By Mark Doughty
BY her very nature. the Church is One. The Mystical Body of Christ is indivisible. Even if the Catholic Church were reduced to a handful of the faithful grouped around the Holy Father, the Church would still be One, still the unique teacher and interpreter of Christian Truth.
Catholics know, therefore, that there is no problem of a divided Church. But if there is no question of a disunited Church, there remains, nevertheless, "the vexing problem of the broken unity of the heritage of Christ", as Pope John XXIII has called it.
THROUGH the frailty and wilfulness of human nature, schism and heresy over the centuries
have created the appalling spectacle of sincere Christians at loggerheads with one another over the true meaning of the life and teaching of Our Lord.
The shocking dimensions of this division amongst Christians has stirred amongst our separated brethren — paritcularly amongst those of the Protestant cornmunions—the desire for Christian unity. This is principally manifested in the Ecumenical Movement.
The Catholic Church as such cannot. of her very nature, take part officially in such meetings as this world wide movement convenes
This does not mean that the Holy See is indifferent to the progress of this search for unity. nor does it imply that individual Catholics, convinced of the certainty of their own faith, need ignore it as something not his or her concern.
On the contrary, the Holy Office Instruction of December, 1949, tells us that this intense desire for unity on the part of non-Catholics may be attributed to the Holy Spirit and " is a cause for holy joy in the Lord " to all children of the true Church.
TWICE a year, in January and before Pentecost, • the Church encourages prayer for Christian Unity.
In many parts of the world, Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants alike pray together for that Unity which Christ himself desires.
The late Pere Couturier. whom Cardinal Gerlier praised as a splendid servant of the Church, did much to promote this particular ecumenical form of prayer for atristian Unity.
In brief, what devotion to the cause of Christian Unity calls for from the Catholic is abundant charity, profound understanding. and intense prayer. The prayer is the prayer of Christ Himself after the Last Supper : ut !ilium sin: (that they may be one).
SOME have offered more than prayer. Some have offered the gift of life itself.
This would seem to be the case of Sister Maria-Gabriella, a young Italian nun who, with the permission of authority, tendered her own life for the cause of unity.
The facts come to us from a biography first published in Italian in 1940, a biography written at the instance of the nun's mother abbess This biography has been translated and published in the U.S.A. More recently, a fuller biography by Gaston Zananiri has been published in Belgium (Casterman. Tournai).
The latter book carries a forword by Fr. C. J. Dumont, the Dominican editor of the review " Istina." which is one of the lead mg Catholic literary contribution to the ecumenical dialogue.
MARIA Sagheddu was born in March, 1914. at Dorgali, on the island of Sardinia At the age of 18, she felt herself called to the life of an enclosed nun.
Leaving the choice of a suitable convent entirely to her parish priest, she arrived one morning in September, 1935, at the door of a Trappist convent of the Strict Observance.
This was near Rome, at Grottaferrata—a place famous for its abbey of Greek-Catholic monks.
After six days wait in the convent hostel. Maria was allowed to become a postulant. She took the name of Maria-Gabriella.
The clothing ceremony took Mace in 1936 and she became fully professed on the Feast of Christ the King, 1937.
In January. 1937, the mother abbess addressed the community on the theme of Christian unity.
After the discourse, a seventy-sixyear-old nun asked permission of her superior to offer what little remained of her life for the cause of Christian unity.
Permission was granted, and she died a month later after five days of severe illness. Only after her death did the rest of the community hear of the offering the old nun had made of her life,
IN the following January, Maria Gabriella heard her superior discourse again on the Octave of Prayer. She sought out the mother abbess and asked permission to offer her life also for the unity of all Christians.
At first her superior prudently withheld the necessary permission for such a sacrifice. but finally. and with the consent of the fatherconfessor of the community the offering was allowed.
On the same day, MariaGabriella felt a pain in her shoulder. The mother-abbess later declared that, until then. the Trappist nun had always enjoyed excellent health. She became increasingly tired and emaciated.
The mother-abbess noted in her records the development of a dry cough. The doctor suggested an X-ray. In Easter week. she was taken to St. John's Hospital in Rome. Tuberculosis was diagnosed.
HER stay in hospital lasted five weeks. She hated every minute of enforced absence from Grottaferrata.
After the silence of her Trappist enclosure, she felt that the noise of the hospital ward would drive her insane. Only the knowledge that she was obeying her superiors sustained Maria Gabriella during the ordeal of those weeks in hospital,
She declared that she would be far happier locked up in a hole at the convent than she was in the hospital bed.
Maria-Gabriella returned eventually to the convent infirmary.
One's Own Mixture IN both our own "Clergy Review" and in the American "Worship" answers have been given to an important query where Dialogue Mass is concerned. It is as to whether each of the three forms of the Dialogue Mass must be strictly adhered to or whether one may, as it were, make up one's own Dialogue Mass from parts of each type. The answer is that this is allowable. An obvious example is given. In the second degree the prayers at the foot of the altar are dialogued. but the Gloria, Credo, etc., are not. If it is found more convenient, as it may well be, to leave the responses at the foot of the altar to the server, but join in with the priest at the Gloria, Credo, etc., this mixture of the second and third degrees is allowable. The celebrant's own lead to the Gloria and Credo may well be an encouragement to the people to speak up. Let us hope ways and
Her mother had not yet been told of the illness, nor had the rest of the community heard of her sacrifice.
It would seem that amongst the few people who knew of the Trappist nun's illness were the monks of the Anglican Benedictine community of Nashdom in Buckinghamshire.
Maria-Gabriella became progressively worse. Food nauseated her; only obedience to the orders of her superiors would bring her to take any.
In spite of her illness, she made her way to the convent chapel each morning. But by March 31. 1939. she was considered sufficiently near death to be given Extreme Unction. She died on April 23. the Feast of St. George.
The Gospel on the morning of her death—the second Sunday after Easter—was that of the Good Shepherd: And other sheep I have that are not of this fold : them also must I bring and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
THESE are some of facts of the life of Maria-Gabriella which have come
out from the cloister at Grottaferrate.
Of her sanctity, her obedience and her serenity during illness, the mother-abbess wrote much at the time But the facts only are our concern As Fr. Dumont, 0.P., pointed out in his preface to Zananiri's biography. any judgment on these facts is reserved solely to the teaching authority of the Church.
Among the prayers carefully copied out by Maria-Gabriella was one composed by Pope Benedict XV. This prayer is particularly concerned with dissident Christians of the Orient.
"O Lord. Who hast united the various nations in the confession of Thy Name, we pray for the Christian peoples of the Orient. Remembering the eminent place which they once held in Thy Church, we pray that Thou mayest inspire them with the desire to regain that place, forming with us a single fold under the direction of one shepherd. , . Preserve us from all faults which may estrange them from us. May the spirit of concord and charity. sign of Thy presence amongst the faithfuL hasten the day of union of our prayers with theirs, so that every people and every tongue may recognise and glorify Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen."