WEST JORDAN — On Nov. 12, dozens of Hispanic Catholics gathered at Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in West Jordan to celebrate Christ the King.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year; during the nine days preceding the feast a prayer novena may be offered. In Estipac, Jalisco, Mexico, the faithful celebrate from Nov. 16 to Nov. 26 by decorating the streets; gathering for Masses, rosaries and processions; and having fireworks to honor Christ the King, their patron. That tradition has been brought to Utah by Father Javier Virgen, a retired priest of the diocese whose hometown is Estipac.
“Many people here cannot get there, so Fr. Javier [Virgen] celebrates this Mass for all those who can’t go,” said the Curiel family, who also are from Estipac.
As he welcomed those attending the Nov. 12 Mass, Fr. Virgen acknowledged that they were “getting ahead of the celebration” – the Feast of Christ the King this year is on Nov. 26 – “but we are offering this for the intentions of each one of you, so God in his Son Christ the King continues pouring his blessing on all who cannot go back or have not gone back in many years to our hometown community.”
During his homily Fr. Virgen said that it was a privilege for him to be able to celebrate this special Mass in Utah.
“We are celebrating [Christ] as if we were in Estipac with all the community. … Our reality is that many have not been able to go to visit in many, many years… To celebrate Christ the King involves a deep reflection, a giving thanks and a big commitment,” Fr. Virgen said.
While emotion is part of the Catholic faith, “Our faith [also] asks us to put in practice what that king who brought us eternal life, who died for us, asks us to do,” he said, noting that when people come to the United States, they leave behind family, loved ones and friends; and for many years they might not have been able to return to their home.
“That is a sacrifice,” he said, but what can help keep faith alive is maintaining “your faith values, your faith traditions, such as this one,” Fr. Virgen said.
The Mass also was offered for those who were ill, as well as in remembrance of all the people who have died, he said.
“You and I have kept our faith alive thanks to [Christ]. … We remember how our parents taught us to honor Christ the King, and we have kept it on going with our new generations,” Fr. Virgen said.
The Curiels are an example of carrying on their faith traditions. Five years ago, they joined another family in offering a small Christ the King celebration like the one in Estipac in the other family’s home. When the other family moved three years ago, the Curiels began hosting the celebration in their home.
For them, celebrating Christ the King is important because “He is simply all,” they said. “We all know the reality of this celebration, how big it is for all of us, what it means, but unfortunately many people cannot go back to our hometowns, so we tried to bring a bit of that celebration to them here.”
Christ the King has poured many blessings on the Curiel family. “We have witnessed many miracles,” they said with tears in their eyes. “My daughter was able to be here with us, and that seemed something impossible, but not when you put everything in God’s hands.”
The Curiels said that sometimes people look to God just because they need something, “but he has taught us that his will is the one that will be done; we have to all be thankful for everything, no matter what life unfolds. He is always with us, and his will and his times are the perfect ones.”