Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King! Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes

Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ, the King, as a worldwide feast in 1925.

Pope Pius added this feast to the Church year to respond to growing secularism and to the waning faith in Christ the King by Catholics and others. Pope Pius XI hoped this feast would motivate Catholics and others to reject godless ways and accept Christ as king and savior.

Despite the end of World War I, "the war to end all wars," Pope Pius XI feared godless philosophies that would lead to nationalism, dictatorships, wars, and great suffering.

Pope was prophetic

Pope Pius XI was prophetic. Despite some democracies in parts of Europe and the world, dictators ruled Germany, Russia, Italy, Mexico, and other countries. These dictators exercised complete control over their subjects.

Karl Marx influenced communism, a godless philosophy that made the state supreme. Communism seemed concerned for the poor, but once communists gained control, their effects were often devastating. Stalin butchered millions of his own people.

Friedrich Nietzsche influenced Hitler and popularized the "God is dead" philosophy. Communism, Fascism, and Nazism sought to banish Christ from public life. Hitler lowered genocide to inhuman lows.

These philosophies helped to cause the World War II nightmare. Estimates of total deaths caused by this war range from 50 million to more than 80 million. The higher figure of over 80 million includes deaths from war-related disease and famine.

Inspires us to follow Christ

Blessed Miguel Pro, whose feast is November 23, can inspire us to follow Christ and celebrate the feast of Christ the King with fresh eyes.

In 1925, Miguel Pro was a Jesuit seminarian in Mexico when there was a revolution which led to the Church's persecution; consequently, he studied for priesthood in other countries.

When he returned to Mexico as an ordained priest, Father Pro discovered that churches had been closed and priests were subject to arrest. His humor, imagination, and faith helped him to become a master of disguises. He dressed himself as a beggar, businessman, dock worker, street sweeper, and other disguises.

On Fr. Shannon M. Collins stated that Blessed Miguel Pro, during one narrow escape from his pursuers, linked arms with a beautiful young girl whispering, "Help me, I'm a priest." The girl cooperated, and the two pretended to be a couple on a date.

Using clever disguises Father Pro rode a bicycle administering Baptism, Holy Communion, and Last Rites. He heard many Confessions. He also took up collections to help the poor.

According to Fr. Joseph Krempa, in an assassination attempt on the former president of Mexico, bomb throwers used an automobile that had been owned by the Pro family. The Pro brothers were arrested and falsely accused of the bombing attempt. There was no due process or trial.

As Father Pro was led to his death, he blessed and forgave his executioners, knelt in front of a bullet pocked wall, and prayed the Rosary. Then he stood up, stretched out his arms, forming a cross with his body and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey" as deadly bullets were fired. He was 36 years old.

Father Pro sought to keep the light of the faith alive until the nightmare of persecution passed. It's hard to believe that such a terrible persecution took place in Mexico, a heavily Catholic country bordering the United States.

Let us pray that someday soon the Christ-like lives of believers around the world will imitate Father Pro and cry out with their Christ-like lives, "Viva Cristo Rey -- Long live Christ the King!"

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.