The Year of Faith – That would be an Ecumenical Matter?

220px-Characters_of_Father_TedIs the Year of Faith just for Catholics? Earlier in the week I blogged about the Catholic Church’s proclamation of the Year of Faith and asked whether it could be a means to further realising the vision of Vatican II.

Though it is often forgotten or unrecognised, part of the vision of Vatican II is promoting better relationships with people from other Christian traditions. In his letter about the Year of Faith, Bishop Noel Treanor acknowledged this, writing:

One of the principal calls of the Second Vatican Council was for Catholics to rebuild relationships with brothers and sisters in other churches. On the one hand much progress has been made in terms of the healing of old wounds. However, it has to be admitted that many Catholics still feel unprepared for the task of entering into meaningful conversation with people of other Christian confessions and denominations. In our increasingly secular world which tells us that our Christian vision is foolishly naive we will need to work along with Christians of other churches in presenting faith in an intelligent, responsible and creative way.

Clonard Monastery in West Belfast is marking the Year of Faith by focusing on its relationships with other Christian churches. It has produced a prayer card for the Year of Faith, where reconciliation is the clear priority. It reads in part:

In the Clonard Reconciliation Mission we make the unity of the Body of Christ our passionate concern. It is the passion that fills our hearts. We take small steps for peace and we partner with established inter-church initiatives. The small steps we take and the partnerships we share will deepen our communion in our one Lord, one Faith and one baptism during the Year of Faith (11th Oct. 2012- 24th Nov. 2013).

On the Sunday that the Year of Faith was launched, Fr Gerry Reynolds, who has worked for years with Clonard’s Unity Pilgrims, said the masses while Billy Gallagher, a lay member of the Unity Pilgrims, spoke during the time set aside for the homily.

Gallagher related how he had been in and out of prison for anti-social behaviour, but had transformed his life with some help from God and the church. He explained how a significant turning point for him had been providing a lift for some women to attend the Clonard Novena one year, and how he had been drawn into Christianity in part because of the spirituality he experienced at the novena.

Gallagher also shared that he was the child of a ‘mixed’ Catholic-Protestant marriage, which meant his family had faced a number of difficulties due to Northern Ireland’s divided society. As he became more involved at Clonard, he felt compelled to participate in its Reconciliation Project, which aims to foster better relationships between Christians of all traditions.

Gallagher brought to attention the various components of the Reconciliation Project, which are listed as ‘small steps’ on Clonard’s Year of Faith prayer card:

Together on Sunday

Our unity pilgrims, having been to Mass, go week by week to join in the Sunday worship of a Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal or Orthodox congregation. Doing this acknowledges our common Baptism and heightens our awareness of the grace that unites us in the service of the Gospel. You are welcome to join them any Sunday as they gather in Clonard Monastery. The Clonard website or weekly bulletin will have the details.

Together in the Word

Every Monday from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm our unity pilgrims and others meet in Tres Dias House, 443 Springfield Rd for an inter-church “lectio divina” of the Scripture readings for the following Sunday. You are welcome to join in this life-giving contemplation of God’s Word on any Monday. “We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the Word of God” Pope Benedict xvi (Porta Fidei No. 3). “The Word of God is simple and seeks only a listening heart as its companion” Cardinal Carlos Martini.

Together in Silent Adoration

Every Wednesday from 7.00 pm to 8.00 pm in the chapel of Adoration, 63 Falls Road, our unity pilgrims enter into the prayer of Jesus for his disciples “Father may they all be one, so that the world may believe”. On the third Wednesday of the month they prolong the adoration into a night vigil to 7.00 am. You are welcome to share in this prayer at any time till midnight as you wish, and for part of the time from 12.00 to 7.00 am by prior arrangement. In the vigil we yearn for a heightened awareness in all the Churches of our common Baptism.

Inter-Church Partnerships

Clonard/Fitzroy Fellowship

In this Fellowship which began in 1981 and now involves young and old, we meet regularly to celebrate the grace of our common Baptism and to share our gifts in works of service to the whole community. You are welcome to all its meetings. See Clonard website or weekly bulletin for details.

Falls/Shankill Communion

In this partnership between Shankill Congregations, Falls Parishes and Clonard Monastery we journey toward a shared understanding of our common Baptism and witness to our Faith through various reconciliation initiatives.

Tres Dias Community

Tres Dias is an ecumenical renewal movement springing from the Cursillo. We share in its annual retreats, its monthly reunions, its quarterly assemblies. The Tres Dias home is 443/445 Springfield Road, formerly Cornerstone Community.

In Joyful Hope

In Joyful Hope will bring together in 2012/2013 the baptized of all the Churches for six celebrations of Eucharist/Holy Communion, according to the different traditions, always observing the Catholic Eucharistic discipline. See Clonard website or weekly bulletin for times and places. Everyone welcome.

[The next In Joyful Hope is scheduled for Tuesday 30 October at 8 pm at Belfast South Methodist Church, Lisburn Road]

Kairos Community

We share in the Kairos inter-church missions, both in Maghaberry and in Hydebank, which are supported in prayer in all the Churches.

Can these examples of Clonard’s ecumenical activities inspire other Catholics who are entering into the Year of Faith to think about how they might share it with other Christians?

That way, if Irish Catholics are asked what the Year of Faith is, they (with Fr Ted!) could do worse than reply:

That would be an ecumenical matter!

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