For the nine days leading up to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is suggesting that the faithful pray a novena to Christ the King.
“Let us offer our prayers to Christ the King for the freedom of the Church,” the USCCB urges. Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.
The novena begins Nov. 12, 2021 and concludes on the eve of the Solemnity, Nov. 20. To participate in the novena visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.
The idea behind the novena is that religious freedom is under attack in many places. Worldwide, it is estimated that upwards of 4 billion people (51% of the global population) live in countries that have intense violations of religious freedom.
Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions free from government intervention
If anyone wonders why Religious Freedom needs to be defended in the U.S., they need look no further than the frequent headlines about religious institutions being forced to pay for abortions in health care coverage, going against the teachings of the faith in defense of life from conception to natural death. Individuals have faced lawsuits for refusing to perform a service (bake a wedding cake, host an event) for same-sex couples because that violates their personally held faith-based beliefs.
Religious freedom is a human right, essential to the dignity of the human person and the flourishing of all that is noble in us. It should be noted that religious freedom does not exist to protect the government from religion, but religion from government intervention.
Another form of suppressing religious freedom is the disturbing trend in the past 18 months of overt acts of vandalism at Catholic sites globally and in the U.S. Since May 2020, the USCCB stated that more than 100 incidents of vandalism have been reported, including within the Diocese of Venice.
On Oct. 10, 2021, the USCCB responded to the latest such incident in Denver, Colorado, when satanic and other hateful graffiti was scrawled on the walls before Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
In a statement from the USCCB condemning the incident in Denver, it was noted in part: “These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace… where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop. This is not the way… These are not mere property crimes – this is the degradation of visible representations of our Catholic faith. These are acts of hate.”
The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas (In the first), setting aside a special day so that “the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her Author and Founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings” [Quas primas 12].
Celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, this year the Solemnity is Nov. 21. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has urged “that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”
“For Christians, when our faith is repeatedly marginalized in public life, we can fall into the habit of compartmentalizing our lives,” the USCCB website states in its article “About Christ the King.” “We love Jesus in our private lives, but we shrink from acknowledging the kingship of Christ in social life. When we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, we declare to the world and remind ourselves that Jesus is the Lord of the Church and of the entire universe.”
Once again, if you wish to participate in the novena to the Christ the King, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.