Sunday, June 30, 2013

We have friends from our partner parish visiting Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish this weekend. At all the masses, Ms. Tanya, St. Francis Soup Kitchen Assistant. and Kirk Hallett, St. Francis Parish member, want to take a few minutes to invite us to walk the soup kitchen line at our parish. At noon on Sunday July 7th we will be bringing to you an authentic soup kitchen meal and an opportunity to experience a look into the lives of the poor and needy of Allison Hill in Harrisburg. It is an opportunity to raise awareness (and hopefully some funds) to help with new programming to get kids off the streets and into a healthy environment 5 evenings a week. Please join us in this journey in the spirit of St. Francis and as Pope Francis asks us to do.

Kids in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg experience the constant threat of violence outside their front doors. They experience the ravages of drug trafficking and drug violence. As soon as they walk out their front door they are in an environment where hope is scarce. Can we show them that there is another way? Can we show them a place that is safe and where they can play with friends in confidence? Can we show them the grace of Jesus? Help us open the doors of Saint Francis of Assisi gym and soup kitchen 5 nights a week for the kids who look for someplace healthy to spend their time, who look for friends who will help them on the right path in life, who look for an alternative to what they experience on the streets outside their homes. For many of them, this is the only opportunity to have a meal at dinnertime or to enjoy healthy friendships.

Everyone's welcome! Come at Noon on Sunday, July 7, as Saint Francis of Assisi Parish brings their soup kitchen to us on the West Shore. Just $15 per adult and $5 per child under 18. Food is donated by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish -- all funds go directly to the evening program for youth at Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg.
June 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

More of the closing of Summer Bible School at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Is there a recording contract in the future for these kids?

June 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Yesterday was the closing of our Summer Bible School at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Each teacher summarized what was taught during the week, and the students presented the lessons learned in song and gesture. Fun, faith, learning -- a great week for the kids, and a wonderful gift of faith from the teachers and volunteers.

June 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
Back from a very memorable pilgrimage to Rome with a small group. It was prayerful and moving, especially the celebration of Holy Mass in the catacombs of Priscilla, where Christians have celebrated Mass since the middle of the First Century. 40,000 Believers were buried there, including many martyrs. Priscilla, a noblewoman, opened her home for the offering of Mass, and last week we celebrated the same "fractio panis" (Breaking of the Bread) that is depicted in a second-century painting in that catacomb.

One of the couples on the pilgrimage went with me to pick up our tickets for the Wednesday papal audience. Once inside Vatican City we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the Vatican Gardens and around Saint Peter's basilica. Unlike the day before, when we shared the basilica with about 20,000 of our closest friends, we were nearly alone in the vast church: no more than about a dozen other people, almost all workers. In moments like these one can be moved spiritually by the theological richness and deep devotion behind the magnificent art. It was a time of deep prayer.

Second row of seating for the Papal Audience: the Vatican gendarmeria estimated 200,000 people were in attendance, overflowing Bernini's colonnade in the piazza and extending well down the Via della Conciliazione.

Lastly, a confession: I'm not saying that I spent less time at the Gregorian University than at Roman restaurants while doing my doctorate there, but I ran into only one professor whom I knew, but about a dozen waiters who said, "Welcome back!"
June 28, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This evening some of the saints of God were busy at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. While a parishioner was hard at work framing out a wall for the back of our stage, the Parish Spiritual Life Committee met to discuss a wide-ranging agenda including planning as far as next Lent and Easter. Two young men who are working on their Eagle Scout projects were busy in separate parts of the building. Jacob Saar presented his project to the parish Knights of Columbus Council, describing his plans for a prayer path on the parish campus. Down the hall and around the corner, Raymond Arke was videotaping veterans in order to document their living histories and present the edited video to the Library of Congress. My Eagle Scout project seems tame in comparison to the planning and work these scouts are now required to execute. Every day God humbles me by placing me in the midst of saints in this wonderful parish.
June 18, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Some photos of Saturday's flight: Lake Waullenpaupack, the mighty Susquehanna, and a closed airport restaurant. The hardest part of flying for the first time to a small airport is finding it from the air. Where is it? Where is it? (5 photos)

