On Monday I will speaking to seventh grade CCD students and their parents about living the liturgical calendar. As I wrote here, learning to live the rhythms of the liturgical calendar are an excellent way to work catechesis into your family life.
Tomorrow is the last Sunday of our liturgical year. It is the Feast of Christ the King. I was surprised to learn that this is a rather new addition to the Church year. Pope Pius XI proclaimed its celebration in 1925. From the Catholic Culture web site:
The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man's thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ's royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.
Today's Mass establishes the titles for Christ's royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; "All things were created by Him"; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, "holding in all things the primacy"; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion.
Today's Mass also describes the qualities of Christ's kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all people but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for "The Lord shall sit a King forever"; 4) spiritual, Christ's "kingdom is not of this world". — Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Gandas
I find it fascinating that in 1925 Pope Pius XI was concerned about a culture that was leaving out God. In some ways it is reassuring to know that we are not the first age to face the scourge of secularism. After all, Adam and Eve were tempted precisely because they thought they could be like God and no longer be dependent on Him. So perhaps such tendencies are just part of our fallen human nature. On the other hand, it is a little bit discouraging to see that in the last century, with all its atrocities wrought by those rejecting God, there is still a strong push to remove God from everyday life.
As we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, read the 1947 annual statement from the United States bishops.
No man can disregard God — and play a man's part in God's world. Unfortunately, however, there are many men—and their number is daily increasing—who in practice live their lives without recognizing that this is God's world. For the most part they do not deny God. On formal occasions they may even mention His name. Not all of them would subscribe to the statement that all moral values derive from merely human conventions. But they fail to bring an awareness of their responsibility to God into their thought and action as individuals and members of society.
This, in essence, is what we mean by secularism. It is a view of life that limits itself not to the material in exclusion of the spiritual, but to the human here and now in exclusion of man's relation to God here and hereafter. Secularism, or the practical exclusion of God from human thinking and living, is at the root of the world's travail today. It was the fertile soil in which such social monstrosities as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism could germinate and grow. It is doing more than anything else to blight our heritage of Christian culture, which integrates the various aspects of human life and renders to God the things that are God's. Through the centuries, Christian culture has struggled with man's inborn inclination to evil. The ideals of Christianity have never been fully realized—just as the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and of our Constitution have never been fully realized in American political life. But for that reason these ideals can neither be ignored nor discarded. Without doubt, Christians have often failed to meet their responsibilities and by their transgressions have permitted ugly growths to mar the institutions of their culture. But wherever, despite their lapses, they have held steadfastly to their Christian ideals, the way to effective reform and progress has been kept open. The remedy for the shortcomings and sins of Christian peoples is surely not to substitute secularism for godliness, human vagaries for divine truth, man-made expedients for a God-given standard of right and wrong. This is God's world and if we are to play a man's part in it, we must first get down on our knees and with humble hearts acknowledge God's place in His world. This, secularism does not do.
Do read the whole statement. Tell me if by the time you finish it your jaw isn't on the floor as you say, "the bishops were saying this in 1947?!" This is twenty years before Humane Vitae. And once you are finished, perhaps you would be inclined to offer an Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
By the way, the material I linked in today’s blog is found at the Catholicculture.org web site. You will find the best liturgical calendar at that web site. Every single day includes a link to information about the liturgical feasts and suggested prayers and activities. If you find yourself using this site on even an occasional basis, consider offering a little donation to keep it going. There is a tremendous need for faithful, easy to use web sites to get out the Good News of the Faith.