The International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has a 112-year history in which Christians around the world have taken part in an octave of prayer for visible Christian unity. The Week of Prayer invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one.” (John 17:21)
The dates of the Week of Prayer, Jan. 18-25, were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the southern hemisphere, where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the Week of Prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926).
The theme for 2020 is “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness” (cf. Acts 28:2). The texts for 2020 were prepared by the Christian Churches of Malta and Gozo, together with an international committee comprising representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
Other ways to observe the Week of Prayer from Father René Constanza, CSP, rector/pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew:
- Pray regularly for the unity of the Church, as Christ wills it and when he wills it. As theologian Yves Congar said, “The way through the door of unity is on our knees.” Prayer is important because prayer’s effect is in us. Prayer changes our hearts, and it is our hearts that most of all need to be changed.
Prayer resources from Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (Reflection Booklet | Prayer Card in English and Spanish)
- Read and reflect on chapter 27 and chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles to appreciate the narrative that leads to this year’s theme. The narrative is a classic drama of humanity confronted by the terrifying power of the elements. Throughout this drama, St. Paul reminds us that life is not governed by forces indifferent to human fate, but rather held in the hands of God. In our search for Christian unity, surrendering ourselves to divine providence will demand letting go of many things to which we are deeply attached. What matters to God is the salvation of souls.
- Think of ways we are called to be more hospitable and kind to others as the islanders are to St. Paul and those who found themselves shipwrecked and in a foreign land. As they gathered around the fire, surrounded by a people who neither knew nor understood them, differences of power and status fall away. The 276 were no longer at the mercy of indifferent forces but embraced by God’s loving providence made present through a people who showed them “unusual kindness” (28:2). Cold and wet, they warmed and dried themselves by the fire. Hungry, they were given food. They were sheltered until it was safe for them to continue their journey.
Read the full text of Father Rene’s bulletin letter here.