June 17, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads and all to my brother priests. Whether as the father of a family or as a priest to whom the wonderful title is applied, we borrow the title "Father" from the one true Father of us all. We know we have it only for a time and then we must return it to its proper and true author and owner. We pray that we return it honorably and undamaged, proud of how we used it, unstained and without too many of our own fingerprints on it.
June 16, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

A great day ends. A day of God's good grace. Early this morning I flew up to an airport near Lake Waullenpaupack in the Poconos, a 90-minute flight up and the same amount back. I flew up with a friend for breakfast. Yesterday I called the restaurant on the field to see if they'd be open today. "Come on up, honey," the owner said, "We'll be waiting for you." We got there to find lots of small planes parked by the restaurant, and a line of pilots waiting to get into a closed restaurant. Rumor had it that the cook wasn't feeling well and didn't show up, so they closed for the day. The local pilots were running a shuttle to a diner about 4 miles away, but we decided to fly home without our $100 pancakes (lots more with the cost of aviation gas these days!).

There were lots of planes out today. The chatter on the radios was non-stop: apparently I was not the only private pilot with the idea to enjoy the beautiful flying weather. The air traffic controllers at Harrisburg's approach and departure control center were busier than I've ever heard them. with a mix of commercial and private aircraft. Harrisburg's TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control center) has responsibility for air traffic control over a rather large chunk of the sky in south central Pennsylvania and they sure were busy today.

At 5500 feet altitude the views were beautiful: high enough to see far yet close enough to the ground to enjoy the mountains and lakes. A safe landing (even if I did flare high... again) and then a few appointments with God's people in the afternoon at the parish, and after Mass I cooked dinner for 6 other priests and seminarians at the rectory tonight. Now here's the surest sign of God's graces: it seems I did not poison any of them with my chicken saltimbocca! Let's see if they survive the night.

June 15,2013
Msgr. William J. King

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JESUS THE WHOLE PERSON                                              
Homily for June 9, 2013

7 decades ago the psychologist Abraham Maslow described what he called a hierarchy of needs, struggling to explain why some of his patients suffered as they did or why some did not get well as he expected they would.

Maslow described the pattern that human motivations generally move through as
Physiological → Safety  → Belongingness and Love  → Esteem  → Self-Actualization
→ and, finally, Self-Transcendence.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top. The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs”:  esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs.  

Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. A person cannot be satisfied, and will always be searching for something, as long as more basic needs remain unsatisfied.

Catholic missionaries understood this in different language, as they learned that you can’t preach the Gospel to a person whose stomach is empty.  You have to feed the whole person.

Maslow’s theory was in large part replaced by an approach called “attachment theory.”

Attachment theory describes the dynamics of relationships between humans. Its most important tenet is that relationships form our perceptions of ourselves and our connections to the world around us, allowing to develop healthy self-esteem and positive social interactions. The sets of relationships we develop as we grow through life’s ages form what this theory calls a "secure base" for healthy self-esteem and growth.

Two millennia before these theories were articulated, Jesus of Nazareth seemed to understand well our need for satisfying basic needs and core relationships as a foundation for further growth and development.

If we watch how He acts in the Gospels we see this.

Two weeks ago we heard Jesus speak of the promised Holy Spirit who would teach us. Last week we heard of the miraculous feeding of 5,000 with only a few loaves and fish.  Today we encounter the gift to a widowed mother of her only son restored from the dead.

Jesus wants to fill us.  Every part of us.  He wants us to be fully satisfied.  Every part of us.  His ministry touches every part of the human person:
ü  The mind…     with parables + teaching
ü  The soul…       with mercy + compassion
ü  The heart…     with healing + companionship
ü  The body…     with food, earthly + heavenly

When He asked the crowd to sit down in last Sunday’s gospel, they did.  They admitted their hunger.  They waited to be fed.

