It has been a while since I written an entry on the saints and others who have gone before us whose prayers have no doubt contributed to the realization of Anglicanorum coetibus.
High among those I have yet to mention is Bl. Maria Gabriella of Unity, an Italian Trappestine who offered her life for the cause of Christian Unity and became quite well-known in Anglican circles. I had intended to write something myself and had recently read one biography on this amazing young woman and begun to read other articles. In the process of my research, I ran across the article below by Dom Antione Marie of the French Abbey of St. Joseph of Clairval. Given the recent discussions here and elsewhere of the proper understanding of ecumenism, I thought his article was likely to be of more interest than any I might write myself.
This piece originally appeared in Clairval's Spiritual Newsletter. It is reprinted here in full by permission of the Abbey. Subscriptions to the Spiritual Newsletter, which is printed in French, English, German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish, are free of charge. You may subscribe online here.
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On April 20, 2005, the day after his election to the See of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI stated, «At the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty.»
Christian unity is a divine and supernatural work that can only be obtained through prayer. «Praying for unity is not a matter reserved only to those who actually experience the lack of unity among Christians,» wrote Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Ut unum sint (That They May Be One), published May 25, 1995. All must collaborate: «It was in order to reaffirm this duty,» John Paul II continued, «that I set before the faithful of the Catholic Church a model which I consider exemplary, the model of a Trappistine Sister, Blessed Maria Gabriella of Unity, whom I beatified on 25 January 1983. Sister Maria Gabriella, called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to meditation and prayer centered on chapter seventeen of Saint John's Gospel, and offered her life for Christian unity. This is truly the cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one's life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. The example of Sister Maria Gabriella is instructive; it helps us to understand that there are no special times, situations or places of prayer for unity. Christ's prayer to the Father is offered as a model for everyone, always and everywhere» (no. 27).
I couldn't put up with anything!
Maria Sagheddu was born on March 17, 1914 in Dorgali, a village on the eastern coast of Sardinia, the fifth in a family of eight children. Her father was a shepherd. Her mother, Catarina, saw to everything in the household. Gentle and yet firm, she led her family in a loving fear of God. Maria was a happy child, quick to ask for what she wanted, or criticize what she did not like. From early on, she was stubborn and impatient. One day, her mother asked her to throw out some potato peels. Maria turned a deaf ear. Her mother insisted firmly, then forced her daughter to obey. Annoyed, Maria came back a moment later with the peels she had not thrown away. She herself would later say, «When I was a child, I couldn't put up with anything, not even the stones on the road!»
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