OCTAVE FOR CHURCH UNITY
On January 18, the Church began the Octave for the Unity of the Entire Catholic Church, approved by Pope Saint Pius X in 1909 and encouraged in the same form for the next five decades. It is now a recommended annual devotion leading up to the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on January 25.
This Octave originated by an Anglican priest, Father Paul of Graymoor, who later converted to the Catholic Church and founded the order of the Society of the Atonement. Subsequently, St. Pope Pius X gave his approval and blessing of this octave on December 27, 1909.
It is a wonderful Octave, for eight days the entire Church prays for the conversion of those without the Fold, that all people will be united in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
It is also rich in indulgences, whereby in the Raccolta (1910) a Plenary Indulgence can be gained by receiving Holy Communion on either the First or Last day of the Octave under the usual conditions (also see apostolic brief below). However since the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (1968) the Octave prayers for Church Unity were replaced with a Prayer for Unity of the Church (Pro unitate Ecclesiae oratio) and furthermore was updated to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum 4th edition (1999):
HERE ARE THE CURRENT PRAYERS FOR THIS WEEK:
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The Catholic Church has the prayer of its founder, the day before he died to the Father, "that all may be one" very dear to his heart, and therefore the Christian faithful are strongly encouraged to pray constantly for the unity of Christians.
§ 1. A full indulgence is granted to a Christian who has participated in several functions during the week for the unity of Christians and attended the conclusion of the same week.
§ 2. 22 A partial indulgence is granted to a Christian who has devoutly recited a legitimately approved prayer for the unity of Christians (eg see below Almighty and Merciful God) .
Approved Prayer for the Unity of Christians
Almighty and merciful God, you willed that the different nations should become one people through your Son. Grant in your kindness that those, who glory in being known as Christians, may put aside their differences and become one in truth and charity, and that all men, enlightened by the true faith, may be united in fraternal communion in the one Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYERS FROM THE USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024
"You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27
The theme, taken from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, reflects the connection between love of God and love of neighbor with a particular concern for challenging the boundaries of who is considered "neighbor". In this pericope, Jesus is questioned as to the path to eternal life. His answer is not to only observe the commandments, but to also imitate the love of God in the giving of self for another. It is a call for charity, mercy, justice, and unity.
We pray, O gracious Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we all may be one as you are one. In your community of complete unity, we have our beginning and our end. To you we pray, asking for the gift of visible unity among all who believe in your Christ.
As we commemorate this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are reminded by your Word that all human beings are our neighbors and that we are to love them like ourselves and in the same way we love you. Help us to overcome the barriers and divisions we have nurtured against your will.
Grant to us, O Lord, a new Spirit of love and solidarity, that we may proclaim your good news to all of creation. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit are one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
CONSIDER PRAYING THE FOLLOWING PRAYERS FROM THE ORIGINAL PRAYERS IN 1909 - MANY TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO PRAY THESE PRAYERS EACH YEAR
“The Catholic Church of the Creator, to the Father, his prayer was uttered the day before he was to suffer "that they all may be one", that is very dear, and hence that of Christ's faithful are earnestly exhorted to pray assiduously for the unity of Christians.
Benedict XV extended the Octave for use in the universal Church in 1916. Scroll down to read a beautiful apostolic brief of Pope Benedict XV, relating to the Church Unity Octave that was given at St. Peter's in Rome, under the Seal of the Fisherman, February 25h, 1916.
PRAYERS TO BE RECITED DAILY DURING THE OCTAVE
How the Sacred Heart must grieve to behold so many divisions among Christian Churches separated from the one true Church He founded. Let us pray that Christ’s plea may be realized:
That they may all be One, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” (John 17:21).
V. “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter;”
R. “And upon this Rock I will build My Church.”
Let us pray.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, Who didst say to Thine Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” regard not our sins but the Faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will, Who livest and reignest, God forever and ever. Amen.
** It is also recommended that one decade of the Rosary (at least) be said for the particular intention of each day; also that Holy Communion be received as often as possible during the Octave, daily if possible, certainly on the Sunday within the Octave.