When he asked the funeral procession to stop in today’s gospel, they did.  They admitted their grief and loneliness.  They waited to be consoled. 

One problem with our comfortable lifestyle in suburban North America is that we are out of touch with our needs. We don’t stop to admit them. There is something to fill every void: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, fast sex, fast relationships, fast excitement, fast games, a fast pace to life. If we fill our own needs with fast things and always cover our needs and emotions, we never admit our needs, we never seek relationships, we never seek…    well, we never seek God! 

We never seek a permanent fix to our basic needs and wants.  We never find a lasting relationship to form a solid platform for human growth and development.  We limp through life and pretend that everything is just fine.

The very first pages in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, bring us in touch with human need, and a very basic, foundational human need at that. Adam was lonely.

God filled that need, but not in a fast and superficial fix: rather, in an extended relationship and conversation with Adam. God brought one gift after another to Adam,  God did not stop and smile until He first saw the smile on Adam’s face: “This one at last,” Adam said, “This one at last.”

When God told our first parents that they were to care for and cultivate the earth and all that is in it, did He meant plants and animals only?  What about to care for ourselves? What about to care for and cultivate each other? What about other people? Sadly, our modern culture teaches us to care as little for ourselves and for other people as to care for nature and the earth.  We exploit and neglect both.

Pope Francis has been spending much of his homilies and talks in the past few weeks on the topic of caring for the earth and caring for the poor. 

Listen to what he said last Wednesday to the people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square (it’s a long quote, but a good one):

[begin quote]

What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb "to cultivate" reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication!

Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. … We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls "the rhythm of the love story of God and man."

But to "cultivate and care" encompasses not only the relationship between us and the environment, between man and creation, it also regards human relationships. The Popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology.

We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind.  The human person is in danger: this is certain, the human person is in danger today, here is the urgency of human ecology! And it is a serious danger because the cause of the problem is not superficial but profound: it is not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology.

The Church has stressed this several times, and many say, yes, that's right, it's true ... but the system continues as before, because it is dominated by the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the "culture of waste."
…Poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, for example, a person dies in the cold, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal.

It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a crisis. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.

This "culture of waste" tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person, is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful - such as the unborn child - or no longer needed - such as the elderly.

This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food.

Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. We should all remember, however, that the food we throw away is as if stolen from the table of the poor, the hungry!

I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.

[end quote]

Pope Francis went on to point out what we heard just last Sunday in the Gospel message: the feeding of the crowds.  We were told that all ate their fill and were satisfied.  In God’s action all were satisfied.

In the gospel text we heard today a different human need is met.  Jesus saw the widow of Nain weeping over her only son, and saw that she was not satisfied, not filled with the awareness of God’s love and goodness.  She was hungry, and on a foundational basis. In the hierarchy of needs, she was hurt on a deep and basic level.  He healed her.  He filled her.  He restored her joy.

If you and I work so hard that we cover over our needs, if we fill our days and nights with pabulum, fast food and quick fixes – if we keep ourselves so busy and so distracted that we can never feel our hungers, taste our needs, call out to God in our emptiness – we will never know how God can satisfy us. Every part of us.  If we never notice the hungers – physical, spiritual, emotional – of other people near to us or half a world away, we will never know how God can satisfy us.  Every one of us.

A culture of waste allows us to toss away our own value, and that of others.  We devalue all things, including ourselves, rather than treasure and nurture all things and all relationships.  We think so little of our own needs that we toss them out alongside the other leftovers, seeing little worth in any of these things.  Or in anything at all.  Along with the other leftovers we toss away our wasted minutes and waster relationships.  The problem, though, is significant: if we cover over our own needs and wants – if we never admit the needs we have – if we never get in touch with the deepest desires of our heart – we will never know how God wants to satisfy us.  We will never “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

Moreover, if we fail to see the needs and hurts and pain of the people we pass by each day, if we are taking life so quickly and superficially that these other people don’t matter to us, and the moments of our conversations and encounters mean nothing as well, we cannot be the tools of God’s healing for them.

