“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make…. Incredible as it may seem, those strange beings who landed in New Jersey to-night are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars…At this moment martial law prevails throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania…People are now holding service below us in the Cathedral…This is the end. Black smoke is drifting over the city…”
The doors of St. Francis de Sales swung open, and a phalanx of men and boys – one account says two thousand – processed slowly out into the darkness, rank upon rank, chanting solemnly and carrying candles.
Neighbours were unnerved.
The date was Sunday, October 30, 1938. Orson Welles was just closing his famous radio drama, and police stations and newspaper offices nationwide were overwhelmed by telephone calls. Panicked civilians jammed traffic, fleeing the fictional invasion.
Meanwhile, away from the radio, St. Francis de Sales Parish celebrated the feast of Christ the King. Under Bishop Lamb, the feast was celebrated in a day-long series of events culminating in a gathering of men and boys of the parish: “This Holy Hour and its attendant Eucharistic Procession of men is singular to this parish. It is a thrilling sight to see the men and the boys of the parish, carrying lighted candles walking before the Blessed Sacrament…” It “provides a splendid opportunity for father and son to walk with Christ…”
The feast was relatively new, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, to be held on the last Sunday of October (moved later to the last Sunday of the church year). A response to growing nationalism and secularism, it was reported that “Pope Pius XI sought, through the establishment of this feast, to restore Christ to his rightful, pre-eminent place in both the minds and wills of men...” In 1939, The Catholic Standard noted that “If his efforts had been universally successful, the rampant hatred which stalks across the world today would have been fettered, and world powers would not now be locked in terrible conflict….”
Weird delusions. World’s Wars. Culture Wars. What’s changed!