Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's (Still) A Hit

So I was at an ecclesiastical function recently, and some bishops were there.

Those of you who know me know that I have a name for such setting: my element. But I digress.

Milling about beforehand behind the scenes, I was able to catch up with a couple of our fine-feathered prelates, and one was there who I always wanted to meet but hadn't had the opportunity to previously.

There were about five or six of us in the salon (five bishops, one Rock) having a group kibbitz, and I looked at the one I hadn't previously met and blurted out, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

Faster than you could say, "Georg's here," the others disappeared. It's the kind of thing that, admittedly, takes some getting used to.

So we sat down and I had a few questions about a few things. I had introduced myself for The Tablet, but in the course of our conversation mentioned as an aside that "I also have a website...." and proceeded to name it.

The bishop froze. "You're the Loggia?" he asked.

I didn't know if this was a good or bad thing -- I just knew that I wanted to fall through the floor at that very moment. I asked His Ex. to explain further, as it seemed he knew about these pages, and he kindly obliged.

"Everyone reads you. Everyone. You're the only person out there presenting things accurately, as they are...."

And that, basically, served to scare the bejesus out of me.

I'm not using this incident to boast, but to give you a window as to the state of my life, and that of this outlet. Our little buddy at the bottom of the screen -- a blogger's best friend -- hit 400,000 today, with the most recent 100K intake being accomplished in 25 days.

Believe me, it's more frightening than it is exciting.... And you may be asking, what now?

First, I'm going to give myself -- and you -- a break. Between the posts themselves, researching them, the calls, e.mails, etc., the typical blog-day encompasses 15 to 18 hours, and nothing else gets done in the process. As the papal household is on retreat, I've got a consistory to prepare for (which will bring you wall-to-wall coverage) -- and so I can enjoy the run-up to my favorite holiday (that's St. Paddy's) -- this is my best chance to get some shut-eye and actually see some of my nearest and dearest, blogging will be light, if not non-existent, through the weekend.

You'll all survive, don't worry.

Beyond that, I just want to keep improving the quality of the work -- expanding its scope, sharpening the coverage, getting a better sense of what it is and what its place is, all without having a stroke in the process, if I can swing that. Given the places this little piece of blogdom has gone, I've been hyperconscious of the responsibility which comes with it and, I've gotta say, it weighs a bit heavy. I've gotten a bunch of e.mails these past couple weeks from people saying that they're enjoying Whispers "more than ever." Know that that sentiment means so much; it entices me to believe that all the work I've put into it hasn't been in vain and that, indeed, in some mysterious way, what's happening here is a "service." I never would dare think that on my own -- service isn't this much fun -- but that some are seeing it that way makes me a very happy camper. Satisfied? Never. But quite pleased, sure.

(Oh, and lest I forget, good service never comes cheap, so please remember the guitar case.)

Right now, I'm getting about 200 e.mails a day, and so to everyone who's sent me something -- or a bunch of somethings -- and I haven't gotten back to you, all apologies. Be patient with me, please, for I am but a man.

One night about a decade ago, I was going through the archdiocesan history of my own See and found a quote from its third bishop which has stuck with me ever since -- a line I return to often in my own reflections.

Francis Patrick Kenrick was a son of Dublin who emigrated to America in the 1820s to assist with the Irish refugees who had settled in the diocese of Bardstown, along the Kentucky frontier. Named to restore order in Catholic Philadelphia in 1830 as coadjutor to the aging Henry Conwell and sede plena apostolic administrator of the diocese, Bishop Benedict Flaget of Bardstown handed Kenrick his letter of appointment with the words, "Receive the certificate of the cross you are about to bear."

Yes, this place was once as challenging an assignment as modern Boston is. How times change.

Once he arrived, Kenrick quelled the trustee riots and a schism which had broken out because of conflicts over the lay incorporation of parishes. With that behind him, then he built. And built. And built some more: The first seminary, an expansive outgrowth of parishes and, beyond the city's then-far edges, the foundation of the cathedral which would cement the church's place at the heart of this town long after its builder's passage.

In 1851, Kenrick was named archbishop of Baltimore in time to preside over the 1852 Provincial Council there as papal legate. He shared the news with his brother by letter. The brother, Peter Richard Kenrick, served for 52 years as head of the church in St. Louis, a feat which will -- thanks to the magic number of 75 -- never be equaled nor surpassed anywhere.

In his note, Francis Kenrick, who by that time had only been diocesan bishop for nine years, was astonished at his transfer to the premier see. He said to his brother, "I ask myself frequently in my thoughts: 'Who am I, and what is my house, that Thou givest such things to me?'"

To all of you, who've given me so much -- in spite of my considerable limitations and excesses, both -- a world of thanks.