When he was installed as our bishop in 2010, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki chose the date of his installation for June 22, the liturgical feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More. These two saints serve as special patrons for our bishop who is both a bishop (like St. John Fisher) and a lawyer (like St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers). Bishop Paprocki has shared on several occasions that his favorite movie is A Man for All Seasons, a story about the life of St. Thomas More who suffered martyrdom for his obedience to Christ and His Church in the face of pressure from the King. There is a line from the movie that always strikes me where St. Thomas More says the following before his execution: “I die his Majesty’s good servant, but God’s first.”
These words serve as a great motto for us to live by in our lives as Catholics. We should strive to be good citizens of the country in which we live, not intentionally trying to rebel against our leaders. At the same time, we have an even greater obligation to be faithful servants to the one who exercises the greatest authority over us, Christ our King. Ideally, the laws of our nation and world should be in accord with God’s divine law, but we know that this is often not the case, thus our need to advocate for changing laws and practices that lead society away from God’s law so that our world can experience the truth and freedom that His law brings.
As the Church celebrates this last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Christ the King, it is fitting that our Family of Faith topic for this month is freedom. As mentioned above, when we submit ourselves to God’s will and His law, we are set on a path to true freedom. In a culture that often confuses freedom with doing what one wants, the Church proposes to us a definition of freedom as doing what one ought. Staying obedient to the laws of Christ and His Church guarantees protection from the enemies that try to assail us in various ways. Christ our King reigns victorious and He desires for us to share in that victory. In a world that questions and doubts those in authority, we should have no fear in trusting in the authority and rule of Christ our King, for His is a kingship of service and love toward His beloved children. By following His will for us, we become more fully who He intends us to be and will experience a peace and joy that this world cannot give, perhaps not in this life, but certainly in the life to come.
During this week, as we look to Christ our King and consider His rule over us, it might be good for us to spend some time praying with Psalm 119. Every verse in this long psalm refers to the law in some fashion. The psalmist extols the goodness of the commandments of God, rejoicing as he strives to obey His word. May our hearts have a similar longing to follow the path of the Lord, that we might be able to say at the end of our lives like St. Thomas More: “I die my country’s faithful citizen, but God’s first!”