Every year, from January 18 through 25 the Church observes a special period of prayer for the return of our separated brethren to full communion with the Catholic Church. Called the Chair of Unity
of Octave or the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it extends from the traditional Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome (January 18) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25).
It began on October 3, 1899, the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, when the Rev. Lewis Thomas Wattson, an Episcopal clergyman, later known as the Very Rev. Paul James Francis, S.S., arrived at Graymoor New York to establish a community of Episcopal Franciscans called the Friars of the Atonement. The previous year, Miss Lurana White, a devout young woman, had founded a community of Episcopal nuns known as the Sisters of the Atonement in the same place. For ten years, the two communities were jointly known as the Society of the Atonement and lived the monastic life as members of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Looking about him on a largely irreligious world, Father Paul grieved most because Christians seemed divided into warring sects and factions. Because he began to preach corporate reunion of the Episcopal Church with the Roman Catholic Church, he was banned from the pulpits of the Episcopal Church, so in his brown robe and sandals, he took his message to the streets and parks of New York.
Father Paul James Francis was determined to carry on a vigorous apostolate for the return of all separated Christians to communion with the Holy See. To further this aim, he inaugurated the Chair of Unity Octave in 1908. One year later, the members of the Society themselves received the grace of conversion and on October 30, 1909 they entered the Catholic Church in a body. It astonished no one when he took his own advice and brought his community with him into the Catholic Church. With the blessing of Pope St. Pius X, they were permitted to continue as a religious society in the Catholic Church and were commissioned to carry on the apostolate of Christian unity as their community aim.
In an Apostolic Brief in the year 1916, Pope Benedict XV also approved the Chair of Unity Octave as a Catholic devotion and in 1921, at their annual meeting in Washington, the Catholic hierarchy of the United States unanimously adopted the Octave for all the dioceses in the country. Under the patronage of St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, and St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Chair of Unity Octave has flourished and grown. It is now observed in many parts of the world.
CHAIR OF UNITY OCTAVE PRAYER
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17. 21)
(Daily intentions to be stated during the Octave)
January 18: The union of all Christians in the one true faith and in the Church.
January 19: The return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See.
January 20: The reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See.
January 21: The reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See.
January 22: That American Protestants become one in union with the Chair of Peter.
January 23: The restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church.
January 24: That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ.
January 25: The missionary extension of Christ's kingdom throughout the world.
"I say unto thee, that thou art Peter. And upon this Rock I will build My Church." (Matthew 16:18) Let us Pray. 0 Lord Jesus Christ, who didst say unto thine Apostles: Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you; look not upon our sins but on the faith of thy Church, and vouchsafe to grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to thy will. Who livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.