Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 24, 2007
Prayers for Christian unity led to walk around the world
Christ's suffering and his whispers to pray for unity prompted Samuel Clear's global trek
- WCR photo by Alicia Ambrosio
Australian Catholic Samuel Clear treks for Christian unity along Highway 2A south of Lacombe.
By ALICIA AMBROSIO
WCR Staff Writer
Samuel Clear has been held at gunpoint once, mugged by four men with knives, survived typhoid fever, salmonella, food poisoning (four times), suffered a stress fracture and had his big toe operated on twice - all in the last year. He has also spent the last 12 months walking from Cape Branco, Brazil, to Edmonton.
The 28-year-old Australian is not crazy. He's on a mission. Clear is walking around the world for Christian unity.
Clear sat down with the WCR in Lacombe, taking a break during his walk from Red Deer to Ponoka, and explained how the idea of walking for Christian unity took root in his heart in 2005.
Once the six foot, five inch Aussie folds himself into a chair in a corner in the small town caf‚, the conversation turns serious. Until now it's been small talk about current walking conditions and his impressions of Alberta (very hospitable people, but very cold weather - colder than Moscow).
He's barely had a chance to take a bite of his sandwich when he's asked whatever possessed him to walk around the world for Christian unity. Clear chews, swallows, and then unhesitatingly dives into his story, going back to 2005.
That was when he read two books of testimonials from former Protestant and evangelical Christians - among them Scott Hahn the now prominent Catholic writer and scholar - who converted to the Catholic Church.
In many cases, those who converted lost everything. Many were ministers in their churches and lost their jobs and means of income when they converted. In some cases the converts became estranged from their families who could not accept their conversion to Catholicism.
"I felt sorry for God," says Clear. His crystal blue eyes get serious as he explains that he felt sorry for God because, as Clear understands it, God just wants all his creatures to follow him and his truth. Instead all God's creatures are divided by different opinions and labels, Clear says, biting the sandwich again.
When that feeling first hit, he stopped and prayed for unity among Christians, recognizing that was really all he could do.
Sorry for God
However, that "feeling sorry for God" stayed with him, he understood it as a glimpse of Christ's suffering on the cross, or what God must have felt watching his only Son die on a cross.
The issue of Christian unity is not a small one, and Clear recalls saying in his prayers, "This is too big for me." Clear says he felt God whisper into his heart, "You're right, it is too big for you, but it isn't too big for me. I want you to pray for unity."
Clear followed God's instructions and continued to pray for Christian unity. One night, while looking at an atlas, he thought rather innocently that it would be neat to walk around the world praying for Christian unity.
A plan evolves
Over the next year plans for a walk around the world slowly materialized.
He is quick to point out that he is walking to get people praying for unity, not to promote any one vision of unity or to convert people to Catholicism.
"I'm not pushing any one idea, the point of the walk is to pray for unity," he says. He asks Christians to stop every day at 4:01 pm to "pray for one," as he puts it.
When asked if his walk has given him any ideas about what Christian unity might look like, or how it might be brought about, Clear avoids revealing his opinions, saying simply, "Of course I have ideas, but they're just my opinions."
He then admits that Christian unity means more than just agreeing to disagree.
"We need to be careful to avoid falling into relativism. We need to be united in truth, that means being in union theologically and in our love for God. Horizontally and vertically," he says. "In prayer we allow ourselves to open to change. Most people open to change if God places that openness in their hearts," he said.
Clear admits that Christians may never be perfectly united, but it is still important to aim for perfect unity, as perfect unity is perfect love. "It's in one of St. Paul's letters," he says laughing lightly.
While Clear's mission started because he saw the Body of Christ as broken, and that brokenness being too big for one person to take on, he says he has seen a willingness in most people he's met, to pray for unity.
Multitude of responses
"About 98 per cent of people (I've met) are willing to pray for unity. Two per cent are not but that's usually because they've come up with their own idea of what my idea of unity is," he said. At times when people hear he's Catholic he says they feel the need to "shove something down my throat before I can supposedly shove something down theirs" by engaging in theological debate.
While he has planned his routes carefully in order to walk in long, straight sections across the continents, he will make one detour while walking across Europe. Clear will venture south to Rome in the spring.
Centre of unity
A necessary detour, he says, as Rome is the centre of Christianity and the centre of the unity for which he prays. He hopes someone might arrange for him to meet Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Clear will speak in St. Albert on Dec. 19 and at St. Joseph's Basilica in Edmonton on Dec. 20. He will spend Christmas in Edmonton with family friends. After the holidays, he flies to Russia where he will travel by train through Siberia and pick up walking again in Moscow.
From there he will walk to Compostela, Spain, famous for the walking pilgrimage of the same name, and end his walk at Cabo Finesterra, Spain. Clear flies home to Australia in July, just in time to speak at World Youth Day in Sydney.
Clear's voyage can be followed on the Australian Youth Mission Team website www.ymt.com.au/walk4one. He updates his blog as computer access allows. Of course, Catholics can support Clear in his mission by stopping every day at 4:01 to pray for Christian unity.