The pace of our life can be the biggest obstacle to experiencing God’s grace.

Ask yourself how you participate in the work of God to satisfy your needs and the needs of others.  How you cultivate and care for the earth, include those who inhabit it. In everything you throw away in the course of the day, are you throwing away the relationships we all cry out for along with the leftover food on your plate?  When you have become filled with a quick meal, do you think that another person might be hungry – if not for food, for companionship, for friendship?  Do you toss aside the leftover moments, leftover relationships, leftover compassion, together with all the refuse of a fast-paced life? Have you become so accustomed to a culture of waste that few things, if anything, remain important to you?

How can God fill your needs and satisfy you if you run past His outstretched arms so quickly in your life, never pausing to admit your needs and never waiting for Him to feed you?

Resolve today not just to think about changing your life.  Do it!  So many people rush into Mass and rush out of Mass as quickly as everything else we do all day, that the desire and power of God to transform your life and feed your hungers means nothing. So many people toss their dollars in the offering plate in a numb habit, never pausing to ask God how He wants to use you to feed the hungers of the human heart in His family, the Church. So many people receive the Body and Blood of Christ and immediately begin to think about leaving Mass, rather than letting the miraculous touch of Jesus bleed through your whole being.   The result: CHANGE NEVER HAPPENS.  And so many people wonder why.

Well, stop it!  Stop it.  God’s arms are waiting for you.  Don’t just think about it.  Make some change in your life. NOW. Stop for a few minutes every day. Get in touch with your hierarchy of needs and especially your need for the relationship God wants to have with you. Stop running past Him, and worse, stop running from Him. Fall into His loving arms, and be satisfied. Fully satisfied.

God has been waiting for you.

June 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
On Sunday a merry band of pilgrims from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish made their way to historic Conewago Chapel, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This pilgrimage was educational and inspirational and social, all at the same time. The history of the first missionaries in South Central Pennsylvania is fascinating, and connects us to a larger and more historic household of Believers than we can experience in one parish.

June 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
Now in Washington DC for a few days of teaching. I remain grateful to Bishop Joseph McFadden for his encouragement that I teach in the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America. This week is an introductory institute program, but during the July term of the summer semester I'll teach an elective course on Chancery Practice, and in the fall semester a course on the Administration of Temporal Goods (corporation law and finance, the area I did my doctorate in). Fun stuff.

June 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some years ago I sat in my very comfortable office in the Diocese of Harrisburg and a secretary told me that I had a visitor. It was someone I knew well. She brought a young man with her. The visitor was Sue Rudy, founder of the "Silence of Mary" homes in Harrisburg, and she had a teenaged African-American boy, about 16 years old, with her. Some years earlier I gave a week-long directed retreat to Sue, during which she began to discern God's call to step away from her "comfort zone." A short time later she founded the Silence of Mary ministry.

The young man told me how he had come from the Bronx, where he had been a rising officer in one of the major gangs. The only time he had been to church since he was a young child was for the funerals of his gang members. He had no family life; his father was mostly in prison and he had only met him briefly. He had been to 3 funerals in the past few months, including that of his younger brother. He told me that he fell on his knees in church at his brother's funeral and asked God to show him if there was another way to live than what he knew: gangs on the streets of the city, violence, killing, drugs, stealing to find a little money. Soon he met a Franciscan friar who helped to send him to Silence of Mary in Harrisburg. A tear crept down his cheek as he told me, "If not for this I would probably be dead by now, but now I know that there is more to life than what I knew before. I know that there is a God who loves me. I know there is a better way to live. I cannot go back."

That night I fell to my knees as well and apologized to God for allowing my life to be so comfortable, so insulated, so "suburban." If Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners hear from me a vision of stewardship that involves going outside of our comfort zone to serve others, it is because God has provided me wonderful grace-filled moments to become uncomfortable in His presence, and to allow Him to expand the capacity to love.

