Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King
Fr Lawrence A. D’Souza
The Franciscan Order, following the lead of its great 13th century theologians, St Bonaventure and Blessed Duns Scotus, was instrumental in establishing the Feast of Christ the King, and extending the celebration to the universal Church. But it was Pope Pius XI who instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal Church in his encyclical Quas Primas (QP), because the people of the day had "thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives," believing "these had no place in public affairs or in politics." He connected the increasing denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism throughout Europe. At the time of QP, many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority, because they witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe. These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church.
Pope Pius XI hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects: 1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (QP, 32).2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (QP, 31). 3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (QP, 33). Although Emperors and Kings now exist mostly in history books, we still honour Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning him in our hearts and allowing him to take control of our lives. When we accept Jesus as the King of our lives, then everyone and everything else falls into its proper place. We are also challenged to find Christ the King in everyone around us. As loyal subjects of Christ the King, we are invited to treat others with justice and compassion as Jesus did, especially those whom we consider the least important, because Christ's kingdom we celebrate today is "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace."
A unique King proclaiming the Kingdom of God
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his distinguished work, 'Jesus of Nazareth' says that, "Everything depends on how we are to understand the expression "Kingdom of God" as used by Jesus, on what kind of relationship exists between the content of His Proclamation and His Person as the Proclaimer. Is He just a messenger charged with representing a cause… or is the Messenger Himself the Message? We can identify three dimensions in the Church Fathers' interpretation of this key term:
The first dimension is the Christological one. Origen, basing himself on a reading of Jesus' words, called Jesus the 'Autobasileia' ie. the Kingdom in Person. Jesus Himself is the Kingdom, and by the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realise the overwhelming fact that in Him, God Himself is present among them, that He is God's Presence.
A Spirituality of Wholeness
Fr (Dr) Devasia Puthiyaparammbil, SSP
With the passage of time, human beings try to make progress in every sphere of life through a shift from a generic understanding to a specific and specialised focus on its various particular aspects. Science, technology, art, communication, etc. have developed new branches of their research and investigation. This is the effect of our quest to know more and to understand better about all that surrounds us, and to ensure our wellbeing in the future. Specialisation is extended to the field of spirituality too. Blessed James Alberione (Founder of the Pauline Family), whose heavenly birth falls on November 26, transmitted a spirituality of wholeness—a vision or a programme of life—that concentrates on every single faculty which constitutes human life with the aim of attaining wholeness of life.
One of the important factors which prompted Blessed Alberione to develop this vision of life was the encyclical Tametsi Futura (1900) of Pope Leo XIII. Presenting redemption of human beings in three stages of way, truth and life, this encyclical exhorted the faithful to make maximum use of the gospel verse "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6). In his writing, the Pope presented Jesus as the WAY on our pilgrimage to God, as the TRUTH because His voice is the voice of truth, and finally, as LIFE, because everything exists and lives through Him. Fr Alberione who had an integral vision of everything related to life (God, human beings, world, Nature, science, religion, etc.) became convinced that the Christology and the programme of life contained in the teaching of the Pope could become the source and inspiration for a new spirituality—a spirituality of wholeness.
According to Blessed Alberione, wholeness is achieved by a person who attains the harmonious development of all his/her faculties which he categorises broadly into mind, will and heart. He then associates these faculties with Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The spirituality based on the dynamic principles of Way-Truth-Life will help the growth of these human faculties, and a person reaches the supreme height of his/her personality. In religious language, one can call this stage of life as the state of perfection, sanctity, perfect happiness and union with God.
The spirituality of wholeness depicted through the concepts of Way-Truth-Life presents certain truths to believe, right ways to practise, and finally, holy sentiments to cultivate. The faculties associated with these three activities are mind, will and heart respectively.
Bl. James Alberione and Women’s Ministry
Fr (Dr) George Kaitholil, SSP
Bl. James Alberione, rightly known as a holy priest, religious Founder, Apostle of the Media, spiritual guide, writer and organiser, was equally a social and religious reformer. He was an original thinker and creative activist, promoting the dignity and role of women, whom he respected deeply, at a time when hardly anyone spoke of women's dignity, liberation, empowerment etc., and when they were treated as second class citizens at home and in society.
