The following homily was presented on November 22, 2020, the Feast of Christ the King, at St. John Vianney Parish, Northlake, Illinois by Deacon James Sinacore.
“In [our previous Encyclical] We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.”
Now what I just read to you were the opening lines of Quas Primas, the encyclical of Pope Pius XI in which he instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King, the solemnity we are celebrating today.
This was published in December of 1925. And although it is 95 years later, nothing much has changed. In fact, it easily could be argued that the world has become a lot worse. We are living in an era in which many people pay no attention to Christ nor to all the gifts that He has given us.
Out of love, our Blessed Lord has given us the means to be with Him in heaven when we die. He has given us the means to experience eternal happiness. He has even given us His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to take within our interior a reality that is beyond belief.
And yet, there are so many people in the world who drift along like spiritual corpses … never embracing the goodness … the love … and the Mercy which the King of the Universe freely offers us.
These people talk about God. They speak of heaven and hell but they don’t set a foot into a church on Sunday to worship God, which is His due.
I am in my late-60’s but I can easily observe that what Pope Pius XI said 95 years ago is absolutely true. For example, when I was in grade school I remember going to the homes of my friends. And even though the family was not Catholic I could sense their belief in God. Their faith life was palpable.
But I will tell you, my friends, except for our parish and a few other similar parishes, I don’t experience that feeling much anymore.
Many people in the world are falling away from Christ and this is readily being observed by those who conduct social research. For example, in one of their surveys, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that one-third of people who are raised Catholic lose their faith by the time they reach adulthood.
Just as a third of the angels fell from heaven when tested by God; it seems that a third of the Catholics in this country fall from the grace of baptism as well as confirmation, penance, Eucharist, and matrimony.
If Jesus is God then He is King by definition because He made all things and all things are subject to Him. All things belong to Him.
Even children can understand this. And yet, Christ is no longer king for a staggering number of people in this nation who were brought into the Church as children. And we wonder how it could be that Our Lady of Fatima told the visionaries that in our age souls are falling to hell like snowflakes.
When Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King, he was responding to the increasing secularization that he saw going on in the world.
Now, there is one basic fact that we need to remember in our faith life. And this needs to be in the forefront of our thinking. And that fact is this:
No matter how successful the evil one is in leading souls astray, and no matter how dark people’s behavior and thinking can become, there always will be people who will give glory to God by what they say and do.
God may be ignored, mocked, and abandoned by wayward souls but He will never be overpowered by the efforts of the evil one. And a riveting proof of this comes during the reign of Pope Pius XI himself.
For while he was writing about how individuals and states were no longer submitting to the rule of Christ the King there were people in Mexico who were offering their lives in the name of Christ the King.
These were men and women who fought the Mexican government when it aggressively turned upon the Catholic Church during the mid-1920s.
During that time, the presidency of Mexico was governed by a succession of socialist, bitterly anti-Catholic thugs who tried to exterminate Catholicism.
The people responded civilly with petition campaigns. They also developed organizations with representatives who brought their concerns before the government. All the people wanted was their religious freedom but nothing worked.
The Mexican constitution of 1917 was explicit in the intent to squelch all public expression of Catholicism and to eliminate civil influence of the clergy.
- #3 of that constitution allowed only secular education in the schools.
- #5 banned monastic orders.
- #24 allowed worship only inside churches out of the sight of the public.
- #27 restricted the right of religious organizations to hold property.
- #130 deprived priests and nuns of basic rights making them second-class citizens.
Priests were forbidden to wear clerical attire and Nuns were forbidden to wear their habits.
Priests and nuns were not allowed to vote. They were not allowed to criticize government officials. And they were not allowed to comment on public affairs in religious periodicals.
Clearly, the government had a stranglehold on religious freedom and the Catholic faith in particular.
A formal rebellion against the government began on January 1st, 1927 and over a 3 year period, 90,000 people were killed.
The people who fought for their religious freedom were called “Cristeros” … those of Christ.
Their battle cry was “Viva, Cristo Rey” – long live Christ the King.
And many people died with these words on their lips.
Probably the most touching account was that of St. Jose Louis Sanchez del Rio. I have a picture of him in the sacristy if you want to see it after Mass.
St. Jose was 14 years old and was the flag bearer for the Cristeros.
Eventually, he was captured by the government and was tortured in order to make him renounce his allegiance to the faith.
Unable to shake him from his love for God, some government brute cut the bottoms of Jose’s feet and together with an execution squad made him walk through the town to the cemetery.
As they walked, they cut Jose with a machete and he bled from several wounds. He whimpered with pain but he did not give in.
Along the way, they said to him: “We will spare your life if you say ‘Death to Christ the King.’”
The young boy said, “I will never give in. Viva, Cristo Rey.”
And when they reached the place of execution, soldiers stabbed Jose repeatedly with bayonets.
The commander was so furious over the fact that they could not break Jose’s resolve that he shot the boy. While on the ground, Jose drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it.
He then perished from his wounds and went to the arms of his beloved Lord and King a martyr.
My friends, I am telling you all of this because I want you to see how ugly people’s behavior can become when they do not recognize Christ the King and they trample upon religious beliefs.
Those who want control over the people must rid the country of religion and religious expression because religion has a powerful influence in directing people’s lives.
Religion instills morality among the people and this is a threat to those who want to promulgate a state that is contrary to the natural law and the revelation of God.
The desire for this is pathological and is instigated by the evil one.
Throughout history … the crushing of religious freedom has occurred in Mexico … Cuba … Russia … England … Nazi Germany … and other countries as well.
And if we think that this cannot happen in our beloved America, we are sadly mistaken.
Just take a moment and reflect on all the riots, fires, human assault, and the destruction of private property that has recently occurred in the streets of cities around this country.
I would argue that none of the people who caused this mayhem possess the desire to subject themselves to the order of God. They act as though the world and all of it’s resources belong to them.
Well, they are wrong. Everything belongs to Christ the King. When we come to Mass and are nourished by the Word in Scripture and the Word made Flesh we must leave with the resolve of St. John the Baptist, remembering that we are the Church Militant, never looking to start a fight but being ever ready to defend what God has given us.
During the 1940s and 50s, the Church enjoyed a time of relative peace. Catholicism was not challenged and there was no reason to rouse the troops.
But today, secularism has infected every facet of life. What concerned Pope Pius XI in 1925 must concern us today.
As the Church Militant, we need to bring out Padre Pio’s weapon – the Rosary – and beg the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Patroness of America, to help us fight modern-day secularism.
We must work at witnessing our faith in the culture by our words and deeds.
We must be active at passing on the faith to our children and our grandchildren.
We need to remember that we are a priestly people and actively offer sacrifices to God.
We have to engage the culture with our Catholic values.
My dear friends, at our confirmation we became soldiers of Christ. This isn’t just a nice set of words that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It is the truth. And as soldiers of Christ we have to fight for Christ.
Therefore, let us stand together in fighting for the Kingdom. That is the work if the Church Militant. Because we belong to the Truth, we listen to the voice of the One who is truth itself.
Cling tightly to Christ and all that He has provided for our salvation. Never forget that there is no other hope for happiness.
If St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, a boy who was only 14 years old, could exercise his will to stand for Christ the King, we can do the same.
Viva, Cristo Rey!