Paul Couturier, ecumenist (d 1953)
Paul Couturier, who died just over fifty years ago, was born in 1881 in Lyon, the great city where in 1274 the divisions between East and West had for a time been healed. After a time in Algeria, he was ordained in the Society of St Irenaeus in 1906, a company of mission and teaching priests. A graduate in physical sciences he became a teacher at the Society’s school founded in the Maison des Chartreux, the dissolved Carthusian monastery, where he remained until 1946.
As a result of an Ignatian retreat in his early twenties Fr Albert Valensin SJ encouraged him to take up some relief work among Lyon’s 10,000 Russian refugees, and introduced him to Orthodoxy and a hitherto unknown world of spirituality, theological expression and Church life. Metropolitan Platon Gorodetsky (1803-1891) of Kiev’s saying, that ‘the walls of separation do not rise as far as heaven’, became a principle of Couturier’s ecumenical outlook. Then a month’s stay with the Benedictine Monks of Unity at Amay-sur-Meuse (nowadays living at Chevetogne in Belgium) formed a second important step towards the realisation of his ecumenical vocation. Strongly influenced by the teaching of Dom Lambert Beauduin, he placed the prayerful celebration of the Church’s liturgy – not as a private devotion, but the work of all the Church, lay and ordained – at the heart of his spiritual life. He became an oblate of Amay, taking the name Benoît-Irénée to acknowledge his two prime sources of inspiration. In the years to come he found this spirituality, which had so revived his own Church and the active participation and mission of Catholic lay people, could also embrace Christians of other Churches. All Christians could unite in regular prayer and devotion, each according to their own tradition and insight, for the sanctification of the world and the unity of Christ’s people. So was born the idea of ‘the Invisible Monastery’, a spiritual holy place and community, beyond the earth’s ‘walls of separation’, where God’s vision of his Church’s unity could be realised and celebrated in prayer, praise, mutual love and humility, for the sake of the world.
Couturier was deeply struck that Jesus’ prayer on the night before he died was not simply for his disciples’ unity, but that they might be one as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world might believe. He realised that the unity of Christians was therefore a reality in heaven, in God himself, and that overcoming the worldly Church’s divisions through penitence and charity would be offer a renewed faith to the whole world. So merely human efforts, methods and timetables would not in the end avail: what was needed was a ‘Spiritual Ecumenism’, that prays for the unity of Christians ‘according to his will, according to his means’.
Continued source: Paul Couturier and Spiritual Ecumenism
Image source Paul Couturier, Apostle of Unity – The Word Among Us. 2017. Paul Couturier, Apostle of Unity – The Word Among Us. [ONLINE] Available at: https://wau.org/archives/article/paul_couturier_apostle_of_unity/. [Accessed 24 March 2017].
ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR
(24 March 1980)
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980), commonly known as Monseñor Romero, was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He later became prelate archbishop of San Salvador.
As an archbishop, he witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country’s civil war. His brand of political activism was denounced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. In 1980, he was assassinated by gunshot while consecrating the Eucharist during mass. His death finally provoked international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador.
In 1997, a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The process continues. He is considered the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, like the Church of England through its Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.