In June 1885 Lewis Thomas Wattson graduated from the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in N.Y. and in that same year he was assigned to St. John’s Episcopal parish in Kingston, N.Y. While in the Seminary he studied Latin and became interested in the life of St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi. As an Episcopalian (a branch of the Anglican Church), Father Wattson was inspired to establish a religious Community of men whose mission would be the return of separated Religious groups which had broken with the Roman Catholic Church during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 5:11) he read: “We also joy in God through Our Lord Jesus Christ by Whom we now have received the Atonement.”
Time passed; he eventually met an Anglican nun who expressed the desire to join with Fr. Wattson in establishing a new Community – The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement. After many trials and interviews with both Anglican and Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authorities, on 4 October 1910 (the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi) the small Community was given approval to move into the small chapel of St. John, in the Wilderness in Graymoor, New York.
The six Sisters and two Friars, as a body were accepted into the Roman Catholic Church – the first fruits of Fr. Paul Wattson’s Church Unity Octave – an octave of intensified prayer for Church unity. From 18 January, feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome to 25 January, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, this octave, in Fr. Paul’s words: “is the Unity of Christendom around the Apostolic See and the conversion of the world in Christ.” Every year since 1910, the Church sets these eight days aside with a special intention for each day:
- Jan. 18 – The union of all Christians in the one true Church.
- Jan. 19 – The return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See.
- Jan. 20 – The Reconciliation of Anglicans to the Holy See.
- Jan. 21 – The Reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See.
- Jan. 22 – That American Christians become one with the Chair of Peter.
- Jan. 23 – The Restoration of Lapsed Catholics to the Sacramental Life of the Church.
- Jan. 24 – That the Jewish People come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ.
- Jan. 25 – The Missionary Extension of Christ’s Kingdom throughout the World.
Prayer: “May Our Lord grant His Church on earth that peace and unity which were in His mind and purpose when, on the eve of His Passion, He prayed that all might be One. Amen.
P.S. Father Paul (Lewis) Wattson is now a candidate for Canonization.
Sycamore Tree is a weekly column written by longtime Guam Catholic Daniel Bradley under the pen name, “Zacchaeus”.