Friday, August 2, 2013

My first pastor once said to me that, for priests, Mondays are like the weekend; after a busy schedule for the Lord’s Day, Mondays tend to be a bit less frantic. That was certainly the case this weekend and today. Saturday began with an early morning call to anoint a woman who was dying in a local nursing home. The little old woman had no family with her, but three of the staff sat with her patiently and gently and prayerfully. I literally no sooner got back upstairs at the Rectory when the phone rang again with a call to anoint a parishioner near death in a local hospital. There a wonderful faith-filled family (parishioners) surrounded their dying mother with prayer. On the way back, while still in the car — no kidding — I got a third call to anoint a parishioner at home who was near death. All I could do at the end was to go into the church and thank God for the gift of priesthood, and the freedom to serve Him as needed. It was a beautiful morning — and that was all before 9:30 AM.

After a wedding preparation session and a spiritual direction appointment, Saturday afternoon brought confessions and the celebration of Mass: the first of four for the weekend (my usual schedule). The two places where I feel most perfectly at home and most in the presence of God are in the confessional and at the Altar of God.

After Mass, dinner in Harrisburg with former parishioners from Saint Lawrence parish. Fun. Good food. Great conversation. Lots of laughs. That parish was part of the mergers of parishes in 1995. I had been pastor for about 2 years. I often say that I did such a good job as pastor that they closed the parish! The fact is, after a process of several years, I wrote the decree merging it with the cathedral parish a block away.

Sunday brought an early rise to unlock the church and pray Morning Prayer. Then, three Masses, confessions after one Mass, donating blood after another, and another spiritual direction appointment after the last Mass.

Then, after snarfing down a bit of lunch it was off to the Carlisle airport for a little flying. I first flew down to the Donegal Springs airport near Mount Joy to pick up my dentist for the flight. While on the way the radio announced that there was skydiving in progress at that airport. I did a circle to delay my arrival (I was certain the skydivers would be grateful – bumping into one could just ruin your whole day) and landed to pick up my passenger. That was the first time I had seen parachutes from above.

Often, the hardest part of flying into an airport for the first time is finding it! Especially in Northern Lancaster county, everything looks the same from the air, and some barns sure look like hangars. I finally found the Donegal Springs airport when I was almost on top of it, and landed.

I picked up my passenger and we flew up to Saint Mary’s PA, in Elk County (about an hour’s flight time). Enroute I noticed a problem with one of the navigational instruments, but since I did not want to get my passenger nervous I didn’t say anything. Of course, being the astute dentist that he is he asked me as we approached the St. Mary’s airport, “Now why is that compass 180 degrees different from this one?” Somehow he also knows when I don’t floss as much as I should. He must be psychic.

My former flight instructor and his wife flew up from Johnstown to meet us at St. Mary’s and we had a tasty dinner together at a nice little restaurant on the field. Then we headed home, giving wide berth to a storm cell near Altoona. On the way I noticed that a second flight instrument had failed, and that narrowed down the diagnosis of the problem: a bad vacuum pump powering the gyroscopic instruments. No problem! However, since it isn’t my plane I opted to get it on the ground in Carlisle and then drove my dentist back to the Donegal Springs airport.

After getting back to the Rectory about 9:30, responding to some e-mails and phone calls, I was ready for some prayer and a good night’s sleep and looked forward to sleeping in a little later this morning. Which I did. Until the phone rang at 6:37 AM with news of another death at a nearby nursing home.

Tomorrow after Morning Prayer and Mass and the Men’s Gospel Reflection Group it’s off to Catholic U in Washington DC for the last few days of teaching my canon law school elective there. I am aware that this is the final week of the summer semester, and I am all that stands between my students and 5 weeks off before the fall semester begins. Don’t tell them, but they’ll get a short set of lectures this week!
July 22, 2013
Msgr. William J. King  

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