The royal families of Europe were falling one by one. Secularist atheistic materialism was on the rise. In the wake of the gory First World War Pope Pius XI looked out over the world and, in 1922, issued an encyclical letter Ubi arcano which directed people to the “Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.” In 1925 he established the Feast of Christ the King with his encyclical Quas primas, fixing it on the last Sunday of a month that Communists coopted for the exaltation of their permanent revolution, October.
In a diabolically ironic twist, the term of art “permanent revolution” was penned in 1844 by Karl Marx in a work called The Holy Family. The Devil always tells you what he is doing.
In choosing this last Sunday in October, Pius XI also placed Christ the King immediately before the Feast of All Saints and the month of November, during which, and via its dove-tail with Advent, we are swept by Mother Church into an intense liturgical reflection on the Four Last Things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. In other words, she gives us a salutary season for getting our priorities straight.
Pope Pius stressed that Christ has dominion and authority over all created things. Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16). Hence, Pius said that both individuals and societies as a whole are obliged to submit to Christ as their King.
This includes nation states.
Would that he had been heeded.
When Christ does not reign, where Christ has been rejected, people are likely to be reduced to depersonalized widgets, disposable by the powerful in the charnel house of atheism. You know the infamous and harrowing image used by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (+1924) about the necessity of the deaths even of millions for the sake of the socialist objective: “You have to break eggs in order to make an omelet!”
As Pius XI wrote in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo anno, “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”
At the time of this writing there was no response to Pius from either Pennsylvania Avenue or the rostrum of the House of Representatives.
Pius goes on to say,
All these admonitions which have been renewed and confirmed by Our solemn authority must likewise be applied to a certain new kind of socialist activity, hitherto little known but now carried on among many socialist groups. It devotes itself above all to the training of the mind and character. Under the guise of affection it tries in particular to attract children of tender age and win them to itself, although it also embraces the whole population in its scope in order finally to produce true socialists who would shape human society to the tenets of Socialism.
Today we witness anew the surging tendrils of socialism wedging into every possible fissure in our ever-fracturing society. After decades of propaganda in academia, the ideologues have succeeded in producing a couple of generations who know nothing about civics or history. They stifled students’ innate curiosity and ability to reason. Through relentless social programming and punishment of independent use of common sense they produced obedient little parrots in the public square.
Speaking of breaking eggs, the consequences of this long-prepared program of left-leaning brainwashing and scholastic dumbing-down was summed up in a meme I saw the other day. A young woman with a perky, grinning avatar posted, “Think of socialism like a fancy baked good. Just because many have made a mess of their kitchen attempting it, doesn’t mean you go around declaring you’ll never eat soufflé again! It just means you try harder!”
This brought a stinging, entirely appropriate reply: a black and white photo of soldiers in a ruin standing over charred skulls and bones with the caption: “Oh no! I burned the soufflé again!”
Alas, how can one expect politicians or the electorate in democracies to heed the substance of Pius’ call, when in subsequent decades those who reformed the liturgical worship of the Church undermined the clarity of Christ’s Kingship in the here and now, over all human institutions, in favor of a future fulfillment of that Kingdom after the Second Coming?
Lex orandi – Lex credendi, goes the well-known phrase, critical for our grasp of the reciprocal relationship between how we pray as a Church and what we believe as individuals who must live and act in the public square according to our vocations.
Change the way we Catholics pray and, over time, the beliefs of Catholics will shift. So will, inevitably, how we live. Do you get a sense today from some of our pastors and their water carriers in the small-c catholic media that, pace Pius XI, “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and not be a true socialist”?
Change the way we pray and, over time, Catholics will come to believe and act in the public square in a way that would be unrecognizable to our forebears.
This is why the content of our liturgical prayers is so important.
Recently, I read the claim that if we just “enrich” the Novus Ordo with a traditional style of celebration, vestments, incense, etc., that will take care of the need for Tradition. This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the desire on the part of an increasing number for traditional sacred liturgy and of the divergences of the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo.
It’s not just a question of having altar boys in cassock and surplice or girls with pony-tails and earrings in gunny-sacks. It’s not just a matter of having Mass ad orientem or versus populum (though this is theologically important and not just a matter of style). It’s not just choice of pipe-organ or electronic piano and bongos with indifferently tune guitars.
The content of orations that change each day, over the arc of a year, is strikingly different in the two different Rites, Vetus and Novus.
For a subtle example, we might compare the Collect prayers of the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo for Christ the King. Since we are limited by time and space, I’ll just post super-literal translations rather than the Latin and official translations: First, the Vetus:
Almighty eternal God, who in Your beloved Son, the King of the whole universe, desired to reestablish all things: propitiously grant; that all the families of the nations, separated by the wound of sin, may be brought under His most sweet sovereignty.
Nations. Here and now. Christ should be acknowledged as King over all human institutions.
The Novus Ordo version, by the experts of the Consilium:
Almighty eternal God, who desired to renew all things in Your beloved Son, the King of the universe, graciously grant that the whole of creation, having been freed from servitude, may zealously serve Your majesty and praise You greatly without end.
No question that Christ is the King of the universe. The concept of sin is not explicit, but is implied by servitude. The reference to nations, the secular sphere, is gone.
Week in and week out in the cycle of the Church’s liturgical year, the side-by-side comparison of the proper prayers of Mass, those that change according to the day of the year, shows a change of content.
Change how we pray, change what we believe. Change those and you change how we live privately and how we engage in the public square.
What can we do? As Sam Gamgee’s old gaffer used to say, “It’s the job that’s never started that takes longest to finish.” We must approach the challenge with patient perseverance and a brick by brick attitude.
Taking a cue from the admonition in the Postcommunion prayer in the Vetus Ordo for Christ the King (my translation):
Fed with this immortal nourishment, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we who glory to fight under the standard of Christ the King, may forever reign with Him on the heavenly throne.
Note the imagery, which firmly reminds us that we are members of the Church Militant. There is an Enemy which works relentlessly to strip Christ the King from the thrones of our hearts. We are warred upon relentlessly. We must soldier on under the banner of the King depending on all the salutary gifts with which our King has endowed the Church.
And now the Novus Ordo Postcommunion:
O Lord, we entreat you, may your sacramental mysteries perfect in us that which they contain, with the result that what we are now performing in outward appearance, we may grasp in the truth of things.
Here is an action item for this traditional Christ the King Sunday.
In Quas primas Pius XI requested that the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus be recited publicly on the Feast. We can gain a plenary indulgence by doing so.
Be sure to find a church or chapel where this will be done on Sunday and take part. Go to confession. Gain the indulgence. Firm up your loyalty to Christ, King not of hidden hearts only, but of every street, home and nation on earth.
And because we are all in this together, perhaps invite someone who has never been to the Traditional Latin Mass to go with you.
It occurs to me that some of you may never have heard or read this Act of Consecration.
You aren’t going to get out of this life without seeing it at least once!
Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united to Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates ourselves today to Thy Most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known Thee; Many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful children, who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children, who have abandoned Thee; Grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.
Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of the race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.
Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and 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 forever.
Convert from Lutheranism, ordained to the priesthood in 1991 by St. John Paul II in Rome for the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni. Classics at University of Minnesota. Licence and Doctoral studies in Patristic Theology at the Augustinianum in Rome. Formerly a collaborator of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” moderator of the Catholic Online Forum, columnist for The Wanderer and the UK’s Catholic Herald, Fox News contributor. Speaker. Blogist. fatherzonline.com @fatherz