I think of the 13-year-old runaway in Washington DC who caused me to miss a final exam in canon law school as I found a place for him to stay and helped him reconnect with his parents 7 states away who were filled with anguish. I think of the young women whose confessions I heard at Catholic Charities' Evergreen House and Lourdeshouse in Harrisburg, and the stories of their lives on the streets. There are so many more stories, but all point out how God works in the opportunities to love that surround us. It is in love that God is found most purely.

Pope Francis has been spending much time preaching about the scandal of poverty in our world, and how the culture of waste preserves and sustains the cycle of poverty. His simple words are convicting and convincing.

Dear Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners, brace yourselves: this summer you will hear a challenge and will learn of opportunities to embrace stewardship in ways that will make some parishioners squirm. There are moments when we cannot be perfectly embraced by God's love until we allow ourselves first to be made uncomfortable! Perhaps our transitory discomfort is the embrace of God to another.

June 7, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Friday, June 7, 2013

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioners: a reminder that our pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (historic "Conewago Chapel") is THIS SUNDAY. We leave from our parish parking lot at 1 PM. Also, the parish Sports and Recreation Club has a canoeing tip tomorrow (Saturday), so check that out by going to the parish website and clicking on the Sports and Rec Club link.

June 7, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Spent a great evening yesterday at our "Partner Parish," Saint Francis of Assisi parish in Harrisburg, where the Joshua Group has started an evening program for the youth of the neighborhood. 3 evenings a week they open the cafeteria and gym for neighborhood kids to come and enjoy healthy recreation with their peers and get a good meal. The young woman who runs the kitchen talked with me about her vision for the program: she overcame a crack cocaine addiction and a violent past, and wants the kids in this rough neighborhood of the city to know that there's an alternative to seeing drug violence on their streets every day. "This is my 'hood and I want to take it back," she said. One of the little guys playing basketball told me about the shooting (drug-related murder) in front of his house a few nights ago, and others talked about the gunshots every night in this part of the city. About 30 kids, young and teenage, enter the open doors of the gym to shoot basketball or play kickball, and others stay downstairs to watch some healthy movies and play games. Last night, they had lasagna left over from the luncheon served in the Saint Francis Soup Kitchen a few hours before. For many of those kids, they would not have dinner if not for this program. With sufficient funding they want to open the doors 5 nights a week.

June 7, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
Pope Francis offers a simple challenge to God's people: "Docility to the Spirit, love for the Church, and forward … the Lord will do the rest."

June 4, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
A beautiful, if hot, day for flying today: wheels-up at the Carlisle airport, up to Selinsgrove, then to the Bendigo airport near Tower City — all using VOR instrument navigation. 2nd photo is the hangars at Bendigo. Bendigo is a fun little airport, in a narrow ravine with 2500 foot mountains on both sides of the airport — it's a tight squeeze for a standard landing pattern, with a wall of trees to the left and wall of trees to the right, and a short runway, so you'd better get the landing right or it will be memorable. Despite a close pattern (because of the mountains), a short runway, and high density altitude, I had the plane nailed to the ground within the first third of the runway without the stall horn sounding. My guardian angel may have helped.
(4 photos)

May 30, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

When God wants to accomplish something it's amazing to see the pieces fall into place one at a time in the right order. When things don't fall into place maybe it's time to go back to prayer and ask if I'm the one - not God - who wants something to happen.

May 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King
There is a set of old wives' tales which suggest that the Catholic Church is antagonistic to science and to women. Centuries before any other society thought that women could do such things, Catholic women were founders and CEO's of hospitals, social service systems, colleges and universities. The first woman in America to earn a doctorate in computer science? A Catholic woman, whose education was undertaken for the purpose of serving the Church.
I bet you didn't know this.

