Fr. Scott Haynes
Church Unity Octave
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
The Church Unity Octave (also known as the Chair of Unity Octave) is one of the most special and richly indulgenced novenas of 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 who wander in darkness, 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of the Roman Pontiffs, Our predecessors, and likewise it concerns Us greatly, that Christians who have, unfortunately, withdrawn from the Catholic Religion should at length be recalled to us as a forsaken Mother.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, 1916).
The Chair of Unity Octave begins on January 18, the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome and concludes on January 25, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and traditionally includes these intentions:
January 18: The union of all Christians in the one true faith and in the Church
January 19: The return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See
January 20: The reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See
January 21: The reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See
January 22: That American Christians become one in union with the Chair of Peter
January 23: The restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church
January 24: That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ
January 25: The missionary extension of Christ’s kingdom throughout the world
Prayers for the Church Unity Octave
In the name of the Father, † and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.
V. O God, † come to my assistance.
R. O Lord, make haste to help us.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
January 18: Prayer for the Reunion of Christendom:
Let us Pray. O God, in thy mercy thou dost set aright those who have gone astray and thou dost save those whom thou hast gathered together. We beseech thee to pour down upon all Christian people the grace of union with thee, so that putting aside disunion and attaching themselves to the true shepherd of thy Church, they may be able to serve thee humbly and lovingly. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
January 19: Prayer to the Fathers of the Eastern Church:
Let us pray. O ye glorious martyrs, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna; O ye illustrious doctors of the Church, St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Basil, who worked and suffered so much for the purity of faith and the salvation of the souls entrusted to your paternal care, look down from heaven upon your beloved Eastern lands, which forgetful of your teaching and example, live now separated from the body of the true Church. By your powerful intercession, O ye holy Eastern Fathers, obtain for all separated Oriental Christians the grace to return to the center of unity, and to form with us one and the same family, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
January 20: Prayer for the Conversion of England:
Let us Pray. O Jesus, Good Shepherd, look down with favor upon the great and noble English nation. Converted to thee through the labors of St. Augustine and his companions, it was for many centuries rich in fruits of faith and sanctity. So devoted was this nation to thy holy and immaculate Mother that it was known throughout Christendom as the Dowry of Mary. When it was separated from thee in cruel fashion, many hundreds of its people willingly shed their blood in testimony of their loyalty to thee and thy Church. O loving Shepherd of souls, recall this great nation once more to the unity of thy Church, and grant peace of soul to all those now separated from thy flock. Amen.
January 21: Prayer for the Conversion of European Protestants:
Let us Pray. O most beloved Lord Jesus Christ, who hast redeemed the world at the price of thy most Precious Blood, look down in thy mercy upon the Christian peoples of Europe, who are still outside thy fold, and let the full light of thy truth shine upon them. Multiply, O God, the true messengers of thy Gospel, inspire them with fervor, make them fruitful in good works, and bless with thy grace their zeal and their labors, so that the separated Christians of Europe may be fully converted unto thee, their Creator and Redeemer. Recall the strayed sheep to thy fold, and the wanderers to the bosom of thy one true Church. Hasten, O dearest Saviour, the happy advent of thy Kingdom on earth, draw all men to the treasures of thy Sacred Heart, so that all may share in the priceless benefits of thy Redemption and in the eternal happiness of Heaven. Amen.
January 22: Prayer for the Conversion of America:
Let us Pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, grant unto all thy servants, but especially to the people of our own nation, the grace of being fully united with thee in Thy Church. O divine Redeemer, of whom the prophet sang “all the kings of the earth shall adore Him, and all the nations shall serve Him,” extend thy Kingdom over the entire human race, but especially over our own beloved country. Grant in thy Mercy that the people of our land may be converted unto thee, and humbly and lovingly serve thee. This we ask, O Savior, through the intercession of thine Immaculate Mother, the patroness and protector of our nation. Amen.
January 23: Prayer for Lapsed Catholics:
Let us Pray. O Almighty Father, who desirest not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live, pour out upon us thy mercy and hear the prayers of thy servants. Soften the hearts of thy children who have strayed from the true paths, which thou didst establish for their salvation. They are now forgetful of their duties as Catholics, and pursue only the transitory pleasures of the world. Grant that they may speedily return to the practice of every Christian virtue, so that their lives may shine with the integrity of faith, the fervor of piety and the ardor of charity. Restore all of them to thy sacraments and to the life of thy grace, through the merits of the Most Precious Blood of thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
January 24: Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews:
Let us pray. O God, who dost manifest thy mercy and compassion towards all peoples, have mercy upon the Jewish race, once thy chosen people. Thou didst select them alone out of all the nations of the world to be the custodians of thy sacred teachings. From them thou didst raise up prophets and patriarchs to announce the coming of the Redeemer. Thou didst will that thine only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour should be a Jew according to the flesh, born of a Jewish maiden in the Land of Promise. Hear the prayers we offer thee today for the conversion of the Jewish people. Grant that they may soon come to a knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah foretold by their prophets, and that they may walk with us in the way of salvation. Amen.
January 25: Prayer for the Conversion of our Brethren:
Let us Pray. Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers have been created by thee, and formed to thine own image and likeness. Behold, O Lord, how to thy dishonor hell is being filled with these same souls. Remember, O God, that for their salvation thy Son Jesus Christ underwent a most cruel death. Permit not, O Lord, that thy divine Son be any longer despised by unbelievers; but be appeased by the prayers of the Saints and of the Church, the Spouse of thy most holy Son, and forgetting their idolatry and unbelief, grant that they may at last come to acknowledge thy Son Jesus Christ, who is our Salvation, Life and Resurrection, through whom we have been saved and redeemed; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O Immaculate Virgin, who wast preserved by a singular privilege of grace from original sin, look down with pity upon our separated brethren, who are still thy children, and call them back to the center of unity. Even from afar, many have preserved a most tender devotion towards thee, O Mother. Reward them for their devotion by obtaining for them the grace of conversion. Victorious over the powers of hell from the very first moment of thine existence, renew, now that the necessity is more urgent, thy triumphant progress, as in ages past. Glorify thy Son, O Mother, by bringing back to the one Fold his straying sheep. And may it be thy glory, O Virgin Mary, to banish error from the earth, to put an end to disunity and to restore peace to the world. Amen.
Prayer to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles:
O glorious St. Peter, as a reward for thy lively and generous faith, profound and sincere humility, and ardent love, thou wast singled out by our Lord and endowed with most special privileges. Thou wast also constituted Prince of the Apostles, with primacy over the whole Church, of which thou wast made the Rock and Foundation. Obtain for us, we pray, a lively faith and an ardent zeal so that all of us will labor for the return of our separated brethren. May the desire of our divine Redeemer, that there might be but “one Fold and one Shepherd,” be for us, as it was for thee, the inspiration to work and pray for the return of all those who are still outside the Fold. Strengthened by divine Grace, may they be led back speedily to the bosom of our common Mother, the Catholic Church. Amen.
Chair of Unity Octave Prayer
Antiphon: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17. 21)
V. I say unto thee, that thou art Peter.
R. And upon this Rock I will build My Church.
Let us Pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst say unto thine Apostles: Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you; look not upon our sins, but on the faith of thy Church, and vouchsafe to grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to thy will. Who livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.