The Solemnity of Christ the King is capping the 2017 Liturgical Calendar this Sunday. In spite of, or because of, that term “king”—which sounds so old-fashioned and dictatorial to many Americans, this special feast that ushers in Advent offers tips for evangelization suited to our chaotic political culture. It reiterates the blessings of wise, benevolent governance, as experienced in a relationship of communion and common cause with the sovereign Son of God.
P. Bracy Bersnak, a professor at Christendom College, talks about this in an audio presentation you can find at the college’s online publication, “Principles.” . The site’s compelling motto is: “Clear Thinking on Contemporary Issues.”
Begin your visit to this site by clicking on the excerpt from Bersnak’s lecture titled “Principles of Catholic Participation in Politics.” Noting that Christendom College’s own mission is “to restore all things in Christ” and to help renew the political life of our society in the light of His kingship, Bersnak presents Christ at the center of a New Evangelization that can bless America’s turbulent public square. We must act as representatives of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, a kingdom of abundant love based on every human soul’s dignity, which is at the heart of Catholic social doctrine and ongoing discipleship.
“It has never been more important for Roman Catholics to participate in politics than it is now,” he says. “Not just because we have a basic responsibility to contribute to the common good of our country, but because our very freedom to live in accordance with the teachings of our faith is being threatened.”
Bersnak reminds us that Jesus said “the Kingdom is among you.” (Luke 17:21) It is already a powerful force, although we can’t experience its fullness while still pilgrims in our fallen world. Christ the King is accompanying and elevating us, urging us to bring the teachings of our faith into the public square not as tools of subjugation but as instruments of cultural renewal.
Missionary disciples, take note that solidly Catholic colleges and universities, to the degree they are generating and embodying Christian insights within caring communities, are blessing their students and can bless society. Christ’s Kingdom is definitely alive on these campuses—and indeed it’s alive among many Catholic and non-Catholic organizations, such as dioceses, faith-based hospitals and religious non-profits dedicated to compassionate and sustainable societies.
We need to make this potential of the Kingdom of Heaven more explicit in the ways we perceive, describe and market the organizations and initiatives that already contribute valuable resources to the New Evangelization. Catholics won’t be likely to share gifts like Bersnak’s lecture—and people hungry for restoration of the pubic square won’t seek or receive such
gifts—unless we let our lights shine more brightly. Producers and grassroots advocates for instruments of cultural restoration must work together to collect, proclaim and distribute our organizations’ ongoing work for the Kingdom.
We need to offer without shame the wisdom the Lord is cultivating among us, helping the secularized world to connect with it in non-threatening ways and clarifying our positive motive. Pope Francis said it best in The Joy of the Gospel when he proposed for the Church “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything” for the purpose of evangelization.
The existence of Christendom College’s separate “Principles” website is an example of the impulse to bring the Kingdom more alive for all of us. In addition to a traditional website (christendom.edu) displaying the “products” of academia, this branded, purpose-driven online publication (getprinciples.com) carries messages for a much wider audience. These messages convey urgency, propose applications for what we’re learning and explain the importance of taking the next step.
I predict this phenomenon will spread. “Faith and Reason,” a site created by Franciscan University of Steubenville, also assembles select talks, TV shows and various examples of its campus’s fertile faith life into one place for easy reference. Those wanting tried and true road maps to follow while our secular society loses its bearings can gain easy access to both the resources and the reasoning behind the school’s endeavors.
Hillsdale College has been doing its own non-denominational evangelizing to the broader world and reaching people who want values-enhanced, history-rich road maps. With a special “Imprimis” site that summarizes talks given by its guest speakers, Hillsdale provides universal access to some of the instruction and inspiration students receive. Many online visitors sign up for core courses such as “Constitution 101”.
The college demonstrates its own missionary impulse, resonating with Bersnak’s call for Catholics to be Kingdom emissaries.
Likewise, dioceses, parishes, faith-based agencies and other groups can become more “intentional” and explicit about their collective messages of hope for the world and how they are embodied in the things we do every day. We need to show the Kingdom at work even in the Tuesday night discussion group that attracts eleven parishioners or the diocesan program that makes the Church more inclusive but receives no fanfare.
Let the “principles of Catholic participation in politics”—and in the culture more generally—go forth through multiple media from diverse sources, using the gifts of catechesis, apologetics and plain old marketing. Shout from the highest bandwidth! We’re doing this for Christ the King of all, the King of the Universe, with an Advent eye watchful for His coming, no matter what liturgical season we happen to be in. More important than the timing or technique is the evangelization itself.
As Jesus instructed, what we have heard in whispers, behind closed doors or humdrum digital portals, we must proclaim from the housetops. (Luke 12:3)