He wrote a remarkable amount of literature about the role of women, including the book Women Associated with Priestly Zeal (1915). It is very well thought out and systematically structured. As he said, it shows "what women can do in collaboration with priests… In its various Italian and foreign editions, it bore much fruit." A simple look at the titles and sub-titles of its chapters is enough to convince us of his enthusiasm for the cause of women, and how deeply he studied and pondered on it.
In Fr Alberione's understanding of, and approach to the question of, women he was well ahead of his time. His was truly a prophetic voice. Interestingly, of the five religious Congregations he founded, only one (Society of St Paul) is for men; four are for women. In September 1953, he said to the Daughters of St Paul, "What is the mission the Church entrusts to the Daughters of St Paul? To preach the Gospel to the poor. Be carriers of Christ. Go and preach according to your nature, according to what the woman, the Sister, can do. Take the Gospel especially to the masses, to those who are poor in heavenly wisdom."
Blessed James Alberione
Fr Alfonso Elengikal, SSP
He Dared To Dream Big!
Better Yourself Books (BYB), St Pauls and Pauline Publications, The Sunday Liturgy, Inspirational Quote, The Teenager Today (with their headquarters in Mumbai) and numerous other media initiatives the world over owe their initial inspiration to Fr James Alberione, a young Italian priest who dared to dream big, and saw to it that, with divine assistance, his dream reached its fulfilment in his lifetime while he lived a simple and saintly life. Pope John Paul II beatified him on April 27, 2003.
Fr Alberione, for sure, led a very saintly life. But he is known in the Church more for his outstanding contribution to the social communication media. He was one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century Church. More than a century ago, when communication media was in its infancy, and the computer and internet had not yet appeared on the scene, and bishops and priests frowned at the very thought of a clergyman associating himself with the media, young Alberione dreamt of building a media empire at the service of the gospel.
He said, "A time is not far when people will stop coming to church, or will come much less than now; we should be prepared to bring the Word of God to them in their homes, or where people gather often."
COVID time, more than any other time, has proved Alberione right! Leave alone people who do not as a rule go to church or those who are homebound due to illness, even people who long to go to church for the daily/Sunday Eucharist, or would step into a church for a brief Eucharistic visit, and are unable due to the government restrictions, the media (internet and computer/mobile phone) is now their only ally. To millions of people and their families today, it is media that makes the Word of God and the Eucharist available to them.
Managing Mental Health through Spirituality
The body and mind are connected with each other, just as the Church is connected with Christ. While the body is seen as a being of blood and bone, the mind is seen as a storehouse of learning, thoughts and memories. We rarely focus on the emotional and psychological aspect, because we are so focused on the tip of the iceberg that we ignore the huge unseen mass. This unseen mass is suddenly noticed during testing times or tragic situations. One such situation is suicide. This word is so familiar, yet people rarely engage in in-depth conversations. The year 2020 saw the media filled with news about suicide due to the uncertainties as a result of COVID-19 and death by Suicide. Unfortunately, instead of awareness about mental health, people were told about conspiracy theories. Also due to the need to maintain social distancing, it was difficult for people at the grassroots to approach the right stakeholders to educate people.
The power of the Word of God
When in trouble, we seek solutions. Sometimes there is no one to help us, or even if we ask, we are not satisfied with what they say. Our mind wants to hear more, and when it doesn't, we feel lost. The Word of God has all the deep words we want to hear. It is the way our Father speaks to us. We can't call Him, as he doesn't have a registered mobile number, neither can we find Him on social media. But He is present in the holy scriptures. The Holy Bible is available to everyone at all times, even when churches are closed. It also helps a family and an individual person to set up a domestic church. Unfortunately, we do not understand the magic it can create in our lives, because we read it hastily; our mind is multi-tasking due to our busy life.
Lectio Divina is a traditional practice of reading the scriptures. The process includes reading the scriptures (lectio), meditating on the short verse or reading to understand the message (meditatio), praying to God to fill the reader with the graces as specified by the scripture (oratio), and resting and trusting that the Lord will fulfil his promise made through the scripture (contemplatio). In the New Testament, John 14:27 states, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." In the Old Testament, Isaiah 41:10 states, "Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Saint Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. (4:6-7)" He also tells people to say to themselves, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13) God through the scriptures says, "I will not forget you, I have carved you on the palm of my hand" in Isaiah 49:15. The Word of God is the word we should read, reflect and listen to.