Pope Francis invited the faithful on January 16 to “offer our difficulties and sufferings for the unity of Christians.” The Pope’s appeal comes as the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins January 18.
The Holy Father noted, “This year’s proposal mirrors the experience of the Magi who came from the East to Bethlehem to honour the Messianic King. We Christians, in the diversity of our confessions and traditions, are also pilgrims on the way toward full unity, and we will draw near our goal to the extent that we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our only Lord.”
This year’s materials and theme were chosen by the Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Pope referred to the Christian practice of uniting our difficulties with the Lord on the Cross, as a type of prayer. When we offer up our pain (or discomfort or frustration or uncertainty), God takes that struggle as a prayer, strengthened by suffering, and uses it for the salvation of souls and the glory of his name.
Pope Benedict XVI called for a resurgence in this practice:
There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practiced today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs,” thereby giving them a meaning. … What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. (Spe Salvi, 40)
Pope Francis invited:
During the Week of Prayer, let us offer our difficulties and sufferings for the unity of Christians.
Traditionally, the Pope concludes this Week of Prayer with Vespers in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, for the feast of the conversion of the Apostle Paul on January 25.