Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 28, 2012
Msgr. William J. King

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 25, 2012
Msgr. William J. King

Monday, December 24, 2012

Victory! I thought I had become a technical dinosaur, bested by the mechanical beast. A few months ago, the staff convinced me to have a new phone system installed in the parish offices. On Friday, with the phone already ringing non-stop, I asked about changing the voicemail greeting to include the Christmas Mass times. “No problem,” came the response from our wonderful parish team, “How hard can it be?” This was, as we learned, THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK.

3 hours later I saw the entire staff huddled over a user’s manual and a telephone, pressing buttons randomly and chanting what sounded like Mayan curses in a low hum. One of them went over to light a candle in the church as a form of prayer, or perhaps to appease the telephone gods. Another stopped just short of sprinkling the phone with holy water, thinking twice about the admixture of water, curses, and electricity. I swear I saw someone hide a sledgehammer when I walked through the door, but I couldn’t find it later when I wanted to use it. The aroma clearly revealed that one of them had put garlic around her neck to ward off the phone gremlins, and I'm sure I saw someone walking in cirles around the phone with burning sage. When the staff finally gave up and left, I know I heard laughing in the equipment closet, from the corner where the guts of the new phone system reside.

Saturday morning saw me poring over the manual. I ended up hunkered over a phone and a manual, randomly pushing buttons and chanting in a low hum (staff, please forgive me for ever doubting you). Sunday between Masses and baptisms I kept picking up the manual, hoping that a few new pages had been added since I last looked through the index.

Today, when the phone started ringing at 4:45 AM, I determined to conquer the challenge. I searched the web and found the programming manual for this sophisticated new VoIP system. "Aha!" I thought too quickly and naively, "Now I've got you cornered." I found several entries for programming the auto-attendant voice functions. One of them went like this: "Enter programming block E1600F6B and select message number from 001 to 255, with numbers 001 to 070 being reserved for programmed system functionality and numbers 132 through 185 being volatile for station functions."


Back to the cloud to find another manual. Bear in mind I had the 188-page station manual on my desk, and had already downloaded the 312-page programming guide. Now I found the 277-page "Features and Functions" guide and downloaded that.

Eureka! On page 235: "Press the TRANS/PGM button and hit the # key twice, then select system message number from 001 to 255 (see chart of reserved numbers in appendix E) and press the HOLD/SAVE button, then select options 1 through 5 for recording (see page 181 for feature explanations). Listen for the double confirmation tone and press options 1-7 (see page 201 for feature explanations), followed by the * key, and listen for a verbal confirmation of your selection. Once received, press the # key followed by the SPEAKER key to begin recording, and when finished recording press options 1-7 to indicate save and propagation selection (see page 203 for feature explanations), followed by the # key. Listen for the single confirmation tone, and once received press the HOLD/SAVE button.”

I switched to decaf for my next cup of coffee, then using a combination of skills that Sister Ellen George, IHM, taught me in fourth grade English and that Father Sebastiano Grasso, SJ, taught me in a Roman course on Renaissance chancery Latin, I sat down to diagram the instructions. Two hours later, reasonably certain that I had the progression of button presses and options mapped out, I marched confidently to the Master Phone Station to show it who was boss. An hour and ten minutes later, following five failed attempts, continually tweaking my outline and checklist, after twelve people had tried, and with about 33 combined man-hours behind us, the parish voicemail now reveals to callers the times of Masses for Christmas:

Christmas Eve at 5, 7 , and Midnight (with a festival of Christmas music beginning at 11:15), and Christmas morning at 10:30.

The problem is, callers in April, July, or September will likely hear the same message and not be grateful for the advance notice of Christmas Mass times. Pretty sure I still hear that little chuckle in the equipment room.

December 24, 2012
Msgr. William J. King

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My plan has been not to start working on my Sunday homily until Saturday morning, if there is a Saturday morning. I'd hate to have wasted all that time this week if tomorrow does bring the end of the world.

When I was in grad school in Washington, I used to set my clock radio to an FM station featuring two goofy announcers in the morning. One morning the radio went on, and in that twilight moment between sleep and alertness I heard the announcer give the weather forecast: "Currently it is 43 degrees in our nation's capital, and clouds will gradually roll in during the morning. By Noon fiery asteroids will pelt the atmosphere, with cracks developing in the surface of the earth by mid-afternoon, bringing the end of life as we know it by the evening rush hour."

I wasn't sure if I should go to class that day or not.

December 20, 2012 

Msgr. William J. King

Monday, December 17, 2012

Night comes a little earlier each day at this time of year, and dawn arrives a little later. The darkness is with us more each day as night grows longer, deeper, and colder. Shadows are cast a bit longer as the sun rests lower on the horizon, even in its mid-day traverse.

