What sort of King am I?
The old prior of the monastery I belonged to in Ireland was fond of saying: “After all is said and
done more is said than done!” Fr. Oliver was from a long line of Irish revolutionaries, and he
would tell the story of the night the Black and Tans came to kill his father. The Royal Irish
Constabulary Special Reserve was formed in 1920 by British Secretary of State Winston
Churchill and was the official name for the Black & Tans. Former British soldiers were mostly recruited to join the Black & Tans to provide reinforcements to the police force called the Royal Irish Constabulary. A mix up in the shipping of their uniforms meant that they wore a mixture of kaki military and police black. They considered themselves extrajudicial, above the law (actually lawless), and they were responsible for may atrocities in Ireland. The crowns forces dispensing the king’s justice. Anyway, Fr. Oliver’s father was an Irish Volunteer, a member of the Irish Republican Army, fighting for Irish freedom. In his daily life he was a tailor. At the local pub a neighbor overheard a group of Tan’s talking: “Tonight we hit the tailor, Martin.” After being informed Mr. Martin took his family to safety and sure enough, that very night the Tan’s raided and shot up their home. Fr. Oliver always ended the story with a sad sigh as he exclaimed “and they shot the poor dog.”
In Ireland we don’t have a happy memory or experiences of kings, queens, monarchs of any
type. Most came to plunder, the others were indifferent to the plight of the poor, and all came
to impose a foreign rule. Much of the rest of the world have similar experiences. So, a feast like
Christ the King can be jarring for us. Is it really about the kings of this world? Was Pope Pius XI
bolstering a decaying and corrupt form of governance? Of course not.
Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, in response to growing secularism,
secular ultra-nationalism, and totalitarianism. In the face of growing calls by governments for
people to give them total and unreserved obedience and unquestioned loyalty, where
governments were claiming the right to make immoral, unethical, and unjust laws, the Holy
Father reminded Catholics, Christians, and in fact all people, that only God can claim our total
and absolute obedience. He reminded the faithful that all governments should be subject to
God’s law and the peoples of the nations had the right to be protected by government (as it
says in the United States Constitution, we are endowed with unalienable rights given by God,
not by man, and government is subject to the people not the other way around).
For Catholics Christ is the one who is supreme, and we conform our will, our lives, and our
vision according to His teaching. This is true of our lives in the world, in our relationships, our
families and within our own being. A king/queen should order things according to love and
justice, charity, and hope, and we are all called to make this order present everywhere. We are
all to be kings of our own lives and hearts. Pope Benedict XI wrote:
“The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and
courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our
Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; [if] all peoples, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all people, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire.
He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief
to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. [He] must reign in our wills, which
should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should
spurn natural desires and love God above all things and cleave to him alone. [He] must
reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the
interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as
instruments of justice unto God.”
When we want to know what is right, good, just, charitable, we look to the supreme authority,
the one who rules overall, Christ, our King. We have the opportunity to order our own lives, our
homes, our relationships and even our society. We do this every day, in one way or another.
We reign in our own hearts and lives, in our relationships and families, business, and parishes.
We should ask ourselves: What kind of king/queen am I? What kind of rule do the people in my
Another interesting point about this feast is that in November 1926, Pope Pius, established the
first church dedicated to Christ under the title of King. The Church of Our Lord, Christ the King,
Mount Lookout, here in Cincinnati.