His Way

For us Americans kings and queens are as exotic and unfamiliar as are dragons and dungeons. On the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Often I wonder how much Catholics understand the significance of this celebration. What do we really mean when we say that Christ should be the king and center of our hearts?


The feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 after World War I because the people had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” and “these had no place in public affairs or in politics.” The Pope went on to claim “that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of the Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.” Ninety-two years later, is the situation any different today? We are still at war. God seems to be edged out of the public and private lives of individuals.

For all appearances, Jesus does not fit into the mould of the rulers of this world. His entire life is at odds with all that is expected of royalty. Someone has written a summary of Christ’s life in the form of a poem entitled “One Solitary Life.” Here it is:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.
Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing,
the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind's progress.
All the armies that ever marched,
all the navies that ever sailed,
all the parliaments that ever sat,
all the kings that ever reigned, put together,
have not affected the life of man on earth
as much as that One Solitary Life.

This Carpenter from Nazareth declared to Pilate: “Yes, I am a king but my kingdom is not of this world.” In another place He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” He washed the feet of His disciples. Finally He laid down His life for His subjects unlike our earthly rulers who compel their subjects to lay down their lives for them.

During the numerous funeral Masses that I have celebrated, I have sat through many, many eulogies – some of them brilliant, some of them moving and inspiring, and a few not very memorable. I always smile when the eulogist proudly asserts that the deceased lived their life on their own terms. To add punch their assertion, the speaker would quote Sinatra and say that the deceased did it “My way!”

Unfortunately the secret of wisdom, the key to true spiritual life and holiness, calls for the opposite. We can’t do it our way. We have to do it His way. Dante in his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, paves the road to serenity with these words: “Your will is my peace!” It is in seeking our own will that we bring down misery on ourselves. To be our King’s true subjects, we must let His will be done and His Kingdom come into our lives. He will be our sole Sovereign when He holds absolute sway over our hearts.

As we look at our lives we should ask ourselves, “Who holds sway over my mind? Who influences my decisions? Whose guidance do I seek in my day-to-day decisions and dilemmas?” For the first four centuries thousands of Christians refused to submit to the demands of the Divine Cesar and preferred to lay down their lives in allegiance to Christ the King. For almost twelve centuries the Western nations sought to live their lives embracing the Christian vision of life. Even after the period of Renaissance and Enlightenment, people turned to philosophers and thinkers to guide them in their moral and personal lives. Our nation too was founded on Judeo-Christian ideals and principles. Until the last fifty years are so, the dominant voices in our society belonged to the Church, the school system, the family and the community. And these voices spoke more or less in unison as they reinforced similar values.

Today the situation is different. Movie actors and actresses, singers and musicians, media talking heads and fashion models have claimed the position of story tellers and guides. They tell us how to think, what to think about, how to live and what ideals to strive for. They define how to succeed in this world and how to get there. They claim to know what it means to be a man or a woman. As they remain silent about what lies beyond this life, we too can ignore these fundamental questions. We have gifted our time and attention to mindless media to a great extent and their sway grows stronger by the day.

In order to accept Christ as our King we must open the doors of our hearts and welcome Him completely into our lives. His sway over us cannot be contained within the one hour we spend in church on Sunday. His vision must permeate our everyday decisions and desires. His life and sacrifice must enlighten our path. Martin Sheen, who returned to His Catholic Faith in later years, said these significant words:

[R]eligion, if it’s real, can’t be a sometime thing. It can’t be a Sunday thing… Martin Luther King said the church is the place to go forth from. Even his fellow preachers said, “Hey, man, what are you doing in the streets?” He said we’ve got to take what we believe into the streets.

Let Jesus Christ be our King! Let Him be our guiding force and our ultimate concern! He will then be our destiny and final reward!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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