By Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun
TEMPE — Nearly 100 years ago, the world had just emerged from its first global war —World War I. Pervasive unemployment mixed with pessimism. Secularism and atheism were on the rise, fueled in part by a collection of dictators and government philosophies, like socialism, fascism, and Nazism, that were pushing Jesus Christ and reverence for God out of life.
Out of this chaotic, unstable atmosphere came Pope Pius XI’s encyclical, “Quas Primas,” which means “In the First.”
“If we ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King,” Pius wrote, “we shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society.”
The encyclical established the Feast of Christ the King, which was elevated to the Solemnity of Christ the King and moved from late October to the final Sunday of the liturgical year by Pope St. Paul VI in 1969.
On Nov. 21, All Saints Catholic Newman Center celebrated Mass, followed by a Eucharistic Procession to proclaim Christ as King, taking Jesus into the heart of the campus in a display of song, prayer and worship.
“I think of Eucharistic processions, like a child showing his parents what he loves, (as) an effusion of joy,” said concelebrant Fr. Nathaniel Glenn, formator at Nazareth House Seminary and chaplain at Xavier College Preparatory. “When you love someone or something, you want to show them to other people. A procession is going to show Him to other people., just walking around and saying, ‘Hey, we really like this guy, and we want you to know who He is, too,’” he continued.
The Mass and procession were celebrated by Newman Center Parochial Vicar Fr. Daniel Cruz.
“It was beautiful,” exclaimed student Julie Ostash, 20, a sophomore who attends church at both the center and St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale. “It was really cool to go around campus and show our faith to those who don’t normally see it on a day-to-day basis. It was interesting to see how (some) people were making fun of us. That was something I wasn’t expecting. Overall (though), it was a really amazing experience,” she said.
“I felt a surge of joy, knowing Jesus is walking on this campus and He is radiating out His love; His mercy; His power; His presence,” said Sr. Bethany Madonna, local superior of the Sisters of Life, a flourishing community of religious sisters with a deep devotion to the Gospel of Life. Based in New York, the sisters were invited by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted to serve the Diocese of Phoenix. The five nuns are based at St. Agnes Parish but maintain a presence on the ASU campus.
“We saw a few students fall to their knees, (others) using their iPhones to capture what they were seeing; people stopping and talking to one another,” she explained. “I thought, ‘this is something out of the Gospels; Jesus of Nazareth is here, and He is passing by.”
The procession began immediately after Mass, in accordance with the guidelines set forth by Paul VI. Following Holy Communion, the consecrated Host was placed inside the monstrance, where it was exposed for veneration. Fr. Cruz then began the procession under a covered canopy held by ministers.
The route covered several major pedestrian corridors within the campus. Beginning near the Newman Center at University Drive and South College Avenue, it took participants past Durham Hall, Old Main, the University Club, and Health Services Building, before crossing back over University Drive via the ASU pedestrian bridge. Participants sang hymns, including “Adoro te Devote” and “O Sacrament Most Holy.”
The procession paused at two points for Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament, including the final stop on a large grassy area in front of the dining hall at Tooker House, a student dormitory, where residents would have had a wide view to the procession.
“As we went across, somebody ran up to us and asked, ‘what is this?’ recalled Mary Margaret Schreck, whose husband, Paul, graduated from ASU a number of years ago. The couple still attend Mass at Newman Center. “It is drawing people’s attention. It is a great way to visually celebrate Jesus and show those not coming to the church that this is available on campus,” she said.
“Today, in a real way, we get to bring Christ to the community,” added Paul Schreck. “Having Christ processed through the very secular campus with the pageantry of the Feast brings something the students aren’t going to see every day. Along the way, we got questions about what is the Feast, what are we celebrating?”
There also were prayers for onlookers, said Sr. Bethany, that hearts would be awakened with a desire for Christ, “that Jesus would reign in their hearts, be their king; be the one they receive everything from and expect everything from,” she said.
“The politics can’t fix us,” said Fr. Glenn. “It doesn’t matter how great technology gets. The only one who possibly can save us is Jesus Christ. So, we owe our allegiance to Him. He is truly the King of all people.”