This is Mardi Gras day in those parts of the world that celebrate a carnival before Lent begins. It brings back all my childhood and youth memories of carnival in New Orleans. One memory in particular stands out for me. It was Mardi Gras of 1950 and that night I was at the Rex ball with my date. Suddenly, in the middle of one of the dances, the music stopped abruptly and the captain came to the microphone and asked that everyone clear the floor. My first thought was that there was a fire in the auditorium where the ball was being held. But no; there was some excitement at the door, and then the Duke and Duchess of Windsor came in, dressed in appropriate finery. He had been for a few months King Edward VIII of England, but had abdicated about 13 years earlier in order to marry the woman who was a twice-divorced, American commoner. The pair made their way to a place before the stage where Rex and his queen were enthroned, and there the duke and duchess bowed and curtseyed to the make-believe king and queen of Misrule, as is the official title of Rex in New Orleans every year.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when our Holy Father will, I suppose, follow his custom of going to our Dominican mother church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill and there he will receive ashes from one of the cardinals and then give them to many others who will be there.
As we think of the make-believe kings of carnival and the almost make-believe rulers of the world’s constitutional monarchies, we should also remember that the REAL king of the entire universe—Christ the King—never wore a crown except one of thorns, and never held a scepter except a reed that was thrust into his hands in ridicule. Instead of being a King of Misrule, he is the Lord who tells us to love God and our neighbor—the basis of all human wisdom, and who, instead of surrounding himself with jewels and gold and pomp, tells us “learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”
Let us laugh at the kings of carnival, but let us lovingly adore the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.