Messages from Mariann McCormally

Separated Ecclesial Brethren

We are in the midst of observing the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).  I am definitely “a child of the council.”  In fact, I pride myself on being conceived in January of 1959 – right about the time that Blessed Pope John XXIII called for a council (that’s correct, I was born in September of ’59!).

It was on January 25, 1959 during the closing ceremony for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that John XXIII announced his intention to convoke an ecumenical council and mentioned two specific goals:  “the enlightenment, edification, and joy of the entire Christian people,” and “a renewed cordial invitation to the faithful of the separated Churches to participate with us in this feast of grace and brotherhood [sic], for which so many souls long in all parts of the world.” The Council document on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), the document on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate), and the document on religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), changed the Roman Catholic Church in radical ways – and, I believe, for the better.  Those formerly called “schismatics and heretics” are now called “separated ecclesial brethren.”  Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, and others from non-Christian religions are addressed with respect and charity.  And the Church declares that no person should be forced to act against their convictions nor restrained from acting in accordance with their convictions.  The primacy of conscience, that secret core and sanctuary of the human heart, is held as sacred and inviolable.

This Saturday retired Methodist minister Rev. Dennie Oades will lead a workshop here at SFX on the contemplative practice of “Welcoming Prayer.”  I have received some criticism about inviting a Protestant to teach us about prayer.  I was surprised by the concern – especially given Dennie’s impressive academic and pastoral credentials (including her being trained by Contemplative Outreach, the international organization founded by Roman Catholic Trappist monks Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington and William Meninger). 

We – Catholics and Protestants and all people of good will – have so much more in common than what separates us.  We are all loved by God and we are all called to love and serve one another and this broken world.  May we continue to learn from one another, work together, and pray together.