The Conversion of Saint Paul

In addition to being the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, today is also the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. This is not coincidental - it used to span the time between the feast of the Chair of Peter and the Conversion of Paul, though in the Roman calendar the first of those has since been moved. (Thank you, Lorelei!) But it makes great sense still, because it reminds us that the real work of ecumenism isn't only or primarily one of producing one more joint statement, one more theological position paper, one more (dare I say it) dissertation. Ecumenism must above all be a movement of conversion, conversion of each of us as individuals to our fellow Christians, and conversion of our churches as wholes into communities more and more recognizable to each other as the one Church of Christ. "Spiritual ecumenism," as JPII and my own dissertation subject Jean Tillard often remarked, is crucial to all of our hopes for the future unity of the church. Spiritual ecumenism is what knocks us off our horses of self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and reminds us of the great work of unity still yet to be completed, that we may be one, that the world will believe.

It's also the patronal feast of the Paulist community, both the Paulist priests and those of us lucky enough to be associated with their ministries, which is doubly appropriate, given the Paulists' longstanding commitment to ecumenism, including the witness of Fr. Thomas Ryan at the Paulist Office for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. So as you remember the feast in your prayers today, think, "Have I hugged a Paulist today??"

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