Thursday, March 11, 2010


When Paul and Mary Filben began the Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue over 30 years ago in their living room, they eventually created a logo and motto for their work: “Hands That Reach Will Touch.” This is true today, and not only with regard to Christian-Jewish relations.

Hands reached out last night at St. Paul Episcopal in Daphne, where my good friend Rev. Albert Kennington hosted me for a Wednesday night supper; I was to give a talk in their Lenten series on “Reconciliation” with the topic: Reconciliation in the Church. It was, of course, an ecumenical theme.

I encountered the parishioners of St. Paul as good and caring people; they encountered me as someone concerned and open. There was much hand-reaching last night, I am happy to say.

I knew a monk of Mt. Saviour Monastery some years ago—Fr. James Kelly, OSB. He told me that a Greek Orthodox monk said to him once: “We will never be reunited as a single Church until we are all caught up in Christ.” I used this quote last night in my presentation, and I observed that it could have two meanings.

The first, a disappointing one, would be to understand the statement as referring to the End and Final Judgment—being “caught up” in the sense that some understand the “rapture.”

The second, though, is a bit more encouraging, and I think it’s what the monk actually meant: when we quit looking solely at ourselves, when we quit thinking that unity means the admission by others that WE are 100% perfect and that others must conform to and accept us as we are—when we live the principle of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism which says “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart (metanoia, or conversion)”: then we can hope for the unity wished by Christ.

“Hands that reach will touch”—I would like to suggest that the best place for our hands to touch and grasp, would be with the Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the Cross. If we all hold hands there, and if we all look up in mourning at Him whom they have pierced (see John 19:37 and Zechariah 12:10, 13:1), it would surely be hard to remain arrogant or self-righteous. We might be ready, then, to become “one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:13-18). What a glorious Lent and Easter that will be—Come, Holy Spirit!


  1. Happy Day....When the our brothers and sisters will rejoin the One Church founded by Christ, and not try to change it, to make it fit their protestant errors....

  2. This almost seems like an"impossible dream" - it embraces so many oppositional doctrinal truths; for example, holding hands with the Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross - perhaps with our Protestant friends, but omitting our Jewish brethren. Is this not so?
    And in another area of exploration remains the "infallibility of the Pope", which continues to be studied within our Catholic hierarchy.

  3. For Jews who wait for a Messiah (not all do), if Jesus is revealed to them as the Messiah (read Romans 9-11), it'll be the time of great reunion of Jews and Gentiles--and why not, since the Mother of Jesus was also Jewish?

    Papal infallibility is less an issue (though it is one) than the scope and extent of papal jurisdiction--but even this can be resolved (see Ut Unum Sint #95-96), and lack of accepting this jurisdiction does not bar members of the Orthodox Churches from presenting themselves for Holy Communion with us--and they are not to be denied (Code of Canon Law, canon #844, section 3). This latter example is printed in most hymnals and missalettes in summary form by the USCCB under the title "Guidelines for the Reception of Communion." We are further along in our striving than we sometimes realize.

    The key is that we are not "selling out" to anyone, but we are recognizing that not all disagreements are critical differences, and not all have to be "dividing differences."

  4. Wouldn't it take a conversion of the heart, or, in the very essence of the soul? It seems to me that if we start to diminish what it means to be Catholic in an effort to accomodate others, we will little by little start to make too many concessions regarding our sacred Traditions,and beliefs, and in the process, who we are and what we believe will become blurred, where in the end we'll just become a Eucharistic assembly of sorts where true belief and reverence and respect in the true presence will be all but totally lost. Also, could issues like artifcial contraception, abortion, adultry, become acceptable as it seems to some degree we already do tolerate some of these behaviors, to the point where they're not even necessarily looked upon as mortal sins, and another example would be in honoring and voting for people who have absolutley no problem with the killing of babies,that will more than likely eventually lead to the euthanizing of the elderly, and those with severe mental and physical handicaps. I have heard it say that the 10 commandmants are just that (and not the 10 suggestions). It almost seems as though that the church is beginning to go into another schism, where we will have a protestant catholic church beggining to take shape or form. I believe we need to be focused on who we are and what we believe and pray that our brothers and sisters will join us right where we are, Home, in the Church left to us by our Savior.