January 23, 2015

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Let’s not turn back on ongoing work, progress toward unity

I have been doing some reading lately. Not unusual, as those who know me will attest. Much of it has centered upon ecumenism.

Part of what drove me to this reading is the upcoming Christian Unity Prayer service this weekend at 4 p.m. on Jan. 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. As I wrote in last month’s column, this is an important moment for Christians in the area to come together to pray for the ongoing work and progress toward unity.

One book captured my interest. It is a collection of talks by Margaret O’Gara. No Turning Back: The Future of Ecumenism, edited by her husband, Michael Vertin, is a posthumous tribute to and compilation of her passion for ecumenism.

The title finds it roots in the Christian hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.

Margaret was a scholar and professor who was able to speak clearly to a varied audience

The talks in the book are divided into two sections. The first consists of eight down-to-earth presentations accessible to the novice reader on the subject.

The second consists of eight talks which can be challenging to the veteran ecumenist. They’re what I’d call “thick.”

All in all, O’Gara encourages all Catholics and Christians to continue the momentum of ecumenical dialogue, prayer and service to people.

An article titled “The Ecumenical Imperative: Intrinsic to the Church,” was passed on to me by a colleague. Relatively short at two pages, it can be found on the web at www.CatholicCulture.org under the “commentary” tab.

The article, by Dr. Jeff Mirus, was inspired by a statement by Pope Francis. In November 2014, in an address to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the pope said that the “ … quest for unity among Christians must be an ever present concern for the Church.”

A number of moments in November are quickly cited when the Holy Father met members of other Christian communities and Churches—for example, evangelical Protestants and the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. These are telling moments which authenticate what the pope has said.

Mirus goes on to challenge Catholic thinking on both the “left” and “right,” which at times undermines authentic ecumenism. In addition, he clearly sets forth the need to consider the historical context for what has been said.

Then he speaks of the present historic moment regarding what can be said about the issues which bring Christians together—and those which yet divide, but are awaiting bridges to be built.

He concludes his article with a citation from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians. It is a fine focus for the end of this column.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:1-6).

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at rginther@saintpat.org)

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