Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christ the King

This final Sunday of the Liturgical Year we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI during the Jubilee Year 1925. I decided to study his Encyclical Letter that established the Feast.
As Pope Pius points out in his Encyclical, whenever the Church establishes a new Feast, it is in order to kindle the fire of devotion of the Faithful. In the case of this Feast, the Pope looked around the world of his day, 1925, and saw a problem. In his words,
The majority of men [have] thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law out of their lives; that these have no place in either private affairs or in politics….as long as individuals and state refuse to submit to the rule of Our Savior, there will be no really hopeful prospect of lasting peace among nations.
The world of his day had just been through the First World War, which had a carnage which has perhaps not yet been surpassed. In Russia, the Bolsheviks – the Communists – had executed the Czar and his family and declared an atheistic state. Imagine – a country that was pretty much totally Orthodox Christian officially cast believe in God out of her borders nearly overnight.
The treaty of Versailles for the end of the war had crippled Germany and crushed the last Catholic Monarchy in the world. In bitterness, the rise of National Socialism – the Nazi Party came about in Germany. As early of 1920, Hitler was calling for the rejection of the peace treaty and the seizing of more lands for the German People. It was becoming clear that the peace of Versailles was not going to last.
Why did the peace of Versailles fail? Why did the peace after the Second World War not last? Because Christ and His Law have been thrust out! Pope Pius XI hopes that the establishment of this Feast will rekindle the love of Christ in the Christian People.
The earliest Crucifixes showed Christ in Priestly Vestments, wearing a crown. As Priest he offered his life on the altar of the Cross – our Preface will say in a few moments – and he redeemed the whole human race by this one perfect Sacrifice of Praise. Christ has purchased us by His Blood, enabling us to be part of His Kingdom which has no end.
We enter Christ’s Kingdom through Baptism. By our Penance, united with the Christ Crucified, we act as subjects of our King. Pope Pius reminds us that the Kingdom of Christ is opposed to none other than that of Satan. In other words, our loyalty to Christ does not interfere with out citizenship – on the contrary, it enhances it. This is because The Kingdom of Christ demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things and a spirit of gentleness. Citizens of Christ’s Kingdom must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, we must deny ourselves and carry the Cross.
If we are truly detached from riches and earthly things, we will support of brothers and sisters in need. We will hunger and thirst for justice. In denying ourselves and taking up the Cross, we become model citizens.
It is undue attachment to material and earthly things that leads to many wars. War can only be prevented when we work for justice. As individuals and nations come to embrace Christ as their king, they will desire true peace and justice. It is when Christ is King of all that true lasting peace can come about. Then can we enter that kingdom of justice love and peace.
It struck me as a read this Encyclical,that much of the things that Pope Pius describes in 1925 could just as well have been written this morning. He speaks of
The seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under the pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making people seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace at home because people neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined.
The Holy Father, Pope Pius XI sees in the Feast of Christ the King a remedy for all of this. He links the celebration of this Feast to Eucharistic Adoration and to consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As individuals and families begin to consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ there will be a revival of the Faith. When people spend more time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, adoring Our Lord and King, healing of society will begin.
Pope Pius hopes that members of the Church will consecrate themselves and their families to the Sacred Heart. He hopes that they will allow Jesus Christ to reign as their King, in all areas of their lives. It is then that the Faithful can become a leaven to society. It is then that we, as the Body of Christ can truly begin to transform the world.
We cannot transform the world if Christ is our Lord and King only on Sunday. The reign of Christ is not something that we can place in one compartment of our lives. We have been purchased by His Blood, so he has dominion over us by right. He must reign in every part of us.
In our minds, Christ reigns when we believe all that He teaches through His Church. This is not always easy. The wisdom of God, St Paul says, is foolishness to men. The world thinks that the Church’s teaching is out-dated. The world has never liked Christ’s teaching because it counters the insatiable greed of the world.
Christ reigns in our wills when we give assent and obedience to the laws of God. This happens when we follow Christ’s moral teachings, as revealed by the Church. How sad it is that many ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception and abortion. They have, by their actions, said that a child – created in the Image and Likeness of God – is something to be avoided. Mother Teresa once said, “How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” Society disagrees, and we are reaping the consequences all over the world.
Christ reigns in our hearts when we follow the two Great Commandments – You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole mind and with your whole soul; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Christ tells us that the whole of the Law and the Prophets are summed up in these two. If each and every one of us can learn – and it takes much practice – to love God above all else, and to love others out of love for God, the world will be a better place. Others will see that we have peace in our lives, and they will come to desire it.
Christ reigns in our bodies when we use them to help sanctify ourselves and the world around us. By doing acts of self-denial or penance, we begin to help our souls to become detached from worldly goods. The world, along with many other Christians, denies the essential connection of our bodies and our souls. As Catholics, we understand that we are composed of body and soul. When we discipline our bodies, we also strengthen our souls.
Christ desires to reign in every sphere of our lives. Not just in our relations among ourselves, but in how we go about our day at home and at work. He desires that we bring Him into the political sphere – in a democratic system like our own, we have the power to shape the country. This means that voting is not just a right of citizenship, but a sacred duty. How sad that a nation that enjoys a vast majority that call themselves Christians – that is followers of Christ – still has laws that do not defend the right to life from conception to natural death! Can you image what this nation would be like if all the Christian voters allowed Christ to be their King when it came time to vote? What if all the politicians who profess to be Christians allowed Him to be their King? If all Christians brought Christ into their every-day life, we would not have abortion, euthanasia, poverty or hunger. Instead, we would be caring for one-another.
If we all rededicate ourselves to Christ the King, allowing Him to reign in our minds, in our wills, in our hearts and in our bodies, we will improve the world around us. If we allow Christ to rule in our lives – in every part – we will fulfill our vocation of building up the Kingdom of Christ. Then we can have hope for a genuine and lasting peace.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Coat of Arms

