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Selections from
The Book of Common Prayer

A Special Prayer for Christ's Holy Catholic Church

Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy Holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; Where in any thing it is amiss, reform it; Where it is in want, provide for it; Where it is divided, reunite it; For the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, and our Lord. Amen.


About this prayer

This prayer first appeared in 1667 in A Summarie of Devotions, drawn from a manuscript by Archbishop William Laud (d. 1645.) It came into the Prayer Book in 1928, but with not a few emendations of Laud's own wording. The South African Book of 1944 contains it in more nearly its original form. Many have regretted the substitution of the present ending (cf. Heb. vii.25) for Laud's more vigorous 'where it is divided and rent asunder, make up the breaches of it, O thou Holy One of Israel' (cf. Amos ix.11).

The fine sense of style in this prayer, with its antithetical balancing of phrase, should not divert attention from its faithful adherence to Anglican doctrine concerning the 'holiness' and the 'catholicity' of the Church. The Church is 'holy' because it is called of God and set apart for His purposes, because it has received the gift of His Holy Spirit and has been entrusted with holy things. It is true that its members have not yet achieved a pure and perfect state of life, and that there is both error and sin in the Church; but the Church is holy in its promise, not in its attainment.

The term 'Catholic' is rightly applied to Christendom as a whole, as a potential unity and fellowship in common Faith, Ministry, and Sacraments. In actuality this unity does not exist, for the Catholic Church is in schism -- 'divided and rent asunder.' No single branch or particular communion of this Catholic Church can rightly arrogate to itself the claim to be the sole and only possessor of God's truth and grace.

from The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary by Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr. (New York : Oxford University Press, 1950)

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