Week of Prayer : Intentions

Paul Couturier's Intentions for the renewed Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians

The Abbé from the very beginning offered two schemes of possible intentions for the Week of Prayer. The first concentrated on the need for Christians of the main Church groupings to increase in holiness, so that - growing closer to union with Christ - they would discover the growing unity between his separated followers. The second scheme reflected Couturier's conviction that the reunion of all Christians is the way that leads to the union of all humanity - in and through Christ. In this universal and cosmic understanding of Christ, he was influenced by the scientific panorama of Teilhard de Chardin, as well as the theology of Eastern Christianity, shared by Catholics and Orthodox, to whose liturgy he was exposed among the Monks of Unity at Amay (now Chevetogne).

Thus the second scheme below, is based on the plan for 1953, the last year of Couturier's life. Couturier had Jewish blood, and he was particularly concerned for mutual love and understanding between Christians and Jews. He was well aware of the immense sufferings Jews had undergone during the Second World War. Unaware of his descent, the Gestapo had imprisoned him on the grounds of his contacts with people in Switzerland and England. He had also worked among Muslims in North Africa, and had a particular respect for the devotion to God he encountered there. In 1953-4, the Week of Prayer was launched for the first time in Morocco and paid special attention to the spiritual relations between Christians and Muslims, and prayer that both should grow in peace, in mutual love and respect, and in holiness, drawing ever close to God in Christ.

The post-war context for the second scheme is as relevant in the early twenty-first century, at a time of tension and distrust among Christians, Jews and Muslims, amid the realities of persecution and conflict.

General Intention for the Week of Prayer
The Unity of all Christians desired by Christ for his Church
 
Suggested Intentions for Each Day - First Scheme
  • 18 January - Unity of all Christians
  • 19 January - Sanctification of Catholics
  • 20 January - Sanctification of Orthodox
  • 21 January - Sanctification of Anglicans
  • 22 January - Sanctification of Lutherans
  • 23 January - Sanctification of Calvinists
  • 24 January - Sanctification of all other Protestant Christians
  • 25 January - Unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ
Suggested Intentions for Each Day - Second Scheme
  • 18 January - Unity of all Christians
  • 19 January - Sanctification of Catholics
  • 20 January - Sanctification of Orthodox
  • 21 January - Sanctification of Anglicans
  • 22 January - Sanctification of all Protestant Christians
  • 23 January - Sanctification of all Jews
  • 24 January - Sanctification of all Muslims
  • 25 January - Sanctification of all other non-Christians, and the Unity of all humanity in the charity and truth of Christ

In the last year of his life, Couturier made three final requests of those who would pray for unity:
  • that Christians of different communions, when they meet in friendship and sympathy will not forget to say together the Lord's Prayer;
  • that all Christians will understand that it is their duty to pray for the World Council of Churches (and, we may suppose, the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose work is the fruit of the renewal at the Vatican Council for which Couturier prayed so deeply);
  • that they will understand that humility, the fruit of prayer, opens all barred roads.
Couturier suggests that the use of these intentions as a basis for an octave of intercession need not be restricted to the Week of Prayer. The can also be used in Holy Week; Easter Week; from Ascension Day to Pentecost, as the Church awaits the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and the Week from Pentecost to Trinity Sunday, when the Church contemplates its mission to the world.
 
 
Suggested Themes for Each Day - 21st Century Scheme
 
The complexion of Christianity and its Church traditions are now seen as more varied than Couturier experienced in his day. Also, the Catholic Church has re-articulated its view of relations, not only to other Christians but also to people of other faiths. Consulting ecumenical partners, the Catholic League - an organisation founded in Anglicanism in 1913 to work and pray for corporate reunion, pre-eminently including the Catholic Church - devised a third scheme, based on Couturier's second scheme, but also developing the reference to the Jewish people and extending the prayer with regard to those who believe in God but do not believe in Christ.
 
This third scheme is found in the leaflet of prayers and devotions which can be found here:
 
 
 

 

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