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May 27, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Years ago I read an article in which the author opined that the spiritual life was often thought of as the charge of proud knights on stallions into battle, the glint of sunshine and the reflection of bravado on the polished swords. Rather, he concluded, it is more like the halting walk of two alcoholics trying mightily to keep themselves sober throughout life. In both descriptions there is one point shared: it is not something we can tackle alone. No, the wisdom of Jesus is that He founded a Church and did not merely convey a philosophy of life. In his homily yesterday, Deacon David Hall recalled the popular notion that spirituality can be disconnected from religiosity: “I don’t need a church; I have Jesus.” However, among the very first things that Jesus did when starting His public ministry was to surround Himself with others. Every gospel writer considered that fact so important that the call of the apostles is described near the beginning of all four gospels.

Yesterday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This mystery itself is a compelling reminder that God Himself, in whose image we are created, is not an isolated singularity but a community of persons in relationship. The normal Christian life is also lived in relationship, not isolated, not alone. Perhaps the writer was correct: the spiritual life is an effort shared by sinners to receive the grace of God and help each other in recovery. Did you ever notice that at the beginning of every Catholic Mass we acknowledge our sins? It’s as though I’m at a Twelve-Step meeting and stand up to say, “Hi, I’m Bill and I’m a sinner.” I look around and see that I’m not alone and I can find strength in the shared grace that allows us not to be consumed by our sins. Father, Son, and Spirit smile in seeing us together as they are. Smile if you’re a sinner too: we are Church precisely to help each other!

May 27, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

From the second chapter of Sirach: “Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your way.” The Lord wants to hear from us the deepest desires of our hearts. He wants to direct us to the fulfillment of the deepest desires of our hearts. The trouble is that there are very few persons who truly know the deepest desires of their heart! Most see only the lesser desires, smaller desires, more superficial desires. We can name them easily. It is for them that we pray. They do not satisfy. God knows that. We may crave them, dream of them, long for them, plot how to reach them, and cling to every semblance of them, but they do not arise from our truest selves. The spiritual life consists in allowing the Lord to lead us in ways that strip us of smaller desires, false gods, hurtful memories, and disordered attachments, leaving us to find and name our deepest desire. There we will find Him waiting. Loving. Longing. God is a gentle lover who will not grasp our souls with violence, no matter how ardent His longing that we come deeper with Him into ourselves. He will with tenderness unfold our fingers from those things we have clung to, and in the release of what was once so dear He will show us more of our truest selves. Patiently and gently He will lead if we but trust. The paradox of the spiritual life is that only in surrender we find freedom. “Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your way.” Lead me, Lord, oh so gently to the truest desires of my heart.

May 21, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is visiting Milan on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. The Edict of Milan was signed in 313 by Constantine and Licinius, respectively the emperors of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. The treaty granted freedom of worship to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, putting an end to imperial religious persecution which had claimed the lives of many martyrs for the faith.

Now consider that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th Century than in ALL the preceding centuries combined!

Pope Francis recently canonized the "martyrs of Otranto," the 813 Catholics killed in 1480 for refusing to convert to Islam when Turkish soldiers captured the southeastern Puglia region of Italy. However, similar violent persecution claims the lives of Christians in northern Nigeria and West Africa even in 2013. Consider that the vast majority of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq have fled the country in the wake of violent persecution which saw their churches destroyed and family members martyred. In parts of the Philippine islands, as in parts of if the Indian subcontinent, Christian lives continue to be taken by religious hatred. In Viet Nam, church property is seized and Catholics are denied access to prayer. In China, Christian belief is considered a threat to the State and is rigorously monitored and controlled. In the United States of America the persecution of Christian belief and practice has taken root in the denial of conscience exemptions, in State coercion to fund and participate in morally illicit practices, and in secular media protrayals of Believers as obstructionists whose voices are to excluded from the development of public policy.

The Edict of Milan followed by two years the Edict of Toleration, and while the word “toleration” can sometimes be an excuse for a bland and wishy-washy approach to life which is tantamount to a tepid commitment to nothing, the concept means so much more: it is foremost a bold recognition that the human person has free will and cannot forcibly be compelled to assent to religious faith. Jesus Christ came to capture our hearts by love and not the sword. True faith begins when we allow ourselves to surrender to God’s love and providence, not to acquiesce to God’s intimidation. May we pray for our brothers and sisters who boldly profess Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution of every form. 1700 years after the Edict of Milan, martyrdom is tragically still real.

