“May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.”
Last week we celebrated the Sunday of Christ the King, but, because of Hurricane Wilma, I was unable to say very much about that great feast, and promised that I would do so today. The feast is of relatively modern origin, at least as things go in our two thousand year old Catholic Church. It was instituted by the very learned and saintly Pope Pius XI, who served as Pope between the two great wars of the twentieth century. Having served as a papal diplomat he was well acquainted with the awful devastation brought about by World War I and supremely aware of the disaster that another such war could bring to mankind. When he was elected Pope in 1922 he made the slogan of his papal reign: “The peace of Christ in the reign of Christ.” And he made it the business of his pontificate to attempt the restoration of Christian principles to those aspects of life where they had so greatly suffered since the seventeenth century. He wrote splendid encyclicals on the role of Christ and Christianity in education, marriage, the priesthood, and in the social aspects of capital and labor. He wrote three encyclicals condemning the totalitarian political movements of the day: the Nazism of Germany, atheistic Communism, and the persecution by Freemasonry in Mexico.
In all of Pope Pius’ writings we find the underlying theme of the necessary kingship and reign of Christ over the affairs of mankind. He established the feast of Christ the King, so that this teaching would “reach not only the few and the learned,” who read encyclicals, but would reach each and every Catholic who fulfills his obligation on the last Sunday of every October, where its position in the liturgical year (before the feast of All Saints) would signify its reference to the Kingdom of Christ on earth.
In last week’s Gospel, our Lord told us that His “Kingdom is not of this world,” but nonetheless, “He is a King,” and “That is why He was born, and came into the world to bear witness to the truth.” As you heard last week, Christ is not the kind of king who goes around collecting taxes, or waving a sword to conquer people in order to make them his subjects. As Pope Pius put it:
Our Lord’s Kingdom, though “not of this world,” must begin here in this world. The reign of Christ is now—not at some future time. The thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in the Apocalypse is the reign of Christ in His Church, the society of those who have been resurrected from spiritual death through Baptism. It is primarily a spiritual kingdom, preparing us for Judgment day and eternal life with Christ “of Whose kingdom there shall be no end,” as we profess in the Creed. Again, quoting Pope Pius:
The kingdom of Christ is spiritual, but Pope Pius XI clearly envisioned that a return to Christ’s kingdom on earth would restore much of the peace of earlier times when Western Civilization still could be called “Christendom.” To be sure, there have always been wars, even when the Church flourished so greatly in the middle ages. But the reign of Christ had a moderating effect that lasted up until the American Civil War, when, for the first time, we saw general war being made on non-combatants and the civilian population.
In medieval history we refer to the “peace of the Church” or the “truce of God” to describe that period around the tenth and eleventh centuries when warfare was greatly curtailed in France and the Empire. By Church law it was forbidden to make war on lands possessed by the Church, pilgrims, merchants, peasants, women and the clergy, as well as livestock and farm equipment. Battle was forbidden on Sundays, vigils, and feast days—sometimes all week, and for the entire period of Advent and Lent. Such an arrangement would certainly be more beneficial than any of the practices of modern war!
Certainly, peace in the world is something for which we all ought to yearn and pray. It is unlikely that such a thing can ever take place without the blessings of Almighty God on those who must live in this world.
Still, there is a higher good, even than peace in this world—the good of eternal life in the unending Kingdom of God in Heaven. Let me close with the words of Pope Pius:
 Epistle: Colossians iii: 12-17
 6 February 1922—10 February 1939
 Cf. Gospel of the Feast of Christ the King, John xviii: 33-37.
 Quas primas 7
 Quas primas 15.
 Norman F. Cantor, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, s.v. “Peace of God; Truce of God” p. 341.
 Quas primas 33.