Saturday, 21 November 2009

The ecumenical nature of the Church

I am prompted to this post by the discussion that has followed the post Thoughts on Dialogue, with the thought that it is worth a new post rather than just a continued comment.

The particular prompt is this part of NewmanCause's comment on that post:
 .... But that said, Christian witness to the 'social Gospel' is a necessary and powerful thing.

We suspect it makes a more lasting contribution to human well-being, is a more eloquent manifestation of what Christians have in common, and constitutes a more effective path to Christian unity, than the bulk of ecumencial dialogue - at least as it has been commonly practised up to now.
I have for some time thought something similar about those activities which are explicitly labelled as "ecumenical" - joint services during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, participation in the services or activities of another denomination, pulpit swaps and theological discussions. My experience suggests that the ordinary person in the pew has a natural sense which treats these types of activity with a certain hesitation. Within my own town, for example, the joint service during the Week of Prayer has in effect been abandoned because the members of the local Churches have simply not turned up for it. These types of activity seem artificial, and rather like a pretend at unity. It is only if ecumenical engagement is part of the ordinary life of the Church or denomination, something that the parishioners or members of the Church do as part of their own ordinary Christian life, that it will have something of reality about it.

So, as Catholics, if we wish to look for a genuinely lived ecumenism we should not look for it in these more or less "artificial" activities but within what one might call the normal, internal life of the Catholic Church itself. This follows from the thought that ecumenism is part of what it means to be the Church and not something optional, not an "add-on". And the great thing is that that living of ecumenism within the ordinary life of the Church is there to be found!

One outstanding example is the "spirituality of unity" of the Focolare Movement. This page gives an introduction to the movement, and more about its charism can be found on the page about the sprituality of unity and in the section of the site devoted to ways to dialogue. It is worth recognising the profoundly Christocentric nature of the spiritual charism of the Focolare, centred as it is on the crucified Jesus, and its firm adherence to the person of the Holy Father.

Another example is the charism of hospitality and prayer for Christian Unity of the Sisters of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of Saint Bridget (Bridgettines). An account of their founding and charism can be found here.

I expect that other examples could also be cited. It would be interesting to see the examples that could be cited from within the life of other Christian denominations.


Anonymous said...

zero says
In my own experience of attending the services in Christian unity week there were fewer RCs than other denominations.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what's happened to Francis these days?