The week of prayer for Christian unity is here. This year is special for Western Christians; for this is the 500th anniversary of an event that shattered the unity of Western Christianity. 500 years ago, the Reformation informally began with the nailing of Dr. Martin Luther’s grievances to the church door in Wittenberg.
This seems less personally important this year. Last year, I was the only “almost-Catholic” working in a faith-based school wanting to be staffed exclusively by Protestants. I wasn’t sure where I would need to move in order to get a job for next year. The initial wave of questions about our impending conversions had withered, but I was trying to come to grips with the fact that several personal and professional doors were closed or less accessible. Every time we went to visit family we ended up going to a Protestant service and Catholic Mass on Sunday. It was always in the forefront of my mind, this disunity, the necessity of forging peace.
This year, I am a long way away from those things. I have little time for things outside of work (including this blog) and everything around me is quiet and Catholic. My new parish lacks the epic choir, imposing facade, army of priests and daily Tridentine Masses of my previous parish. Instead, it is a small, round, plain northern church. My school is Catholic. My wife and I are far from family, and rarely faced with questions about our conversions. I’ve put my Master’s degree in theology on hold. All my free time is consumed with work.
Even though it feels less pressing, the issue of Christian unity is not less important than it was a year ago. I don’t want to forget what happened a year ago. It was then that I realized what a great gulf remains; a gulf that impairs our witness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. A fundamental disunity, rooted partially in our very individualistic society, that rejects the c0mmunal nature of the Gospel. A disunity that confuses those who don’t share our faith.
It is important that we learn from each other, and act on the truth. Too many people want to stay where they are comfortable rather than act on what they know to be right or true. Too many people care little for the truth, especially in religion, preferring to profess ignorance or to think only in terms of what they would like to be true. It’s important that we know each other, and not caricature each other. And it’s important that we be willing to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we pray with Jesus that all Christians be one in visible witness. (cf. John 17)