IN GOD’S RECONCILING GRACE — Rev. Bernard de Margerie and Bishop Don Bolen presented de Margerie’s newly published book of prayers focused on Christian Unity to representatives from across the diocese Sept. 10 at an Administration Day held at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. In God’s Reconciling Grace is being offered free of charge to all Christians, across denominational lines. (Yaworski photo)

New book presented at Administration Day

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — A unique new book of prayers and reflections focused on Christian reconciliation and unity was launched at a diocesan Administration Day Sept. 10 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

The 235-page prayer resource — entitled In God’s Reconciling Grace — is designed to foster greater reconciliation and unity among divided Christians, explained author and editor Rev. Bernard de Margerie. “It is offered as gift, free of charge, to all churches and to all Christian faithful, across denominational boundaries.”

“This book is a great friend of anybody who wants to be an artisan of reconciliation,” said Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen, adding that he is not aware of any other book like it, in any other language, anywhere in the world.

“I consulted with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity in Rome, where I used to work, and nobody knew of a textual resource like this to pray for Christian unity,” Bolen told parish and ministry leaders gathered for Administration Day.

Printing costs have been covered by donations, and therefore the book can be offered free of charge to churches and interested individuals across the diocese, as well as regionally, nationally and internationally, said Bolen.

A focus on Christian unity has been a priority for de Margerie throughout his 56 years as a diocesan priest, a calling born in the earliest days of Vatican II.

The founder of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon, de Margerie wrote about half of the texts included in the book, and the rest were “gleaned from any number of sources of ecumenical prayer and ecumenical thinking about how to do our part to help heal the divisions in the Body of Christ,” he explained.

This fall is the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio, de Margerie noted. “Fifty years ago, the Catholic Church declared in the most solemn way possible, that from now on, we’re going to play a big part to try and heal those divisions, in obedience to the will and to the prayer of Christ.”

“I consider the writing of this book — and now its distribution — as an act of ministry, in the service of the Gospel,” he said. “It’s the Christian ministry of reconciliation.”

The point of the book, he said, “is to encourage reflection, discernment and especially prayer: what we call spiritual ecumenism.”

De Margerie describes the volume as a “school of prayer” that seeks conversion of hearts. “The book is a school where minds and hearts can learn, humbly and patiently, the basic gifts, demands, hopes, changed attitudes, that make up an ecumenical heart.”

In the introduction to the book, de Margerie stated: “It will hopefully be offered and placed in the hands of the Christian people, at the grassroots, across denominational lines, on a generously wide basis. It is offered especially as a humble gift and instrument to those who are called, or may be called in the future, to spend themselves in this singular act of ecclesial faithfulness, committed prayer and intercession for the healing of the Body of Christ.”

Endorsed by local Christian leaders from a range of traditions and denominations, In God’s Reconciling Grace has five sections.

Prayer Matters introduces ecumenical prayer in its many dimensions and implications, including prayers that “correct attitudes, name pitfalls and deal with stereotypes,” he said.

In part two of the book — Christian Communities Praying with and for Each Other — de Margerie offers resources to encourage different denominations to pray for each other.

Part three of the book is entitled Denominational Voices at Prayer, featuring prayers for Christian unity found within different traditions.

The fourth section of the book offers resource texts as “food for discernment” and the final section contains a number of ecumenical prayer services for Christian reconciliation and unity.

“The favourable time, the time of grace, is now!” urged de Margerie, expressing his hope that leaders and animators will take the new resource and help to breathe life into the use of the book among groups and congregations, families and parishioners.

“Our people will need help. But all this effort is grace leading to grace,” he said.

Prayer is a vital part of ecumenical effort, said Bolen. “Unity always comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Unity is always a sign of God’s Spirit at work. — but the Lord does build on our prayerful desire to be one, to be instruments of reconciliation.

The bishop noted that the new book has been a lifetime in the making for de Margerie. “In God’s Reconciling Grace is a mirror of Father Bernard’s whole life.”

The Administration Day launch of the book ended with de Margerie’s colleagues giving the priest a standing ovation.

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