Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Feast of Christ the King—26 October AD 2008

It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should, in all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee O Holy Lord, Father Almighty and everlasting God. Who with the oil of gladness hast anointed Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as eternal high priest and universal King; that offering Himself on the altar of the Cross as an immaculate victim and peace offering, He might complete the mysteries of human redemption; and all creation being made subject to His dominion, He might deliver us into the hands of Thine infinite Majesty, a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

 The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King (English)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King (Latin)
Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Encyclical Quas primas of Pope Pius XI
  [Alternate site]
Encyclical Mortalium animos of Pope Pius XI

“Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee.”[1]

    Achilles Ratti, became Pope and took the name of Pius XI in February of 1922, just a little bit after the end of World War I.  He had seen one of the bloodiest periods in Western history—described as a “war to end all wars”—but quickly becoming apparent to all observers as nothing of the sort.  Indeed, many of the provisions of the Versailles treaty would prove to be seeds of the next war.  In May pf the previous year, Britain demanded that German war reparations be paid in gold at the annual rate of Two Billion gold marks, plus 26% of the value of exports.  The were demanding more of Germany than She could produce for the next sixty years—thus beginning the hyper-inflation that brought Adolf Hitler to power.

    In Pope Pius XI’s first encyclical he promised that his pontificate would be a series of instructions explaining how the teachings of the Church would bring about “The Peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ.”[2]  His contention, quite correct, was that the warring powers of Europe had lost their Christian roots, and would be at each others’ throats until they regained them.

    His second encyclical, Quas primas, was issued toward the end of the Holy Year of 1925, explaining the nature of Christ’s reign as King, as we understand it from the Sacred Scriptures and from Theology.[3]  He left other encyclicals—on education, on marriage, on the priesthood, on Communism, on Ecumenism, and a few other subjects—a dozen or more before his death in 1939, just months before the beginning of World War II.  All of these writings called on the peoples of the world to lead their lives under the reign of Jesus Christ.

    In the encyclical of 1925 he instituted this feast of Christ the King, to be celebrated each year on the Sunday before All Saints day. The Dedication of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, already prescribed by Pope Saint Pius X, was fixed on the same day.[4]

    It is sometimes pointed out that while our Lord freely admitted : “I am a King ... this is why I was born and why I have come into the world,” He also said: “My Kingdom is not of this world.”[5]  The enemies of Christ and His Church would have us believe that our Lord was admitting that He had no authority over people and the governments of people on earth.  This is foolishness, for Jesus Christ was God, the Son of God, the Creator of the world and everything that is in it;  the Lawgiver for both the moral and physical laws which govern the world He created;   and, ultimately, the Judge who will reward or punish all who ever dwelt in His world.  Pope Pius explained this in more detail, and far more eloquently in his encyclical, which I urge you to read.  (I’ll link this sermon to it on the web-site, or you can find it in the TAN book, The Popes Against Modern Errors {pp. 273-291}).

    The Kingdom of Christ “is not of this world” in the sense that Pontius Pilate had no reason to fear that Jesus would lead a revolution to take over the throne of Tiberius Cæsar, or even to kick the Romans out of Palestine.  The Kingdom of Christ “is not of this world” in the sense that we cannot expect Jesus to set the speed limits, regulate the banks, or round up the rowdies on Saturday night.  The Kingdom of Christ is not a personal nor direct exercise of force in the conduct of worldly affairs.

    We might say that the Kingdom of Christ is over and above this world, as Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge—and that it is for those who are “in this world” to shape their lives and the world around them according to the dictates of Christ’s eternal law.  Every man, woman, and child on Earth is subject to this law, and as I have mentioned before, human governments are legitimate insofar as their laws are in conformity with God’s law, and insofar as they administer those laws with equity and justice.

    The Church is not the government.  In history we have examples of Popes, bishops, and abbots serving as secular governors—almost always this brought conflicts, making difficulties for both the Church and for secular society.  Rather, the Church and the secular authorities ought to be partners in seeing to the well-being of society, governed equitably and justly under laws in agreement with God’s law.  In such a partnership, the Church and the state are different entities, but they cannot be said to be “separate” as modern liberals use the phrase “separation of church and state”—for modern liberalism simply means a state and a people with no God.  Denying the existence of God or His natural laws is an exercise in foolish futility, like trying to deny the existence of the Sun, or the law of gravity.  One can try to ignore them, but only by risking terrible consequences.

    In his encyclical, Pope Pius referred to this notion that “nations ... could dispense with God,” as the problem of “anti-clericalism.”[6]  He distinguished a few stages, ranging from the state that places the Church on the “same level” with all of the “false religions,” and subjects the Church “to the whim of princes and rulers”—to the stage where the state attempts to create “a natural religion, consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart”—on to the state which denies God altogether.

    Pope Pius could look back over the history of his time to see the development of this “anti-clericalism.”  There were strong currents of it going centuries back:  the murder of Saint Thomas à Becket by King Henry II of England in 1170, or the attempted murder of Pope Boniface VIII by King Philip the Fair of France in 1303, for example.  Yet, these might be seen merely as the selfish acts of powerful men;  not truly “anti-clerical” in ideology.

    But, perhaps fifty years later, one false prophet after another began to suggest that the Church had no place in society, or even in Christianity.  Beginning with John Wycliff around 1350, one after another began to insist that Christianity relied on private interpretation of the Bible, and to claim that there was no basis for the authority of a visible Church.  In short order, by the 16th and 17th centuries, these false prophets would reject the priesthood and the Sacraments, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  They would reject the value of a religious life dedicated to God alone—probably just an excuse for looting the monasteries.  Later yet, they would reject the divinity of Christ Himself, picturing Him as a great philosopher with fine words, but no divinity and no miracles.

    Pope Pius could look back to the English “Reformation,” and the French Revolution, putting priests, religious, and dedicated lay-people to death for the Faith.  Pope Pius could look back to the rule of Napoleon, who wanted to usurp the functions of the Church, appointing the clergy, making education and marriage subject to his “Republic”—perhaps as an excuse for his own immoral life-style.  Pius could look back over the Progressive movement in England and America, with its “natural religion, consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart.”  He lived through the Russian Revolution and Hitler’s rise to power.  All of these movements resulted in war, or terrible economic disruption, or both.

    Pope Pius could see the rising specter of religious indifferentism, and forbade Catholics to join in the movement for a “one world church”;  a movement which became so popular just a few decades after his death.  (Read Mortalium animos, or the excerpt we have on the pamphlet table.)[7]  Mercifully, he died before seeing the age in which Catholic countries were told to become secular countries in order to conform to the errors of Vatican II;  mercifully, he died before having to witness the circus at Assisi.  He probably could not imagine that one of his successors would address the United Nations, calling it “the last hope of mankind.”

    We are living in a time equally as terrible as the time of Pope Pius XI—in some respects, more so, for today we have far more destructive military and economic capability, and have gotten even farther from our Christian roots.  So, when we renew that “Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” after Mass this morning, I ask that you take it truly to heart.  When we speak of “the prodigal children who have abandoned” God, we ought to acknowledge that in many aspects we are referring to ourselves, and certainly to the society in which we live.  Sincerely ask God to allow our own, and our society’s return to the “Peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ the King.”

“Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee.”

Long live Christ the King!


[2]   Ubi arcano, 23 December 1922.

[3]   Quas primas, 11 December 1925.

[4]   Quas primas, para 27 (28).

[5]   Gospel:  xviii: 33-37.

[6]   Quas primas, para. 24.




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