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(LifeSiteNews) — Of all the feast days in the Church, very few speak to the time we are living in like the Feast of Christ the King which many celebrated this past Sunday.

This feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI — however, it is so pertinent to our times, but you’d only know that if you checked out the original intent of the feast and not the distorted version which is in vogue today.

So, Pius XI established this feast with his encyclical Quas Primas, to commemorate Christ’s Kingship over the hearts of all Christians, and indeed over all men and — here is the key — over every state, nation, and society. 

But over the last 60 years or so, the “Social Kingship of Christ” — the idea that Christ is King over society, that civil laws should conform to his laws, and so on — has been progressively forgotten.  

In a sense, this collective amnesia has led to a change in the meaning of the feast. But before we look at the new feast, let’s see what Pope Pius wanted us to learn about Christ the King. 

The meaning of the feast 

Christ is King because he is God, but also because he has bought us with his blood — and it’s in both of these senses that he is our King.  

He is King over each person, each family, and each gathering of people. He is, therefore, also King over our nations. We all know that Christ must be king of our hearts, but if we all must recognize him as our King as individuals, how could we not still have that duty when we are gathered as a nation, or as any other type of organization?  

What does this mean in practice? Well, it could mean a lot of things — but at the bare minimum, it means that Christ’s “kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws, and in administering justice, and also in … education.” The state is sovereign in its proper sphere — but it’s obliged to operate within the bounds of Christ’s Kingship.

Christ himself told us, when he spoke to Pilate, that he was a King, and this teaching goes back to the very beginning of the Church. But nothing could be more important today, for a world rebelling against Christ, than to recognize his royal dignity and power.  

How we learn this doctrine 

Facing similar problems a few decades before, Pope Leo XIII taught in his encyclical Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus: “The world has heard enough of the so-called ‘rights of man.’ Let it hear something of the rights of God.” The silence about the rights of God represented a betrayal of Christ the King.

Pius XI created this feast to minister “to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society.” The plague he spoke of was the phenomenon in which men had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives.” Worse than this, there was always the temptation for Christians to go along to get along — to accommodate themselves to hostile powers and pluralistic societies.

The answer, he decided, was not just an encyclical or pronouncement of the true doctrine. “Such pronouncements,” he said, “usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful.” But “feasts reach them all.” Pronouncements speak once, and then may be forgotten, but feasts “speak every year — in fact forever.”

“For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries,”  Pius XI said.

What he says speaks beautifully to the importance of the Mass and the Church’s liturgical life: 

“The Church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God’s teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life.” 

In some sense, it seemed that Pius XI’s plan worked, as the various revolutionary governments seemed to falter, or at least were limited behind the Iron Curtain. But over the last six decades, the doctrine behind this feast has been neglected, forgotten, and distorted.

As Pius XI predicted, the Church has slowly lost her immunity and taken a place among the false religions, and we have arrived at our current situation.

The Church’s mission, life, and rites are all subject to the civil state, and only tolerated at the whim of our rulers. 

The liberty of the Church 

But the Church’s freedom is at the heart of the Kingship of Christ. 

In the same encyclical, Pius teaches us that “the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state.” She “cannot be subject to any external power” in the exercise of her mission.

But as these ideas have been neglected and hushed up, the State has been more and more able to subject the Church to itself. Let’s cast our minds back to the lockdowns in 2020, and even continuing into 2021 in some places.

How many men purporting to be our shepherds spoke out against the enormous state overreach in shutting our churches and forbidding the sacraments? It might be legitimate for the Church to do these things to herself, but it is contrary to Catholic teaching to think that the state can do this, or to stay silent in the face of such things. 

The state now thinks it can shut down the Mass, inject us with goodness-knows-what, and we have to beg its officials for religious exemptions to its absurd and evil laws. 

Each compromise leads to the next. Would our backs be so against the wall with the vaccine mandates if these “shepherds” had stood firm against the lockdowns? The answer is obvious.

History 

It’s all the more shameful when we look at the heroic examples of history. There have been many brave men who have stood and bled for the rights of Christ the King, and his Holy Church.

St. Thomas Becket was martyred for maintaining the liberty of the Church against the king. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were martyred for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the Church.  

