Fr Paul of Graymoor (AD 1863 – 1940) and the Octave of Unity

[#20 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of January 13 – 19]

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HIS week in English Catholic History, we begin to celebrate the Octave of Unity from January 18th to the 25th. The Octave was created by Fr Paul of Graymoor, an Episcopalian priest and religious who brought his entire Anglican religious community corporately into union with the Catholic Church.

Fr. Paul was born Lewis Wattson to the Rev Joseph Wattson and his wife, Mary on January 16th in Millington, Maryland. Rev Wattson was strongly influenced by the writings of John Henry Newman and the Oxford movement in the Anglican Church in England. He was dismissed from his Episcopalian seminary on suspicion of being a Jesuit spy. Nevertheless he went on to become the rector of a small parish in Maryland.  

From 1882 to 1885, Lewis studied at the Episcopalian General Theological Seminary in New York.

in 1886, Lewis became an Episcopalian priest himself, serving as rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Kingston, NY until 1895.

In 1893, Fr Lewis conceived of a religious order he wished to found, inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi, Italy. Opening his Bible at random, his eyes fell upon Romans 5:11: “And not only so, but we also joy in God, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” Fr Lewis saw within the word “atonement” “At-one-ment”, and conceived the purpose of his order as bringing unity within the schism-troubled Church of God.

From 1895 to 1898, Fr Lewis joined and led a semi-monastic Episcopalian community of unmarried clergy in Omaha, Nebraska called the Associate Mission. During this period Fr Lewis corresponded with Sister Lurana White, discussing the possibilities of religious orders taking monastic vows within the Anglican Communion. Sister Lurana also went to visit the Anglican Sisters of Bethany in England to learn from their model. In 1898, Fr Lewis and Mother Lurana co-founded the Episcopalian Franciscan Friars and Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement in Garrison, New York. At this time, a common monastic practice, Fr Lewis took the religious name of Paul. They took possession of the Graymoor property in 1900.

Eight years later in 1908, Fr Paul created the Octave of Unity, a devotional intended to promote religious unity around the world.

On October 30th, 1909, Fr Paul and the Friars were accepted corporately into the Catholic Church as a community. In many ways this corporate reception foreshadowed the creation a century later of the Patrimonially English Ordinariates of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus (November 4th, 2009) which would permit the incorporation of entire parishes with their priests into the Catholic Church.

Day 1, January 18th: The union of all Christians in the One True Faith and in the Church

Day 2, January 19th: The return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See

Day 3, January 20th: The reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See

Day 4, January 21st: The reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See

Day 5, January 22nd: That American Christians become one in union with the Chair of Peter

Day 6, January 23rd: The restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church

Day 7, January 24th: That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ

Day 8, January 25th: The missionary extension of Christ’s Kingdom throughout the World

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Written by Dr. Foster Lerner of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida; a parish of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter © 2019.

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Foster holds a Doctorate in Medicine from  Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in medicine.

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