Monthly Archives: January 2011

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today we pray especially for Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Teacher of the Faith, 1622

Francis was born in 1567 in Savoy at the Château de Sales.  His later education was at the University of Paris, where he studied rhetoric, philosophy, and theology.  In 1591 he became a Doctor of Laws at Padua.  Although opportunities were available both for a brilliant marriage and a successful legal career through becoming a senator of Savoy, he refused both, wishing to become a priest more than anything else.  Francis was ordained to the presbyterate in 1593, and he soon was distinguished for his service to the poor and for his skill as a preacher.  The following year he undertook the task of converting the Chablais country from Calvinism.  In spite of danger to his life from assassins and from wolves he survived, and within four years was largely successful in his task simply by preaching Catholic doctrine with great love and understanding, with persistent patience and gentleness.  These would continue to be the chief marks of his character for the rest of his life.

After undergoing a severe examination in theology at Rome in the presence of the Pope and several cardinals, he was made bishop coadjutor of Geneva in 1599, and became bishop of Geneva in 1602.  Because Geneva had gained its independence from the dukes of Savoy in the early sixteenth century and because the Reformed Church was the established church in the city and canton, Francis was not allowed to take up his ministry in Geneva itself.  Nevertheless, he worked in adminstration, in preaching, in spiritual direction, and in catechizing within his diocese and beyond as he was able.  His most famous writings, the Treatise of the Love of God and the Introduction to the Devout Life, were written during these years.  The Introduction to the Devout Life was written for lay people and was immediately acclaimed as fulfilling a long-felt need.  It was soon translated into several languages other than French.  One of his better-known close friends was Jane Frances de Chantal, whom he first knew as a widow and who founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610 under his episcopal direction.

Frances was profoundly influential as a spiritual director and writer, and he excelled in gently leading ardent souls to the demands of self-sacrifice and the love of God.  One of his favorite sayings was that more flies are attracted by a spoonful of honey than by a whole barrel of vinegar.

Frances died at Lyons in a Visitandine convent on December 28, 1622.  His body was translated to Annecy in January 1623.  Canonized by the pope in 1665, he was declared a Doctor (Teacher) of the Church in 1877.  He was especially influential in the revival of French Catholicism in the seventeenth century, but his works have appealed to Christians of other traditions.  His Introduction to the Devout Life was praised by John Wesley, and C.S. Lewis referred to the “dewy freshness” that permeates the book.  Because of this wide influence, Frances de Sales is commemorated in the calendars of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England.

prepared from material taken from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints and other sources

The Collect

Holy God, who called your bishop Francis de Sales to bring many to Christ through his devout life and to renew your Church with patience and understanding: grant that we may, by word and example, reflect your gentleness and love to all we meet; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The Collect is taken from the Church of England’s webpages of Collects and Post Communions for Lesser Festivals.

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Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today we pray especially for Baptist churches, Christian churches (including the Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ), and Anabaptist churches (including Mennonites).

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today we pray especially for Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist churches.

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa and Martyr, 304

Saint Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa and Martyr

Vincent has been called the protomartyr (first martyr) of Spain. Little is known about the actual events surrounding his life, other than his name, his order of ministry, and the place and time of his martyrdom. He was a native of Huesca, in northeastern Spain, and was ordained deacon by Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa. In the early years of the fourth century, the fervent Christian community in Spain fell victim to the persecution ordered by the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian. Dacian, governor of the province of Hispania (Spain), had Valerius and his deacon Vincent arrested and imprisoned at Valencia.

According to one legend, Valerius had a speech impediment, and Vincent was often called upon to preach for him. When the two prisoners were challenged to renounce their faith amid threats of torture and death, Vincent said to his bishop, “Father, if you order me, I will speak.” Valerius is said to have replied, “Son, as I committed you to dispense the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.” The young deacon then told the governor that he and his bishop had no intention of betraying the true God. The vehemence and enthusiasm of Vincent’s defense showed no caution in his defiance of the judges, and Dacian’s fury was increased by this exuberance in Christian witness. Valerius was exiled, but Dacian ordered that Vincent should be tortured. While in prison, he is said to have converted his jailer. At one point, he was offered release on the condition that he burn the holy Scriptures that had been committed to his safekeeping, but he refused.

Accounts of his martyrdom were embellished by the early Christian poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. Augustine of Hippo writes that Vincent’s unshakeable faith enabled him to endure grotesque punishments and, finally, death.

Devotion to Vincent spread rapidly throughout the early Church as he was venerated as a bold and outspoken witness to the truth of the living Christ.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty God, your deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The icon of Saint Vincent is from a painting in the Chiesa di San Vincenzo in Cucciago, in the Diocese of Milan.

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Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today we pray especially for Lutheran Churches, the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum), and Methodist churches.

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Agnes, Virgin and Martyr at Rome, 304

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

As a child of twelve or thirteen years, Agnes suffered for her faith, in Rome, during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian, the last and fiercest of the persecutions of Christians by the imperial state. Intensely dedicated to Christ, her fifth century Acts tell that she refused arranged marriage, saying that she preferred even the death of the body to the end of her consecrated virginity.  After rejecting the blandishments of her examiners, and withstanding the threats and torments of her executioner, she remained firm in her refusal to offer worship to the gods of the imperial state, and was executed by being pierced through the neck with a sword. Venerated as a martyr from shortly after her death, early Church Fathers, including Ambrose, Jerome and Prudentius, praised her courage and chastity and remarked upon her name, which means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin.

In his treatise On Virginity, Ambrose of Milan wrote

“Is this a new kind of martyrdom?  The girl was too young to be punished, yet old enough to wear a martyr’s crown; too young for the contest, but mature enough to gain victory.  Her tender years put her at a disadvantage, but she won the trial of virtue.  If she had been a bride, she could not have hastened to her wedding night as much as she, a virgin, went with joyful steps to the place of her execution, her head adorned with Christ himself rather than plaits, with a garland woven of virtues instead of flowers.”

Pilgrims still visit Agnes’ tomb and the catacomb surrounding it, beneath the basilica of her name on the Via Nomentana in Rome that Pope Honorius the First (625-638 ) built in her honor to replace an older shrine erected by the daughter or granddaughter of the emperor Constantine about 350. On her feast day at the basilica, two lambs are blessed, whose wool is woven into a scarf called the pallium, with which the Pope invests archbishops. Pope Gregory the Great sent such a pallium in 601 to Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. A representation of the pallium appears on the coat of arms of Archbishops of Canterbury to this day.

Agnes was commemorated from ancient times in England (probably from the time of the Augustinian mission to Kent), and her feast day is included in the Calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, whence it has entered the sanctorale of most of the Anglican Churches.

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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