Christian Unity Octave
Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.
2017 is the Year of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, centenary of Fatima, and founding of the Militia of the Immaculate. January 18-25 is the Octave of Christian Unity, that invites our Franciscan creativity. In Evangelii Gaudium 285-88, Pope Francis refers to the Marian “style” of the Church’s work of evangelization. He says: “Mary helps us to believe in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.” In conformity with the dual vocation of St. Francis: perfect conformity to Christ and to rebuild the Church, our individual and local community ecumenical efforts have their own signature. A key is: “You are the Virgin Made Church chosen by the Father, consecrated by His Son and with the Holy Spirit in whom there was and is all the fullness of grace and every good” (SaluteBVM).
Thanks to the new English translation of St. Maximilian’s works, and to the extent that each of us has knowledge of the cultural circumstances of his life, we are able to re-read his life mindful that the circumstances are no longer existent, but St. Maximilian’s approach is perfectly in accord with Catholic faith and dogma. There is a crucial question within Kolbe’s works that pertains to evangelization: how does the absolute character of metaphysical truth relate to experience? Kolbe agrees with Bl. Duns Scotus that our Franciscan metaphysics is distinguished from our natural experience in this life, but not separated from each other. In other words, Kolbe’s writings radiate the scotistic truth that in this life no experience is so perfect that it does not require metaphysical and dogmatic guidance.
This reflection is the first in an anticipated series of Unity Notes on ecumenism and the Church’s relations to non-Christian religions. Vatican II teaches: “In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd” (LG 15). Ecumenism marks the journey of the Church in our time. The unity of Christ’s disciples is a great sign in order to kindle faith in the world, while division constitutes a scandal (UR 1). The Church fosters unity and love among all people, and nations, and is open to what human beings have in common and what promotes fellowship among them (NA 1). The Council recognized a growing sense of the dignity of the human person on the consciousness of people and the rightful freedom of the person (DH 1).
Pope St. John Paul II, who canonized Kolbe as “Martyr of Charity”, wrote: “Christians must deepen in themselves and each of their communities that obedience of faith of which Mary is the first and brightest. Among the divided brethren, there are those who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Savior, especially among the Easterners” (LG 68, 69; RedMat 29). Our Kolbian Heritage confirms that St. Maximilian witnessed to the Immaculate Conception, or mystery of Charity, which is the essence of holiness, of blessedness, of glory. It is the essence of the mystery and wisdom of the Incarnation and Cross. Kolbe’s profound scotistic inspired pneumatology unfolds that mystery as the work of the Holy Spirit in and through Mary Immaculate.