May 16, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

In 27 years of working in diocesan offices I saw many parish groups come in with plans for church buildings. Each had good reasons for designing the church as they had, the dimensions and the seating and the lighting and the colors. there are also many in society who try to design their own church — not the walls and décor, but the doctrine and content. Invariably it is a “feel-good” church that is designed around only that set of beliefs that doesn’t challenge me, but makes me feel affirmed and warm and comfy. Invariably it is a church that proclaims a sub-set of Biblical truths and Christian doctrine, but none of the teaching that calls me out of my comfort zone, provokes my conscience, draws my Christian imagination beyond where it has already been, makes me squirm. It is a church that avoids those things that I don’t already understand and that doesn’t bring me face-to-face with mystery, questioning, uncertainty.

These “churches” pop up in storefronts and theatres, and may even fill stadiums and cable broadcasts, but such a church can also live in the mind of just one person. A steady stream of smiles and affirmations proclaim a gospel of prosperity and the prophecy of positive thinking, of tolerance and inclusion and a sentimental universal love without judging. It is a church of one’s own design. Amidst all the positive messaging and entertaining worship, the crucifixion of Jesus is nowhere to be seen or heard. The fullness of the Gospel is not to be experienced. Centuries of spiritual or doctrinal writings are ignored or forbidden. In short, the Gospel is censored. In His public ministry Jesus provoked and challenged, drawing people beyond their own ways of believing and judging and acting, opening eyes and hearts and minds to new avenues of thinking, living, choosing, believing. A church that stops at the confines of my own comfort, that lives within the walls of my own knowledge, is a very small church indeed. A church where I am the sole arbiter of orthodoxy is tiny. It is not the Church of Jesus Christ. Lord, where I have become closed to the fullness of your Revelation, open me. Where I have become merely comfortable in my beliefs, challenge me. Where I have set limits to my compassion, enlarge my heart. Where I have become blind to right and wrong, sharpen my dull moral sense.
May 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

So true, so true: "Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing."

Did you ever have the sense that you've tried and tried and tried to accomplish something without success? Spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere? Struggling to open a door that won't budge? Remember the words of Jesus: "Without me you can do nothing." Humbly go back to the Lord in prayer, for you may be trying to push your goal and not that of your Heavenly Father -- and that's why you're not getting anywhere.

May 1,2013
Msgr. William J. King

This Friday, May 3rd, at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg: "Grace Uncorked." Join us for the inaugural event of this new program, "conversations about faith for 40 and 50-somethings." No one will check ID's at the door, so if you're a little over or a little under, no problem. This Friday, Msgr. Jim Lyons will give a presentation on Dorothy Day, a Catholic convert and social activist. Join fellow Believers in open conversation abot topics of faith and the Christian life over a glass of wine and some snacks. All are welcome. Bring some friends.

April 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

It must have been an oversight. If there was no role for women in the Church, no one told Caterina Benincasa. The 23rd of 25 children, Caterina grew up in the Tuscan city of Siena, in a home from which she could see a church simple in design but grand in size: Saint Dominic’s, which stood atop a hill not far from her family home. Illiterate but open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Caterina dictated letters to some of the most powerful figures of the mid-fourteenth century. Her letters were strong in tone, yet unassuming. Perhaps because her words were in sync with the loving will of God, and she herself deeply in touch with God though prayer and mystical union, her letters changed the minds and hearts of their recipients, whether Duke or Pope. A Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Italy with Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena did not wait for an invitation to an office of power to have a profound effect on the life of the Church. Just tell the Pope who received her rebuke while in exile in Avignon after the fall of Rome to the barbarian tribes, that women have no voice in the Church. She scolded him for not being in Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul built the foundations of the Church. Today one can visit the empty papal compound in Avignon, but to see the successor of Peter, you’ll have go to Rome.
April 29, 2013
Msgr. William J. King