Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Votive Mass for Christian Unity: Missale Romanum 1970

For our weekly meditation of the Collects of the Roman Missals, since we are currently in the Octave Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (1/18-1/25), we consider the Collect for the votive Mass entitled, “For the Unity of Christians” (MR '70). Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

“Almighty ever-living God, Who gather what is scattered and keep together what You have gathered, look kindly on the flock of Your Son, that those whom one Baptism has consecrated may be joined together by integrity of faith and united in the bond of charity. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

If we take Christ’s own words to heart in John 10:16 and 17:20-21, we recognize that full unity amongst all baptized Christians is an intention for which we should pray earnestly, as He himself did. This is the purpose of the Octave Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was begun in 1908 by the Franciscan Servant of God Fr. Paul Wattson, SA, himself a former Anglican. Thus, ecumenism is not a liberal idea originating with modernist theologians, as some skeptics might think. Rather, sustained efforts throughout Church history at establishing full communion amongst divided Christians is mission-critical, according to Christ Himself in John’s Gospel. The visible unity of the Church will be a powerful motive of credibility for the world to come to faith in Christ.

At the same time, we cannot forget that the unity with which Christ endowed His Church is a divine gift that the schisms of the past two thousand years have not effaced. The Catholic Church unapologetically teaches that ecclesial unity truly “subsists” in her, since it is a “gift” from Christ Himself from day one. Consequently, this unity is something “she can never lose.” In other words, ecumenism does not challenge the Biblical and Patristic belief that the Catholic Church founded on Peter is the one, true visible Church founded by Christ (cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium no. 8 and Unitatis Redintegratio no. 4; Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 816, 820).

Christ continually communicates His own holiness and His own unity with the Father to His beloved Church (cf. Catechism nos. 773-4, 813, 820, 823-4; Lumen Gentium no. 40). As Catholics, therefore, we can approach ecumenical discussions and activity with a living and joyful confidence in Him and His Church’s means of grace (and we can and must do so without triumphalism, I hasten to add). One of these chief means of grace is the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the key to practicing authentic ecumenism.

Our Collect above, as an homage to the teaching of Vatican II, highlights the reality of baptismal consecration, which is another way of speaking about the sacramental character of Baptism, which we considered at length in last week’s column (cf. Lumen Gentium nos. 11, 15). Whether or not one belongs to the full communion of the Catholic Church, valid Baptism imprints the indelible sacramental character that is ordered to the divine worship of the Holy Eucharist (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1272-4, 1121). This holds, even if the recipient is not aware of it, as is often the case for most Protestants.

Consequently, the one reality of Baptism shared by all validly baptized Christians leads us to hope that Christ will indeed “gather what is scattered,” whether in this life, or eventually in the next life, because in Baptism we do, in fact, all share in His “mysteries” now in greater or lesser degrees (Lumen Gentium nos. 7 -8, 14-15; Unitatis Redintegratio nos. 14-24). Put bluntly, schism contradicts the very nature of Baptism, which is ordered towards nothing less than visible communion and unified worship at one altar, both now and in heaven. 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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