisters, also at Graymoor, entered the Catholic Church on October 30, 1909, just about eighteen months after the initial observance of the Octave.

In 1911 various intentions were assigned to each of the eight days for various groups outside the Church. They were substantially the same then as they are now; any changes were made within a year or two after the intentions were originally adopted.

It was the wish of Fr. Paul that they remain as they were outlined. for shifting about would make for confusion. It is the policy at the present time to preserve them as they are, not because they are necessarily the best arrangement, but because such preservation makes for permanence and clarity. Archbishop Farley was quick to bless the Octave. "You have my most cordial approval and blessing", he wrote, "on every effort to secure prayers by means of The Lamp' during a Church Unity Octave, as your letter terms it, for the return of all Christians to the Unity under one visible head, the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ upon earth."

Archbishop Diomede Falconio, 0.F.M., gave his support to the movement too: "I have no doubt but that your appeal will be responded to by all sincere Christians and I consider it my duty to join my prayers with yours in order that God in His great mercy may be pleased to bring out the desired union."


IHE greatest blessing of these early years came from Pope Pius X who blessed the Octave on December 27, 1909 " wishing it great success ". Then Pope Benedict XV extended the Octave to the universal Church through the Apostolic Brief, Roonitiorom Pontificion (Feb. 25, 1916) and granted partial and plenary indulgences to the faithful who observed the Octave.

The present Holy Father sent a letter tu Cardinal Spellman for the Golden Jubilee of the Octave urging "that it be observed everywhere as widely as possible." He pointed out the primacy of prayer in the apostolate of reunion in these words: " . . . even though there may be numerous works of the apostolate to bring this plan (of reunion) into effect, we believe that there is no better means of accomplishing it than by offering humble and earnest prayer to God."

At first Fr. Paul called the Octave by the name of Church Unity, only later, in 1949, did his religious family, the Society of the Atonement, change the name to the present form, Chair of Unity Octave. This was done chiefly because of the misunderstanding created by unfortunate translation in Latin and other languages.

But the present name had been in use as an alternate title since 1926. Cardinal Griffin preferred the title Chair of Union for use in Westminster, presumably to forestal any confusion with nonCatholic organisations promoting prayer for unity.

It was this year that Cardinal Bourne of Westminster wrote to Fr. Paul asking for another name for the Octave which would not

be misunderstood in England. On May 29, 1926, Fr. Paul wrote to the Cardinal (in part): "I think that the solution to the problem has been granted to the Mother Foundress of the Sisters of the Atonement. Rev. Mother Lurana Mary Francis, S.A., after specially invoking the Holy Ghost during Whitsuntide Octave. She received on yesterday, St. Augustine's Day, the Apostle of England and the first Archbishop of Canterbury, an answer to her prayer which I trust Your Eminence will approve of. It seems to me personally like a real inspiration of the Holy Ghostnamely— to substitute for the words "Church Unity Octave" the name "Chair of Unity Octave," a title which no one could misunderstand."


LIR. PAUL was not I narrow or exclusive in his zeal; there was no pettiness in his charity. He recognised the labours of Abbe Couturier in Lyons in promoting prayers for Unity, but he did not favour the change of intentions. He would not mind being accused of "papal emphasis" in his work for Unit. Indeed as he wrote to the Rev. Dr. Gunnar Rosendal, Lutheran Bishop in Osby, Sweden : "I agree with you, that until the movement among your confreres has further advanced, it would certainly be more prudent for you to follow Fr. Couturier than to adopt what you call the 'Atonement' line. I think, however, a better understanding of the intentions set forth in the Unity Octave as originating at Graymoor will earn for it your personal and even enthusiastic acceptance."

Many encouraging reports have come to the Central Office of the Octave at Graymoor from various parts of the world—from Madrid, Paris, Paderborn, Brussels, and even Yokaharna and Baghdad. Indeed the words of Fr. Francis Connell. C.SS.R.. famous theologian in the United States, seem destined to be fulfilled.

Fifty years in the life of a man is a long time, but in the duration

of a movement it is a short span. Surely much has been done in the past half century, not only by Fr. Paul of Graymoor, but by other apostolic men and women throughout the world.

But surely much more remains to he done—until Christendom be again united. No one is so naive or unrealistic as to think that he or any group can accomplish the gigantic task alone. But surely deeper and closer collaboration might be developed among all engaged in this grand spiritual enterprise. The great prayer for unity came forth from the Sacred Heart of the Incarnate Word on the night of Holy Thursday when he besought the Father: "Keep them in Thy name whom Thou bast given me, that they all may be one." This too. is the inspiration of all prayer and work for religious unity at the present day.

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