Beginning tomorrow, the Chair of Unity Octave, also known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, is one of the most important periods of devotional prayer in the Church year. It has accomplished an immense good in awakening Catholics to a mission consciousness and to the need of interesting themselves in the conversion of those without the Fold. In these days of darkness and confusion, when the enemies of Christ seem to be triumphing as never before, how great is our obligation to pour forth fervent prayer for the souls of the millions of Christians who are isolated from the fullness of the truth, that God in his Mercy will grant them the grace of conversion. Let us take very seriously our responsibility with regard to the souls of our brethren, and make this yearly Octave truly a week of grace!
“In every age it has been the concern of the Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors, and likewise it concerns Us greatly, that Christians who have, unfortunately, withdrawn from the Catholic Religion should at length be recalled to us as a forsaken Mother. For in the Unity of the Faith the foremost characteristic of the truth of the Church shines forth, and it is thus that the Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by proclaiming that there is One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Ephes. 4:5). With a glad mind, therefore, We have heard that prayers have been proposed to be recited from the Feast of the Chair of the Blessed Peter at Rome to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in order that this aim of Unity might be obtained from the Lord. We mercifully grant and bestow in the Lord a Plenary Indulgence and remission of their sins to each and all the faithful of Christ who from the eighteenth day of the month of January, the Festival of the Chair of Blessed Peter of Rome, until the twenty-fifth day of the same month, on which the Conversion of St. Paul is commemorated, shall recite once a day the prayers appointed.” ―Pope Benedict XV (who sat upon the Chair of St. Peter from 1914-1922)
The Chair of Unity Octave begins on January 18th, the old Feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome and concludes on January 25th, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. It was founded in 1908 by Father Paul of Graymoor, N.Y. (born Lewis Thomas Wattson), Founder of the Society of the Atonement, and Mother Lurana White, Foundress of the Sisters of the Atonement, while they were still Anglicans. After their conversion to Catholicism, the Chair of Unity Octave was approved by Pope St. Pius X.