Friday, July 12, 2013

FIELD TRIP! Several members of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish Building Committee visited other parishes today to see recent building projects: the new office expansion at Good Shepherd parish in Camp Hill as well as their recent Parish Center addition; and the new school and gym at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Gettysburg. I saw them all taking notes for our Building Committee meeting next Monday, eager to share their thoughts with the architect and the rest of the committee.

July 11, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Harrisburg's Saint Francis Soup Kitchen came to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

Harrisburg's Saint Francis Soup Kitchen came to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish today. The staff of the soup kitchen came to help raise awareness for their evening program to provide kids in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg with a safe and healthy environment five evenings a week. The children in that neighborhood know that the dangers of drugs and violence as soon as they leave their homes. Saint Francis Soup Kitchen has opened their doors, and the doors of St. Francis gym, to the young people of the neighborhood. These kids can play with friends, have a good meal, and have fun in a safe environment with good values and the awareness of Jesus Christ. A number of our parishioners regularly go over to the soup kitchen to serve meals; today the soup kitchen came to us, and served us a meal cooked in their kitchen. It was a blessing for both parishes -- that's why we're partner parishes!

July 7, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Genesis 23: Early in the story of Abraham

Genesis 23: Early in the story of Abraham God instructed Abraham to leave his home land and everything he knew there, and to go to where God would lead him. He had no reason to trust this unknown God, but over the decades that followed he learned to trust. As an old man, Abraham asked his servant to return to the land of his ancestors to find a wife for his son Isaac, but sternly instructed the servant, “Never take my son back there for any reason.” Don’t think that this was a geographic reference. It wasn’t. Abraham knew that he couldn't go back to his old way of life, before he knew God's goodness and grace. His relationship with God meant so much to him that his caution was never to let Isaac, his son, fall prey to a life lived for anything less than God. Is there a lesson for parents today from Abraham, our “father in faith?”
July 6, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

masterpiece of baroque art that is the baldacchino

Rising 95 feet in height from the floor of Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome is the masterpiece of baroque art that is the baldacchino or canopy over the principal altar in the massive church. Designed and built by Gianlorenzo Bernini over a nine-year span (1624-33), it was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII. Born Maffeo Barberini, Urban VIII chose Bernini as the chief architect of the basilica to oversee the adornment of the recently-completed church. Liturgically and spiritually the baldacchino serves to point to Jesus present on the altar during the sacrifice of the Mass (the tent of meeting of the Exodus as fulfilled when – as John’s Gospel tells us – Jesus “pitched his tent among us”). Visually and artistically, the towering baldachinno serves to bring together the enormous scale of the church which surrounds it and the human scale of the persons beneath it, just as the true “tent of meeting” (Jesus) is the mediator between God and man. Historically, Bernini borrowed the design of the four towering pillars from the columns of the original Saint Peter’s basilica, constructed by the Emperor Constantine atop the tomb of Peter on the Vatican hill near the circus of Nero where Peter had been martyred. 20th-century excavations found a necropolis on that spot, and – about 30 feet directly beneath the altar of today’s basilica – bones identified by carbon dating and DNA analysis to be of a first-century Palestinian Jewish man. Scratched in the red paint of the crude ancient monument holding those bones was graffiti which read, in Greek – the language of First-Century Rome –“Peter is here.” Beyond the architecture and artistry of the churches and monuments in Christian Rome is a set of stories seldom heard. There are, for instance, eight nearly identical sculptures adorning the massive bases of the 4 pillars in Bernini’s baldacchino, two on each base, on the sides facing away from the altar. First to catch the eye are the 3 bees on each, from the coat of arms of Pope Urban VIII’s family, the Barberini. However, look just above that and tucked in the folds of the papal crest is the image of a woman. It is the face of Gianlorenzo Bernini’s sister. She was pregnant during the months that Bernini was sculpting these adornments. Her face is calm and her demeanor simple in seven of the eight visages. Long before digital cameras were on hand, however, on one of the eight crests Bernini captures for all time his sister’s face in the pangs of childbirth. Look and see. There are stories like this everywhere in Christian Rome.
July 4, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

4th of July

The new immigrant from Italy was anxious to celebrate the holiday with his new American neighbors and friends, and when they all explained the significance of the Fourth of July (a little more quickly than his Italian-trained ear could quite pick up) he was left with a question: "What does it have to do with strong ice cream?" Huh? "I mean, why do you send up fireworks for the forte gelato?" (Trust me, you have to know or be an Italian to get it!)
July 4, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

The frequency and intensity of writings

August 24, 410. May 6, 1527. February 15, 1798. September 20, 1870.

The frequency and intensity of writings which predict the end of religion and specifically of the Catholic Church in the United States has escalated in recent years. Whether the cause is, more proximately, the HHS mandate which ignores freedom of conscience, or the US Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, or whether the cause is, more remotely, the court’s holding in Roe v. Wade or the sexual revolution on the 1960’s, predictions of the demise of religion abound.

