From January 18 through January 25, Christians throughout the world observe a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Octave was first conceived by Father Paul of Graymoor on 30 November 1907, before his entrance into the Catholic Church. The initial success in 1908 was so encouraging that he decided to promote it annually, and he regarded the Octave as one of the special means which brought his Society of the Atonement into the Church on 30 October 1909. It was given papal blessing by Pope St. Pius X on 27 December 1909, just two months after the Society of the Atonement had entered the Catholic Church. Other popes have given it their blessings over the years, including Pope John XXIII (who urged its observance more widely throughout the world) and Pope Paul VI (who had promoted it in his archdiocese when he was the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan). Father Paul considered the Octave as the greatest project which came from Graymoor, and even though it was overshadowed by the less-specific “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” during his own lifetime, he rejoiced that those separated from the Catholic Church felt called to observe the January period as a time of prayer for unity. Even though their concept of unity differs from that of the Catholic Church, it is significant that so many pray for that unity which God desires for His people.
From the Catholic perspective, the Octave, as originally conceived by Father Paul and approved by popes, prays for union upon that Rock, established by Christ Himself, which is Peter and his successors. For that reason, St. Peter is considered the special Patron of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.
At the same time, this octave can be the occasion of prayers of thanksgiving for all that has been accomplished ecumenically, including the increased appreciation the Catholic Church has for discerning the work of the Holy Spirit through other traditions. Anglicanorum coetibus is one shining example.
(I cannot help but add, in this troubled period for the Catholic Church in 2018-2019, that prayers *for* all of St. Peter’s successors would be most appreciated as well.)
THE OCTAVE PRAYERS
ANTIPHON: That they all may 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.
V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.
Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst 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 to her peace and unity according to thy will; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.