THE DAILY INTENTIONS
- January 18: The return of all the “other sheep” to the one fold of St. Peter, the One Shepherd.
- January 19: The return of all Oriental Separatists to Communion with the Apostolic See.
- January 20: The submission of Anglicans to the Authority of the Vicar of Christ.
- January 21: That the Lutherans and all other Protestants of Continental Europe may find their way "Back to the Holy Church."
- January 22: That all Christians in America may become one in communion with the Chair of St. Peter.
- January 23: The return to the Sacraments of lapsed Catholics.
- January 24: The conversion of the Jews.
- January 25: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The Missionary conquest of the entire world for Christ.
PRAYER TO OUR LADY, HELP OF CHRISITANS
Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our mother, thou seest how the Catholic Faith is assailed by the devil and the world - that Faith in which we purpose, by the help of God, to live and die - Do thou, O Help of Christians, renew thy victories as of old, for the salvation of thy children.
To Thee we entrust our firm purpose of never joining assemblies of heretics. Do thou. all holy, offer thy Divine Son our resolutions, and obtain from Him the graces necessary for us to keep them unto the end.
Bring consolation to the visible head of the Church - support the Catholic episcopate; protect the clergy and the people who proclaim thee Queen. Hasten, by the power of thy prayers, the day when all nations shall be gathered around the Supreme Pastor. Amen
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us. Amen.
If you wish to learn more about the Octave of Church Unity, below is a sermon entitled, Chair of Saint Peter: Chair of True Unity from the excellent website
APOSTOLIC BRIEF OF POPE BENEDICT XV February 25h, 1916.
“In every age it has been the concern of the Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors, and likewise it concerns Us greatly, that Christians who have, unfortunately, withdrawn from the Catholic Religion should at length be recalled to us as a forsaken Mother. For in the Unity of the Faith the foremost characteristic of the truth of the Church shines forth, and it is thus that the Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by proclaiming that there is One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Ephes. 4:5).
With a glad mind, therefore, we have heard from the Society which is called "of the Atonement," established in New York, that that prayers have been proposed to be recited from the Feast of the Chair of the Blessed Peter at Rome to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in order that this aim of Unity might be obtained from the Lord and at the same time we rejoiced that these prayers, blessed by Pope Pius the Tenth, of recent memory, and approved by the Bishops of America, have been circulated far and wide through the United States.
And so, in order that the prayers above mentioned may be offered to God everywhere and with abundant fruit of the souls thus the desired end may be more easily attained, we, having also consulted our Venerable Brethren the Cardinal Inquisitors General of the Holy Roman Church, mercifully grant and bestow in the Lord a Plenary Indulgence and remission of all their sins to each and all the Faithful of Christ of either sex in the whole world, who from the 18th day of the month of January, the Festival of the Chair of Blessed Peter at Rome, until the 25th day of the same month, on which the Conversion of St. Paul is commemorated, shall recite every year once a day the prayers which are subjoined and on the last day of this Octave, truly penitent and confessed and refreshed with Holy Communion, shall visit any Church or public Oratory and there say these prayers to God for the concord of Christian Rulers, the extirpation of heresies, the conversion of sinners, and the exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church.
Moreover, we also grant permission in virtue of which confession may be made and Holy Communion received, and the visit be made in order to gain the aforesaid Plenary Indulgence, on the Feast of the Chair of Blessed Peter in Rome. Furthermore, to these same Faithful, who, with at least a contrite heart, say on any of the eight days named these same prayers, we grant a (partial) indulgence of two hundred days from the penances imposed upon them or owing by them in any other way, according to the usual form of the Church.
We mercifully grant in the Lord that all these indulgences, remissions of sins, and relaxations of penances may be applied in behalf of the soul of the Faithful of Christ detained in Purgatory. This present Letter will be in force forever, anything to the contrary notwithstanding. The prayers, however, which are to be recited for the Unity of the Church during the Octave, we have ordained, as above, are to be as follows and lest any changes might creep into them, we have decreed that a copy of them is to be kept in the Archives of the Apostolic Briefs.” ?Pope Benedict XV