January 27, 2017

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Let’s strive to create ecumenical moments in our lives of faith

Fr. Rick GintherWhat is an ecumenical moment?

I believe this to be an important question for all of us to ponder.

An ecumenical moment can be simple or profound, large or small.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated on

Jan. 18-25, was a large, extended ecumenical moment, an octave of days for prayer for the ultimate reunion of all Christians as one.

The prayer service at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Carmel, Ind., on Jan. 18 was a pointed moment in this octave continuum.

A profound ecumenical moment occurred this past October in Malmo, Sweden, when Pope Francis and representatives of the World Lutheran Federation gathered to commemorate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

But it is the simple and small ecumenical moments which stick in our memories and our hearts, and have more lasting effects.

It is a simple thing to gather with another Christian in prayer—at a wedding, funeral, neighborhood prayer service, or a commemoration of an historical moment.

It is a small thing to introduce oneself to a stranger. That small thing grows larger when we share that we are Catholic, attend a local parish, and ask of the other person’s faith community. And it is no small thing when we graciously receive their response, and admire their commitment to their faith.

It is a small thing to view a larger event on a computer screen, such as the ecumenical leaders who met Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin during his installation Mass on Jan. 6 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Basilica in Newark, N.J. And yet the larger event provides impetus to our willingness to engage other faiths through individual relationships.

It is a small thing to encounter a waiter at your hotel in Newark, and find out he is a Coptic Christian from Egypt. I found out by asking, which led to an ecumenical moment. He said with excitement that when he finished his shift he would be going to church to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany—Christmas, for Copts. He smiled with pride and joy!

It is a small thing to give money, food or clothing to a food pantry or clothes closet for the poor operated by other Christian churches, or our own Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We give from our surplus, which is easy. But we also give to help the larger body of Christ. And those served are often touched by the fact that faith communities, in Christ, work together. Ecumenism finds another moment, a service moment.

I could continue with examples. But if I am asking you to ponder—as I did earlier—I now ask: what was your last ecumenical moment?

Was it simple? Profound?

What is the aftermath for your life of faith due to this moment? Have you grown in trust of other Christians? Do you long to know more of their traditions, and share your own tradition?

Could you make it a point to go visit a neighboring Christian church, and experience its worship and hospitality? Could you let them know you are a neighbor from your own parish, and thank them for being in the neighborhood living the Gospel?

Then what could you promote in your parish, along with your pastor and others, as a follow up to reflect on your experience?

We could create so many more ecumenical moments, if we put our minds and hearts to it!

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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