For our earliest ancestors, it must have been terrifying to witness the growing darkness. It must have seemed that the darkn

ess would consume the light and that they would never see light again. Events of the past few days might lead us to the same terrifying thought: that darkness will prevail, that gloom and sadness will triumph, that sin and tragedy are more potent than goodness.

Defiantly, we light another candle on the Advent Wreath, and celebrate the Truth that light has already conquered darkness, Grace has vanquished sin, life has overcome death, and mercy has turned back vengeance. Though grief remains, hope will prevail.

Today twilight comes a few moments earlier than yesterday, and tomorrow dawn will come a few minutes later. For but a few more days the darkness will have its way, but light, Grace, mercy, faith – all of these will triumph as the growing light leads us toward a new Springtime of hope.

Is it any wonder why we celebrate the birth of hope itself just a few days after the Winter solstice – just as soon as the light pushes back against the darkness, and the dawn greets us earlier after the darkness of each cold night.

In the pre-dawn darkness of Winter's longest night, we listen for the cry of a newborn child, we watch for a light that stirs our souls. O come, O come, Emmanuel.
December 16, 2012
Msgr. William J. King

December 11, 2012
Msgr. William J. King

Saturday, December 8, 2012

In the past few weeks I have had the blessed opportunity to minister the sacrament of anointing of the sick to about half a dozen people approaching death. There are those who resist until the last breath, but all of these people are very much at peace with what is inevitable for all of us but a bit closer for them than we think for ourselves. I recall one person very close to death some years a
go, when visiting I asked him how he fealt about his impending death. He told me that he long ago accepted the inevitability of death, was anxious to move into the next life, but still held two lingering questions in his last days: "Did I pray enough?" and "Did I love enough?" We had a long conversation that evening about both of those questions. He died before dawn the next day. It occurs to me that these are the two questions we might pose to ourselves before we go to sleep each night, reviewing the day behind us and looking forward to the next.

After all, what else really matters?
December 7, 2012
Msgr. William J. King
When the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures spoke of "that day," it was always a reference to the coming of the Messiah. It is shorthand, in a theological sense, for the work of the Savior to restore justice and hope, to usher in an age of peace. In the Season of Advent, Believers bring to mind "that day" when Jesus did come as Messiah, Savior, and Lord, and we look forward to "that day" when He wi
ll return as king and judge. That reminds us of another phrase, another saying that is theological shorthand for our current experience: "already but not yet."

We have "already" witnessed the grace and mercy of the Savior's presence, not only historically but also personally in our lives. We know how this presence transforms lives, but as truly as we "already" experience God's grace in our lives, its fullness is "not yet" a reality. The world is a commingling of sin and grace. We are growing toward heaven, one step and one day at a time, "already" experiencing God's gifts "but not yet" perfectly; we "already" rejoice in what God has done, "but not yet" do we possess God's promises fully. Each day, however, gives us new opportunities to look for the presence of God, each day can become "that day" when we recognize God more and more.

So, the challenge for us is to use the time we have on earth to draw nearer to heaven. In other words, let's make this day "that day."
December 7, 2012
Msgr. William J. King
Today the Catholic Church celebrates a feast known formally as The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, and commonly called “Christ the King.” It gives me pause to reflect.

Through most of my life, Lord, I have looked to you as a fan would look to a talented performer, a skilled athlete, a great leader. I have admired you, and sought to emulate you. I have studied your

words and have respected your actions. I have thought highly of you and held you in esteem. You have been a mentor, a guide, a teacher, and I a student and fan.

But you don’t want an admirer; you want a disciple, and I don’t need a role model; I need a king.

—I need a king to protect me when the enemy comes against me ferociously.
—I need a king when injustice cries out for remedy.
—I need a king when I’m lost and have no purpose.
—I need a king when I can’t provide for myself.
—I need a king when I’m trapped inside myself and can’t find the way out.
—I need a king when the world seems so big and I, so small.
—I need a king when life seems empty and I need something to believe in.
—I need a king to guide me when there are too many choices.
—I need a king to light a bright fire that inspires me in the gray and gloom.
—I need a king to mete out justice in the midst of so much that is wrong.
—I need a king to strengthen me when I falter.
—I need a king to discipline me when I go astray.
—I need a king to come find me when I am lost.
—I need a king to ransom me when the enemy takes me where I do not want to go.
—I need a king to give order to a world that so often is confusing.
—I need a king to hold high the banner so that I may follow wherever you lead.
—I need a king to remind me that I am not the center of the world. You are.

Christ, be my king.
November 25, 2012
Msgr. William J. King