In fact, we have even seen children give us this example. When Pius XI released his encyclical, the world had just emerged from a terrible, terrible war — and various revolutionary governments were rising up and persecuting the Church.

Consider, for example, the famous little Joselito — the 14-year-old Mexican José Sánchez del Río. The Communist-Masonic, Mexican government led the persecution of the Church and the Cristero War, and Joselito’s brothers joined up to fight for the Church and their nation. But José was not allowed to join — neither by his mother nor by the Cristeros. In spite of all this, he eventually found his way in, and after many brave deeds, he was captured by the Communist forces. 

These wicked men, already responsible for so many murders and crimes, ordered him to renounce Christ the King or die. They tried many means to break his resolve, but he knew that Christ was the King of Mexico, and he would not betray him. In the end, the communists cut the soles of his feet and made him walk through the town to his grave

All along the way, they offered him the chance to save himself by renouncing Christ. But in response, this brave young boy would only shout: “I will never give in. Long live Christ the King! Viva Cristo Rey!” This was his final cry when they shot him. Many other Mexican martyrs, like Fr. Miguel Pro, died with the profession of Christ’s Kingship on their lips. 

This is all recent history, and these heroic deeds are the deeds of men, women and children — flesh and blood — just like us. God gave them the grace, and he is giving us that grace too. 

It is the duty of bishops especially to defend the immunity and liberty of the Church: And if they desert their posts, the state will pick up the reins. If we do not also profess that Christ is King over our society, we should not be shocked when the State oversteps the mark. 

The old and new feast 

But as we said, the doctrine and the feast have been neglected over the years, and their meanings seem to have changed for many people.

The original readings and prayers of the Mass of Christ the King all speak of the present and absolute sovereignty of Christ — but the new ones present it as something happening at the end of time. The new readings place the importance on Christ’s reign over our hearts, while the old ones teach that his rule extends over civil society.  

What’s more? The feast itself was moved from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, a Sunday traditionally associated with the end of the world. We are clearly supposed to see his Kingship in an “eschatological” sense, as coming at the end of time.  

But we can see the full uncensored meaning of the feast in the old hymn of the Divine Office for the feast. Read these two verses: 

  1. May the rulers of the world publicly
    Honour and extol thee;
    May teachers and judges reverence thee;
    May the laws express thine order and the arts reflect thy beauty. 
  1. May kings find renown in their submission
    And dedication to thee.
    Bring under thy gentle rule our
    Country and our homes.  

These two verses have been removed from the hymn — and they haven’t been replaced with anything similar. 

The implication is clear: We are abandoning Christ’s rights over civil society. Christ is made into a figurehead King, and the state is allowed to take his place as the true sovereign power.  

Conclusions 

We know that Christ will return and put all of His enemies under His feet, and make all things new. Indeed, then His rule will be consummated, and every knee shall bend to Him, our glorious King.  

But this is not when He will become King — he is King already, now.

Christ does not want to dethrone the Kings and rulers of the world, but rather for them to recognize His authority, and rule in accordance with His holy law. But the betrayal and consistent failure to profess Christ’s Kingship over society has led us to a place where the state can do whatever it wants to us, and all with the cooperation of our supposed shepherds.  

Some of us will have marked this feast this weekend, and others the last Sunday of October, but whenever we did so, we cannot accept an uncrowning of our King. What’s more, Christ will not accept it either.  

“Not only private individual are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ,” Pius XI said, “but also rulers and princes.”

And this Pope had hard words for those who seek to remove Christ from the life of the nation. “Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults,” Pius XI warned. 

In a parable in the Gospels, Jesus tells us of what certain wicked citizens said to each other, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” — and when that King returned, they were all put to death.  

God is certainly far above us, but that does not mean that we do not need to be concerned with honoring and protecting His rights, and praying for those who are — at least for now — making themselves His enemies.

“Long live Christ the King! Viva Cristo Rey!”

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John-Henry is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com. He and his wife Dianne and their eight children live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout North America, Europe and Asia. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum an annual strategy meeting for pro-life leaders worldwide. He co-founded Voice of the Family and serves on the executive of the Canadian National March for Life Committee, and the annual National Pro-Life Youth Conference.

He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization.  He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.

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