Just over 2 years ago, our family made the final transition from modern Catholicism to traditional Catholicism. Of course, there were a lot of changes in our lives that were immediately obvious, most of which had to do with the Mass itself. But there were also some changes that occurred in our lives that were, in many ways, unintentional. In fact, we couldn't have really anticipated them as they merely flowed out of our participation in traditional Catholicism. In other words, these changes just became a natural part of our lives as traditional Catholics. As such, traditional Catholicism has given me a perspective I don't believe I would have ever had while remaining in the Novus Ordo Church. One change in perspective actually occurred quite accidentally around the time of Halloween. Weird, I know. But, if you will permit, you will see what I mean and how it relates to our current discussion regarding politics.
In May of 2010 we began assisting at Mass at a small chapel affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X. We really new nothing about the Society at that time, we only knew that we needed to leave our local Novus Ordo parish for our own personal reasons. For the most part, the traditional Tridentine Mass was completely unknown and foreign to us. We were confused some as well as awe-struck. But we found a sense of immediate peace and we kept returning each week for Mass. We muddled through the summer without really knowing much of what was going on, but participating in every way we could. At the same time, we were trying to reconcile our modern way of living and thinking with t traditional Catholicism. It was not an easy task.
Perhaps not coincidentally that year, Halloween fell on the last Sunday of October. Normally the only significance that held in our families life was when and what time the Trick-or-Treating would begin. As Our Lord would have it for me that year, our little town faced a dilemma that annoyed me a lot and would start me reconsidering the American festivities a bit. In our town, when Halloween falls in the calendar on a weekend, the city officials move Trick-or-Treat night to the previous Thursday. Why? Because Friday night is football and the weekend is too dangerous for little children to be out in the streets. Whatever. That conversation with the mayor where I learned this little tidbit irritated me to no end. My response was one of tradition--who has the authority to just change the date of Halloween? In my mind, it didn't make any sense, so we decided not to participate in our communities Halloween events that year. And ordinarily, had we not been attending our new chapel, we might not have given the whole thing a second thought the following year. But on this particular year, Halloween fell on a Sunday, the last Sunday, and we went to Mass instead.
That evening, the last Sunday of October, we celebrated the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, we had celebrated this Feast day before, but never on the last Sunday of October. As a Novus Ordo Mass goer, that Feast day was celebrated on the Sunday before Advent and I, admittedly, never really thought about the significance of it. But that evening I began to wonder about the Feast of Christ the King, why it was moved in the liturgical calendar, and if it was important anyway. I did a lot of digging into the Feast of Christ the King and found some really interesting things, most of which are relevant to these coming months and Catholics response to their civic duties.
In 1864, Pope Pius IX recognized that the nations of the world and the people in them had begun to reject Catholicism and begun to embrace ideas that were a danger to their faith. As such he issued for the entire world, the Encyclical Quanta Cura along with his Syllabus of Errors, in which he outlined and condemned all the errors of the modern world. In this Encyclical, the Pope observed that nations had begun to declare and put into practice the idea that progress in society could only be made if civil institutions governed without regard to religion or religious beliefs. This, Pope Pius IX, declared has always been condemned by the Church. He noted that the natural outcome of this opinion would be the rise and control of a secular state, which would be absolutely detrimental to society and the people living therein. By the early 20th century, Pope Pius IX's words seemed almost prophetic as nation after nation quietly and diligently abandoned Catholic principles in favor of a society absent of Our Lord and his laws.
It was in the wake of this Godless society that Pope Pius XI decided to revisit the issue of God and civil society. As such, he, too, issued an Encyclical, Quas Primas, reaffirming what the Church has always taught about Our Lord by establishing a Feast Day to recognize the same. In 1925, Pope Pius XI observed the same erroneous ideas as his Holy Predecessor recognized 60 years before--that "the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ an His holy law out of their lives, that these had no place in private affairs or in politics." He prophetically concluded that "as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rules of Our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations." As such, to reminder the faithful and leaders of the world's nations of Christ's authority as Ruler of the whole world, the holy Pope instituted upon the whole Church the Feast Day of Christ the King. When we read the document it is quite clear that Pope Pius XI understood and recognized that Christ is not only our spiritual King for us in Heaven but also our temporal King, our King on Earth. For this reason, he placed the Feast Day on the Liturgical calendar in October, before the Feast of All Saints Day, as an implication that Our Lord is the Supreme Ruler here and now. In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the Feast to the Sunday before Advent, the last Sunday of the Liturgical year, indicating, not so much Our Lord's temporal Kingship, but insinuating that Our Lord will merely become a Ruler in some future time, the end of the world. (For an in depth look at the significance of this, please see Michael Davies', of fond memory, commentary on the Kingship of Christ since Vatican II.)
Initially, after I did my research on this, I didn't really think moving a Feast Day around in the Church's calendar really made that much difference. But I have come to realize, even in such a short time, that this is not true at all. As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King at the end of October, immediately followed by All Saint's Day, I am reminded of how many men, women, and children suffered and were martyred in this world because they recognized Our Lord as the Sovereign King of all Nations. Last year, because my son was reading of one particular great saint, I thought of St. Thomas Becket who understood the State's duty was to support the Church in her mission, who understood that no earthly king or ruler had supremacy over Our Lord and His Church, who willingly gave his life to defend Our Sovereign King.
This truth, that Our Lord rules now and forever, was passed on from the Apostles through out the whole Church. It was this truth that gave rise to Christendom, this truth that led all nations to convert to Christianity, and rulers to consider Our Lord's instruction first, that gave rise to great nations and great rulers, particularly in the Middle Ages. And it was to this Truth that St. Pius IX addressed at the end of the 19th Century. It was for this reason that St. Pius XI decided to institute a Feast Day in the Church's calendar, so that we could not forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ is, here and now, Our Sovereign King and to Him alone do we owe allegiance.
So it is with this in mind, the Kingship of Our Lord, that I begin this series on politics and civic life. It would seem that many of our great Popes were prophetic in their observations that, once we lost this Truth of Our Lord's Kingship, that our nations would sink into secularism, materialism, and barbarism. It would also seem that our Catholic politicians think that they can hold personal opinions regarding matters of faith without attempting to institute Catholic principles in our society. It would also seem that the Catholic faithful consider it acceptable to support financially and emotionally people in positions of authority that do not hold the view that Our Lord's laws apply to everyone, everywhere, in all ages. If this is indeed the case, may God have mercy on our souls!
St. Thomas Becket, pray for us.
St. Pius IX, pray for us.
St. Pius XI, pray for us.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Christ Our Sovereign King, have mercy on us!