Friday, February 16, 2007

Into the Light

So I've gotten the queries and e.mails for a very long time: "When can we see you?" As in TV, a picture, something, anything.

As you all know, wresting this hasn't been easy -- and not just because our "mascot" up there in the photo box has served us all quite well from the beginning. Veteran readers might recall that I even did the silhouette thing for a while, driving photographers crazy for the various profile pieces which've popped up along the way. But lately, it seems to have gotten to the point where a friend had the pique to ask if this was all some sort of "marketing ploy."

Hardly -- if anything, it's just been a question of adjusting to all this, with a touch of principle.

Thing is, these pages were never intended to serve as a vehicle for anything besides the news, and surely not to catapult their author to anything (with the possible exception of interdict, or an early death). I always envisioned Whispers as, simply, the background feed from the trenches -- the view from the backroom, as it were -- and this whole celebrity-author thing isn't just very new still, but almost a sort of parallel universe that I'm not terribly used to and have sought to shirk. It's always been my MO to be unobtrusive, albeit from a sweet vantage, to simply revel in the joy of observing, and to slip in and out of rooms and viewing posts without anyone knowing a thing. When you're the one being observed, however, the task is made a bit more difficult.

That said, though, as a play on the pop-journalism leanings of the moment, one concept I did kick around in my mind at the beginning was a vision of the Vatican analyst as rock star, and why we hadn't had one yet.

Suffice it to say, that appears to have come to pass in our own time.

Last night, following in the footsteps of the great, good and eminent who've sat opposite Basilian Fr Tom Rosica on Salt + Light's "Witness," your narrator held the chair. So those outside Canada could join in the fun, the video's been posted -- so be bold and click away.

(On a related note: while, for purposes of this readership, this serves as my maiden appearance, now it can be told that I spent an afternoon early last October with Delia Gallagher and a crew from CNN who came in from New York. Don't know what happened to the package, though, as it never seemed to run. The bottom line, however, remains the same.)

Thanks to my job, there are certain things I get to see that I wish you all could join me in beholding. This was surely the case on the trip north two weeks back, where so many signs of hope and a bright future were alive and present to a moving degree. And it was truest of all in the two groups I was blessed to spend the most time with: the staff and crew of S+L, whose home became the temporary "corporate offices" of Whispers (Eagles' decorations included), and the Basilian Scholastics of Frassati House, where I stayed, prayed... and dreamed holy dreams in the same bed used by a certain Great pontiff on his trip to TO five years back.

With all the thanks in the world, I've tried to put the meaningful beauty of it all into words since returning. To say I loved the experience is understatement, and I'm humbled that the feeling was mutual. The friendships made and sights had were a B12 shot of encouragement, and the evident spirit was what you find everywhere you get to see the best of the church in action. Per usual, though, the best summary isn't my own, and that's one of the many riches of a tradition that stretches back long before we got here and which, contrary to all the prophecies of doom you hear out there, will remain long after we're gone.

Not long after I got home, a friend sent along an e.mail whose timing was providential. In it was a quote from Teilhard de Chardin's Mass on the World that serves to sum up much of my own journey with a simple richness: "One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those you have given me to charm and sustain my life."

That thread has followed me a long way through these 16 years, and never ceased to move and enrich me in ways I'll never deserve. In a unique way, though, a lot of it came together in Toronto. Yet again, it moved me to tears. I'm the better for it, and I pray the work is, too. Whatever the case, the words of Ben Harper which have long rang true in my life are particularly apropos for the latest curve in this long, strange ride: "I am blessed to be a witness."

Everything I do, I do because of you lot. Thanks for the example, encouragement and inspiration -- let's all keep on keepin' on.