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Cari fratelli e sorelle--
How did I get here? I'm still trying to figure it out.
Yesterday, at about 2PM, Whispers received its 100,000th Visitor since the counter's inception on 4 June. Of course, as the blog had already been up and running five months at the time, the real number already stands well in excess of 100K. This is somewhat akin to the birth of Jesus, which actually happened somewhere between 4 and 6 BC.
Squilla la tromba del Grande Giubileo!
No words are adequate to express my amazement at this milestone. But these two are a start: "Thank You."
If I thanked by name everyone who's been a part of making this experience the wonder and joy it's been to this point, the counter would be at 200K by the time I wrapped up. But there are certain groups and certain people without whose superhuman kindness toward and support of me, this work would never have existed to see this point.
My family and friends still have little clue what exactly a blog is but have been incredibly patient and understanding with me, and I am what I am because of the love and inspiration they've given me. In their life with each other -- which we'll celebrate a month from today on their Silver Wedding Anniversary -- my parents have been for my sister and me the model of good humor, of patient endurance and of unconditional love, both for each other and their children. To experience this gold standard of a relationship as the goal to seek out and live by in our own journeys remains a priceless experience and the choicest gift of my days.
The many religion journalists I've worked with through the years have long known me as a friend, source and sounding board. That I can now call them my colleagues should scare the bejesus out of all of us. May I one day live up to the example of integrity, balance and expertise they practice on the beat, in and out of season.
My dear clergy, both at home and beyond, for whom these have not been easy times and who have often been assailed on all sides. A priest once told me that he defined his priesthood as "bringing people from death to life -- you know, just getting someone over the bump, and then on to the next person to help them along." The selflessness so many of you show in this exercise of ministry is more of a gift now than ever before. May the affirmation you've earned always be present to sustain and encourage you. I can only pray I've done you and your common excellence justice in these pages. All thanks for your many gifts of kindness, friendship and advice. Please, for the love of the church, keep showing those insipid tribal chiefs what it truly means to be a priest among men.
Carissimi Romani, grazie mille per tutte le cose che voi avete affidati a me. Thanks for keeping me plugged in with the doings of the Mothership and putting up with me. Ci vediamo presto.
To Amy the Fair for consistently showering me with what has come to be known as the "Welborn Effect," I remain ever-grateful for its wonders and for the blessings of her friendship and encouragement. Advice to bloggers: When Amy links to you, the spotlight is on.
Sons and daughters of the Church, my beloved readers.... All of us don't always see eye to eye with each other, and some of you have seen fit to defame me both in this forum and elsewhere with insinuations against my character and person which are as vile and un-Christian as they are untrue. But every visit to these pages, every e.mail, every last abusive word thrown my way has been for me an affirmation of the value and quality of my work, the frustration with which the obstinate resist the truth -- and, of course, that no man is a prophet in his own country.
I came to the blogosphere with a scary suspicion that the notion of communio had gone out the window in many places, and that "Sentire cum Ecclesia" had become selectively applied by some to solely those cases where "Ecclesia thinks like me." Sadly, the more disconcerting moments of this experience have confirmed that suspicion, but at the same time I have been buoyed up and blessed by the witness, support and fidelity of others from around the world who live this faith in its richness and testify to it not with a 2X4, but with great love and a kindnes truly derived from the heart of Christ.
To that latter group, you have all the appreciation of this grateful heart. And to the former group, I gently suggest you look around your parish churches this coming Sunday morning. The people around you may be gay, they may be conservative, they may have green hair or look and dress differently than you. Whatever the case, and however much you may think of your own self, it doesn't mean that the others are any less Catholic than you. And they just might be closer to where you need to be. The politics of division and attack have no place in the life of the People of God, and as soon as the truth that we are a church of sinners is taken off the table by the modern equivalent of the Scribes and Pharisees, we're all in big trouble -- and no one should take any joy in a church of the sinless, because none of us would be able to take part in it, however loudly some of you may scream.
To my guardian angels -- those intrepid souls who've been so kind as to faithfully keep in touch and keep me going with donations, ledes, and generous doses of sanity, humor and moments of growth to this point of the ride. You know who you are, and you're the ones who have kept this enterprise going. May you have all the rewards you seek today and always. No words could express my appreciation for your goodness and example. You've been as much a part of this effort as the humble writer you've been so kind to help.
And two more -- first, to everyone whose e.mails I've either been late in replying to or haven't gotten back to, I ask forgiveness. The spirit is willing, but the writer is weak. Believe me, I always beat myself up for everything I'm not able to get to.
Lastly, my heart is full of affection and gratitude for the gift of Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, without whose presence I wouldn't have written a word or thought a thought about this faith in all its richness. In the mysterious design of Providence, I believe that God brought His Eminence into my life many years ago for a reason. And through the years, he has never ceased to be my teacher, my cheerleader, my protector, my mentor and my friend -- and his wise counsel has never steered me wrong. While the revelations of these last weeks will take their place in the record of history, it would be a tragic injustice for them to overshadow and nullify six decades of a priesthood and episcopacy which has brought about so much good in the lives of so many. The Cardinal has always believed in me more than I've believed in myself, and his confidence in me has been a life-changing and defining blessing, encouraging me to reach heights even I thought unattainable. Along with the priests of my childhood and adolescence who taught me the importance of being a "priest among men," I can never repay the goodness and support of my first teacher, first reader and beloved friend.
