Summary: The world has changed, and the culture is anti-Christian, but there are reasons for optimism in Christ.
Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King
Last Sunday in October
Extraordinary Form 2015
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat! On this Feast of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King, let’s take some time to reflect on the reign of Our King and our celebration of the Holy Mass according to the 1962 Missal. In so doing, I will be adding some personal reflections that might be helpful in your journey with Jesus and Mary as faithful Catholics.
One of my earliest religious memories is of this Feast as Catholics of our archdiocese celebrated it back in the 1950s. My mom would deck me out in my Mt. Sacred Heart uniform and we would go to the old Mission stadium just south of downtown San Antonio. It seemed like thousands of Catholic school children would gather with their teachers and priests–and it was always hot–for a procession with the Blessed Sacrament down to Mission Conception for Benediction. I’m sure there were spiritual benefits enjoyed by us all, but the public meaning was very clear. It’s as if Archbishop Lucey was saying under his voice: “you Protestants remember that even though you call this Reformation Sunday, this is a Catholic town, and no matter who the mayor is, Jesus Christ is our King.”
This was the time of the Church militant, the Church ascendant, the Church in majority. Families had four to six children, many of them in Catholic schools. The sisters had vows of poverty so tuition was low, vocations to the sisters and brothers were plentiful, and this parish, when founded, had more than one priest. Sunday Masses were well attended and the increase at Christmas and Easter could be accommodated without adding services. And there were long lines on Saturday morning and evening for confessions. It was cool to be Catholic, even though the prayers were in Latin.
Fast forward sixty years. It is no longer cool to be Catholic. In fact, it isn’t even popular to be a Christian. The fertility rate is below the magic replacement number of 2.3, so families aren’t readily encouraging their kids to the religious life and priesthood. That means Catholic schools are staffed largely by dedicated laity, who don’t have vows of poverty, and tuitions are less affordable. Barely a fourth of Catholics attend Mass even once a month; the cultural Catholics come twice a year. Confession lines are short, and confession times are tiny. The marriage rate has plummeted, and baptisms are no longer abundant. “This is no longer a Catholic town, and even when the mayor is Catholic, Planned Parenthood thinks it is king, or maybe even a god.”
So why am I optimistic and grateful today? Because Jesus Christ is king here. In 2007, Archbishop Gomez welcomed the indult that gave widespread use of the 1962 Missal, saying “People will be able to more clearly see the growth and progress we have realized since Vatican II, while at the same time preserving the rich heritage and legacy of the Church.” With the help of Fr. McHugh, he established the Extraordinary Form here at St. Pius X church, and a few months later, encouraged by the diaconate office, I began to serve communion here on Sundays. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, even though deacons are limited in service outside the Solemn High Mass. Here is one of the communities where I see hope for the re-establishment of Christ as King in our hearts, our families, our Church and our nation.
Here it is cool to be Catholic. There is joy in our celebration. I see it every sunny Sunday in the exuberance of the kids as they play on the lawn, and the fellowship you experience as you chat about your lives outside, and your hopes for the future.
Here there is no discouragement of exemplary sized families. I remember in the early eighties a stranger commenting to me and my wife about our “large family” of three daughters. You have the same challenges as our generations’ parents did in raising three and four and five kids and more, but you seem to do it with grace and joy. And that determination to follow the Lord’s first commandment in Genesis will issue in abundant religious and priestly vocations, as it already has done.
Here there is true devotion to the sacraments, especially confession and communion. That devotion shows itself in more than numbers. Our Lord encourages us to be meek and humble as little children. Kneeling and opening our mouths to reverently take the Body of Christ, we hear the prayer “May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your life unto eternity” and know that at that moment and thenceforth, Jesus is the gift whose spirit sanctifies us. The very act of reception is an enfleshment of humility and meekness.