Dear Friends in Christ,
This Thursday, 25 January, is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Church’s annual celebration of the day when Saul of Tarsus met the Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road — an event that changed Saul’s life and the history of the world. 25 January is also each year the final day in a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an observance that begins on 18 January, the date in the old liturgical calendar which was the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. So, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was devised to run between the twin feasts of the symbol of Peter’s authority to teach and Paul’s conversion to Christ, and this placement in the liturgical calendar shows us how Christian unity is to be found: through continuing conversion to the truth of the Gospel proclaimed authentically and authoritatively by the apostolic office of the Church.
In praying for Christian unity, we are asking God to restore full ecclesial communion to our separated brethren (both Orthodox and Protestant) in the one, true Church. But the restoration of that unity will be a world-historical event brought about only by the action of the Holy Spirit, and there is little that any of us can do to contribute directly to that lofty goal. There is, however, another dimension of Christian unity to which we can contribute personally, and it is both utterly simple and extremely difficult: we can each live in full communion with the Lord Jesus and his holy Church and do our best to show others how to do the same. This we do by radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism.
✠ Do I believe and profess everything the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God? Do I believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are inspired by God and contain no errors in matters of faith and morals? Do I believe that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an authentic compendium of the saving doctrine of the Lord Jesus and a faithful statement of Catholic teaching in full keeping with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition? Do I surrender my intellect and will in the obedience of faith to the Gospel transmitted in and by the Catholic Church?
✠ Do I live according to the saving truth of the Gospel? Do I attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation? Do I confess my sins regularly in the Sacrament of Penance? Do I bear witness to Christ by my manner of life and my behavior, both personal and professional? If married, am I married in the Catholic Church, or if not, do I refrain from receiving the sacraments? Do I make decisions, especially difficult decisions, according to the mind of Christ or simply according to my own wisdom? Do I live according to the Ten Commandments and Christ’s Law of Love?
Believing and behaving lead to belonging. If I want to belong to Christ and his Church fully and faithfully, then I must believe the truth of God’s Word and behave according to the truth of the Gospel by grace through faith. As the Church concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this Thursday, let us be guided by Peter’s faith and Paul’s conversion to be committed Catholics and true witnesses to Christ.