Last week I had the thrill of celebrating Mass with a small group of pilgrims in the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome. There we huddled beneath a second-century painting of the same prayer, the Holy Mass, surrounded by the tombs of 40,000 fellow Believers. No, the Christians did not hide in the catacombs during times of persecutions. Everyone knew where the catacombs were, and so they afforded no clandestine refuge. They were places to bury the faithful dead, and to honor the martyrs. Some, like the catacombs of Priscilla, were places to gather to share the Word of God and break the bread — that is, to celebrate Holy Mass.

Pliny, 156. Decian, 249. Valerian, 257. Diocletian, 303.

As had Herod at its beginning, officials and Emperors throughout the Roman Empire found Christianity to be a troublesome religion. Its tenets and practices (charges of “cannibalism” for eating the Body of Christ at Mass, and an insistence on sexual chastity) made the powerful in society uncomfortable, and interfered in the prevailing moral debauchery. Martyrs fell, but the Church did not.

A walk through modern Rome brings one past the relics of the “ancien regime” and its antiquities, straight into the churches which proclaim eternal realities. Alaric in 210, Charles V in 1527, Napoleon Buonaparte in 1798, Victor Emmanuel in 1870 — with each fall of Rome the panic renewed that the Church would see its end. Caesars, Emperors, Kings, Premiers and Presidents have all come and gone, but one personage reigns through it all: an itinerant rabbi from Galilee has always had the last word.

The Pantheon of Roman gods is now the Church of All Saints. The chancery of Napoleon’s government now houses offices of the Vatican. Mussolini may no longer speak from the window of a palazzo in Piazza Venezia, but Catholic Mass is still offered every day in the church of that palazzo. The Mammertine prison which held Paul and Lawrence and many early Christian martyrs is now surrounded by a church. No period of persecution has ever been the final chapter in the history of Christian presence.

Today’s panicked prophets of doom seem to lack the perspective of history or the confidence of Divine Providence. Whether the year is 156, or 410, or 1527, or 2013, the promise of Jesus is undiminished that He will be with us until the end of time, and that the gates of Hell will not prevail.

Whether in the time of Caesars or Emperors, whether in the tenure of Kings or Presidents, the Church may have had its public influence curtailed for a time, but the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been suppressed. Jesus seems to have meant it when He gave His promises.

Every indication is that history is about to repeat itself in our own time. The Catholic voice in particular makes some people of power uncomfortable. Let’s face it, a religion that doesn’t make some people uncomfortable is probably not of God. A religion that determines its ideological tenets and moral borders by observing and following contemporary culture finds its idols on earth and not above.

The walls are already being built that will confine the practice of religion in contemporary culture. We will be free to sing hymns and fall to our knees in prayer within those walls, but the voice of Believers will be uninvited and unwelcome in larger society. This is already the growing definition of “freedom of religion” in our government: pray as you choose, but do so in private, and do not allow your beliefs and values to follow you into the streets – leave your prayers and beliefs inside the walls of your church, they are not welcome in public. Religion is increasingly seen as a purely private affair. Even nominally religious people profess to believe one thing in private but refuse to impose it on others in public.

And so I go back to the catacombs of Priscilla every time I am in Rome. Priscilla, a noble woman, opened her home for the celebration of the Mass in the early Second Century. This was not done in hiding, not in secret. It’s just that the Church was not allowed the privilege of open worship because it offended the values of others. When the earliest Christians in Rome gathered for the “fractio panis,” the breaking of the bread, they did so in private. Their influence in public policy was practically nil. Their voice was uninvited and unwelcome on the streets and in the marketplace of public opinion.

Those who prophesy the demise of Christianity have one thing right: we are seeing yet another period of diminished welcome for the Church and for religious values in general, just as we have repeatedly through history. The voice of the Church is voice of dissonance in the public chorus, and so it will be silenced for a time. It makes many uncomfortable and so it will be confined, taxed, regulated, and penalized. Whether this is done through administrative rulemaking, or Court decisions, or statutory provisions, or popular referenda matters little. But those who say that this is the end of Christianity are missing the larger picture.

Are you discouraged? Take a walk through the streets of Rome, past the relics of persecutions. Take a walk through Rome and look carefully at the reminders of the abiding presence and promise of Christ. They’re both there, side by side, but only one of them is still a living presence. Look for Caesar and you won't find him, but Jesus is everywhere there.
July3, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In DC teaching in the School of Canon Law

In DC teaching in the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America. The summer program is intensive, so I'll be teaching 3 days a week dueing the month of July. Pray for my students, all of whom are working on their Licentiate degrees in Canon Law! The class has a 50/50 split of students who are here year-round and students who are in the summer program. The program of studies for the JCL degree is laid out to be a three-year program, but by going year-round students can finish it in 2 years, or for those who can't be here for the usual academic year they can finish the degree in 5 summers (plus a few courses on-line during the year). During July I'm teaching an elective which will follow a complex scenario of conflict and finger-pointing in a parish setting. Analysis of legal issues, legal writing, Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and hierarchic recourse within the Church setting -- that's just about the 4 weeks of the course right there. Who has more fun?

July 3, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

Cards every Sunday evening, canoeing next Saturday,

Cards every Sunday evening, canoeing next Saturday, weekly softball games in a local church league... just a few of the many on-going activities of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish Sports and Recreation Club. See the link on the parish web page at

June 30, 2013
Msgr. William J. King