OK, I'm all thank you-ed out. So what now?
Well, not many blogs see 100,000 readers in their lifetimes, let alone in the space of four months. I don't usually feel accomplished, but this is an accomplishment.
Say what you will, but I've never approached this as an "anything goes" blog -- it's not a blog in the classical sense, really, as it has always been a work of rapid-turnover journalistic analysis and commentary because, well, I am a journalist and this just happens to be the new frontier of the craft, when handled as such. And I've always striven for precision, accuracy, and the best of expertise on the subject matter within the limits of my competence. It's not my judgment to determine whether I've succeeded at that, but the constant uptick in numbers (which now range between 1,800 and 2,000 visits a day during the workweek) has been encouragement enough to confirm that I haven't strayed from that course -- well, not much at least. I hope.
I think it's safe to say now that the vocation of the professional Vaticanologist has taken root in a new generation. And I'm it. Melchtry, too -- God love him. OK, that makes for two of us.
Stacy, we can handle this.
I'm immensely proud of all the ground covered over these 861 posts -- the future of the American hierarchy; all the continuing coverage of Rome; analysis which has consistently proven itself prescient and correct about two popes and their papacies; a commitment to intense coverage on stories which go beyond the constraints of daily journalism; important matters from off the beaten paths of the Catholic and secular presses; being the first to bring to light items as diverse as new liturgical texts, important speeches, statements and administrative actions and, as you know, the breaking of several stories: most prominently, the resignation of Msgr. Eugene Clark as rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the most recent ICEL drafts, the appointment of Stanislaw Dziwisz as archbishop of Krakow and my crowning glory, the scoop of scoops -- the historic appointment of Archbishop William Levada as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the highest-ranking American in the history of the Holy See.
All in all, that's not a record to sneeze at. Unlike the others in this medium, I put my name and reputation on the line with all of this. And now, with this record on the books, I must make good on a promise to myself, because I've given my all to this work but cannot do so forever under the current operating conditions.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
What you've seen here every day is the "outside of the tapestry." Behind it lies 12-to-16-hour days six days a week which have held me captive to the desk and the phone, answering e.mails, doing research, reading, writing, tweaking, you name it.
All this has taken its toll -- at one point, I did check into the ER with a bout of exhaustion. I've tried to prolong the stay of execution as long as humanly possible, but it's come to the point that I have to stand by the professional nature and quality of this work, the effort I've put into it, and my demonstrated expertise at the beat. As much as I love all this -- and I could do the blog forever -- I need to take care of myself first of all.
You can only keep putting your life, security and well-being on hold for so long before it becomes clear that you can't keep hoping for something to come tomorrow -- that it has to be today, or else.
This is all a long way of saying that, with great sadness and effective immediately, the daily publication of Whispers is suspended.
Please believe me when I tell you that I wished that it would never have to come to this, but time and again I would ask for a boost, for ledes, for something -- anything -- to help me and the work along. And while I'm grateful beyond words for all the support I've gotten as a result of those requests, I need to handle the obligations which accumulate every day, obligations I've continued to procrastinate on because my love and devotion to this work have been so great. And I've finally realized that all this feed is too good to be given away for free; I know too many others in the biz who are a lot more comfortable and do a lot less. And they sure as hell would never do it on this kind of scale.
In sum, I need to respect my talent -- for once.
You don't need me to tell you that I love this beat and this business -- why else would I have studied it for four years, then devoted another year of my life to it full time and for no pay? If the conditions were right, I could do it forever and a day and never once tire of it. And if there are any media outlets out there eager enough to bring me aboard, get in touch. I have the audience, my record speaks for itself, and this blog is the best resume you will ever see in your life.
So the Fifth Floor at the USCCB and the Philadelphia Chancery -- where I'm read four times a day, on average -- are getting a break. For now.
But don't worry, I'm not going away forever. Or much at all, really. You can still find me in the pages of The Tablet, and anywhere else courageous enough to take me on. Do support and read The World's Best Catholic Paper, which has long been a lodestar for me and so many others. To contribute, however insignificantly, to its pages is the greatest honor I could've ever imagined, and I'm so humbled and thrilled to be a part of its extended family which spans the globe.
I will be resurfacing here from time to time and posting whatever breaking stories I can get my hands on -- you know I have a tendency to bump into those at a good clip. So keep an eye here.
OK, I've said enough. To one and all, please keep in touch -- I'll have more time for my e.mails now, so I promise replies.
And to those of you, my new friends, who've been mind-blowingly kind, generous and true Christians to this fellow traveller, yours is a place in my grateful thoughts, my prayers, and in my heart.
May God's love be with you, and may he be as good to you as you have been to me. Always.