My coat of arms has been created! Thanks to Guy Selvester for his fine work.

The coat of arms signifies devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The crescent specifically signifies the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. That Feast is the anniversary of my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary (years later than I should have, mind you!). Our Lady is also the Patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Finally, the crescent also appears in the coats of arms of both my family (in Ireland) and of my Alma Mater, the Catholic University of America.
The arms do resemble the familial arms. The bottom half is based upon them, with modifications (crescents were replaced with Shamrocks, recalling my heavenly Patron and the land whence my family came).
The stars are both Marian, as well as a reminder of the Diocese [and State!] of which I am a part.
The motto comes from the Book of Daniel, by way of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The longer prayer in the Mass is: In spiritu humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine, et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus. -- May we be recieved by Thee, O Lord, in a spirit of humility and with contrite hearts: and may our sacrifice be such in Thy sight, that it may please Thee, Lord God.
It is incumbant upon all Christians, by virtue of their Baptism, but especially upon the ministerial Priests, to offer their entire selves to God as a living sacrifice. This is not flowery language. This is how we are to live, as giving the total gift of self, as John Paul II said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What's in a word?

Today's collect for St Albert the Great suffered a slight mutation in the revisions of the Missal by Paul VI (i.e., Annibale Bugnini). I realized this as I prayed the collect at Mass in the E.F. this morning.

The current collect reads:
Deus, qui beatum Albertum episcopum in humana sapientia cum divina fide componenda magnum efficisti, da nobis, quaesumus, ita eius magisterii inhaerere doctrinis, ut per scientiarum progressus ad profundiorem tui cognitionem et amorem pervenimus. Per Dom...

God, who hast made blessed Albert great in the combining of human wisdom with divine faith, grant to us, we beseech thee, so to adhere to his magisterial teachings that through the progress of of knowledge we may come to a more deep knowledge of and love of thee.

The Collect of the Extraordinary Form reads:
Deus, qui beatum Albertum , pontificem tuum et doctorem, in humana sapientia divinae fidei subicienda magnum efficisti: da nobis, quaesumus; ita eius magisterii inhaerere vestigiis, ut luce perfecta fruamur in caelis. Per Dominum...

God who has made blessed Albert, thy Bishop and Doctor, great in the casting of human wisdom under divine faith: grant we beseech thee, so to adhere to his magisterial footsteps, that we may shine for the perfect light in the heavens.

What a difference there is in connotation! Did Saint Albert the Great merely combine human wisdom with divine revelation? He would surely say that human wisdom had to be subject to (cast under) divine revelation. Then, he wasn't a child of the enlightenment, was he.

St Albert the Great was a great Doctor, who taught St Thomas Aquinas. Both were of the Order of Preachers. May Saint Albert help us to cast our on wisdom under that which is revealed by God. May we once again become aware of the limits of man's knowledge and the infinity of God's knowledge and the depth of His self-revelation.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

So tell me....

I just don't get it. People complain to the pastor about the Prie Dieu for Communion. Why? How is it hurting them if people want to receive their Creator while kneeling instead of standing? Has anyone forced them to kneel? No! Yet they complain about the kneeler. If you don't want to use the kneeler, the answer is simple -- DON'T USE IT! There really is no charitable explanation for someone being bothered by the presence of a kneeler. It doesn't prevent anyone from coming to receive Communion while standing. It doesn't keep them from sticking their hand out as though asking for change -- while looking in a different direction for their point of egress.
What it comes down to is that only demons are offended by people receiving Communion while kneeling. I'm not saying that the persons who complain are demonic..just that they fall to temptation as we all do. Some rediculous reason is presented to them as to why they should be offended by the presence of the Prie Dieu.
So the demons win the battle. People are not able to receive Communion while kneeling (because they can't get back up if they do!). Their rights are being infringed by others who probably "just don't like it." They probably will argue that the Prie Dieu forms a barrior between them and the Priest. They don't mind the much wider altar between them and the Priest, mind you. These are the people that complain that candles on the altar block their view. They don't want an Altar Cross for the same reason. They are allergic to incense.
By the way, on that front, incense and Holy Water are known as apotropaic substances. This means that they drive evil spirits away. The same spirits that don't like incense are the ones that are offended if people receive Communion while kneeling, and gasp!, on the tongue.
The struggle now, for all of us who were hurt by this move, is not to let this ruin our celebration of the Feast of All Saints. All God's Holy Ones are rejoicing in Heaven with Him. They understand our travail and will support us.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints!