News from Abbe Couturier
From a Special Correspondent
All who work and pray for Christian Unity will be glad to hear that the Abbe Couturier, who was imprisoned by the Germans for two months last year, is well and if anything more active than ever, despite his age.
A postcard, dated March 10, says, le travail oecutnenique est devenu ecrasam et Ines forces oft faibli."
A subsequent letter gives the following details :
" How shall I give you details of Unity work ? Progress has been wonderful. Here in Lyons we were unable to do much this year. I trust for the last time; but at Marseille, Toulouse, Angers, Roubaix and Lille there were great meetings. There was a very large Protestant participation, on the lines you know (parallelaboration, emulation see spirituelle). I sent out between 85,000 1 and 87,000 cards, pamphlets and notices—all in small parcels—including the wonderful oecumenic poster which carries the imprimatur of Mgr, Beaussart, the auxiliary Bishop of Paris. This was in several cases posted in both Catholic and Protestant churches. while prayers were said in them simultaneously."
Fr. Couturier states that he was arrested in April 11, 1944, and held by the Wermacht until June 12 in Montluc prison. He was well treated, i.e., not tortured, but there were six or seven people in a room four metres square. He was allowed to have his breviary and in it he .jotted down the following inscriptions which he found scrawled on the walls of the cellars used for the interrogation of the Gestapo's prisoners. They speak for themselves, and indicate something of :he strain he must have endured. Two were in English : " Don't be afraid for so little a thing as pang (?pain)" " When ail—is lost, France stays." Another: "0 Crux, Spes Unica.Ave. Semaine Sainte. 1944. Prions et souffrons pour le monde. Il renaitra plus beau et plus humain."
THIS YEAR'S PENTECOSTAL NOVENA
Next ThursdayAscension Day— opens a Novena of Prayer for a Christian World Order, That the days between our Lord's departure from the midst of His apostles and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them should be spent in prayer for a reunited Christendom seems particularly fitting to-day. But the practice, which is due to the initiative of Pope Leo XIII half a century ago, is still unknown to many who would gladly take part, despite the fact that it appears in most Catholic calendars. Why ? Surely not because the reunioh of Christendom is past praying for. It is perhaps because we do not stop to think what a difference to "the face of the earth " the arrival of the Holy Spirit and His " filling of the hearts of the faithful " would make, if we really meant " kindle in us the Fire of Thy Love ?"
The present Holy Father's lead in the matter of prayer for a united Christendom is well known. All who have lately seen him in Rome agree that he is wearing himself out in selfless devotion to this cause, a fact attested by thousands of' soldiers in all nations and creeds who have flocked to his daily audienCes M the Vatican since the relief of Rome a year ago. It was last Whitsuntide that the Pope expressed his mind in words which should stimulate our prayer in the coming Novena.
"Would that all those who profess the Christian Faith could understand what an unsurpassed field of action would open to Christianity at the present moment if, in full unity of faith and purpose, they were to dedicate their activity to saving the human family and preparing it for a better future."
It is not inappropriate in view of the immense tasks which confront us today to hark back to the solemn words of the great Pope of the Encyclicals when he inaugurated the practice of praying for a new Christendom in 1895.
Leo XIII claimed in the Encyclical Providi Mattis to have two objccts: first. the restoration in both rulers and peoples, of those principles of Christian life which govern society—domestic, civil, international: "since there is no true life for men apart from Christ," and second, " the reunion of all those who have fallen away from the Catholic Church. either by heresy or schisrn• since it is most undoubtedly the will of Christ that all should be united in one flock under one shepherd."
The need is greater to-day than then. Thirty of the fifty years that have elapsed were dominated by wars, or the preparation and reparation of warfare. it is to be hoped that this Ascension tide we shall not only recognise the wisdom of the Popes, but tat upon the concluding words of the great Encyclical.
" Wherefore we decree that throughout the whole Church this year and every subsequent year, a novena shall take place before Whit Sunday In all parishes. . . We grant a plenary' indulgence .on the usual conditions."