At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for his followers,
Father, may they all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may be believe that you have sent me (John 17:21)
From 18th – 25th January (the feast of the Conversion of St Paul), we’re in the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, the time each year when the Church encourages us to pray for that unity for which Christ prayed. This prayer and ambition has a special resonance for us here in Walsingham, where both the Catholic Church and the Church of England honours Our Blessed Lady, endeavouring to lead pilgrims in a deeper love of the Lord’s Mother, and the Lord himself. We’re all too aware of the tragedy of what the Reformation brought to the shrine, or rather, took away from it, but can be thankful that, whether physically or virtually, England’s Nazareth remains the place where, borrowing the words of the poet T S Eliot, Prayer has been valid.
When he visited Westminster Abbey in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI, concluded his address with these words, which were appropriate then and there, but also here and now:
May the Risen Lord strengthen our efforts to mend the ruptures of the past and to meet the challenges of the present with hope in the future which, in his providence, he holds out to us and to our world.
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 Christ our Lord.