Thursday, June 28, 2007

From the CFO's Desk

Well, gang, all appearances are that it won't be long before the motu proprio on the Tridentine Mass is transmitted to the bishops of the world -- and, if precedent holds, likely before its public release.

Even beyond the gamut of this Wide World of Catholicism, none should be surprised that interest is running high, as evidenced by a further spike in traffic here, amped-up coverage in the mainstream press... and the consequent uptick in requests for comment. (Given the latter, it was a relaxing change-up to be called upon for some more waxing spiritual on the iPhone in today's San Francisco Chronicle.... And, no, I don't expect to see one in my short-term future... barring the Manna from Cupertino dropping out of the sky.)

As for the story of the hour -- or, depending on who you talk to, the last four decades -- the coverage of the days to come requires nothing but the utmost sensitivity, precision and balance. It's not just an issue of getting the story right at its core, but ensuring the most comprehensive, coherent presentation of a historic concession which, despite fierce tensions extending even to the closest layers of his inner circle, can be viewed as nothing less than Benedict XVI's determined intent for the fullest possible realization of the liturgical reform and, by extension, the life of the church.

(Clearly, the comprehensive bit's down... the coherent, not so much.)

To that end, acting on a well-placed indicator, the first extensive briefings on The Text, its context and, most crucially of all, what lies between its lines sono previsti [per me] entro alcune ore. And while the immersion experience of the pre-release comes with the territory of this gig, it doesn't (e.g. this month's mobile bill: $350) come cheap. And that's where you lot come in.

It's no secret -- at least, it shouldn't be -- that these pages exist solely by means of the generosity of their readership. Over recent months, given the editorial shift from a reliance on linkage to more in-depth, original (read: exclusive) reportage, just as the latter figure has continued to grow at a consistent clip, so, too have the demands.

While I pray it's still an easy read, what you see here day in and day out has become ever more costly to produce, regardless of whether the bottom line is measured in terms of time, energy or resources. What's more, while I love my job and wouldn't want to picture myself doing anything else, the operating conditions have gotten to the point where, to be honest, I've had to start picturing myself doing anything else...

...and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Any way you cut it, the last two and a half years have been a tremendous run, and there's much to be said for going out on top, on multiple fronts. The trust and kindnesses of so many, not to mention the mountain of feedback, prayers and encouragement (which have kept things rolling more than any other gift) have never ceased to blow me away, only increasing the sense of responsibility -- and sensus ecclesiae -- a project like this requires to be done well and done right. All of it, especially the many graces of the last year, has been completely unexpected... and, candidly, just as unsought.

My insufficiencies only prove all the more that the response to Whispers isn't due to the highly-lacking narration of the daily doings, but the effort to satisfy a need and hope that is clearly out there: in the church, the press and -- so it seems -- everywhere in between. While it's always been a struggle to pull my weight and rise to the level a readership of this kind should expect, especially given the truism of the business that you're only as good as your last piece, the task has only become tougher still of late, and I realize more powerfully with each passing minute that the best quality of its content is only possible to the extent its audience (i.e. ye daily 10,000+) supports it.

Long story short: the occasional Fund Drive is on, and the future of these pages hinges on the result.

Along the right sidebar lies the famous "guitar case," whose contents (when present) spare my bill collectors from being asked if they accept spiritual bouquets. So to the extent that you'll all allow me a reprieve from having to engage in that invariably furtive exercise, a world of thanks. (As my stack of "things I need to write thank-you notes for" already out-measures the sum total of consultations from the episcopal conferences on the wider permission for the Old Missal, all apologies for not being able to express these thanks on a more personal basis.)

Our friends in Officialdom have reiterated the Pope's expressed wish that the most significant text of his pontificate be "serenely received." But even so, we're in for quite the week, so buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.

Just inside the front door of the first house I called home, there's a little plaque that, so it seems, has been there forever. Its message might be simple, yet fulfilling it can sometimes be anything but: "In everything, give thanks."

There might be one name on the by-line here, but I rest grateful and then some in the knowledge that the record of 25 months, 3,100 posts, 3.1 million visitors, etc. owes its accomplishments to a team effort of the highest order: a cadre of sources, friends, donors and fans who -- often from the most unexpected and eminent of places -- have shared their unique gifts in every way conceivable, but most of all through their priceless contributions of presence, example, prayers and aid, especially in reminding me always that I am not alone.

Gerald Manley Hopkins once wrote that "Christ plays in 10,000 places... to the Father through the features of men's faces."

I have no small number of things to give thanks for from this journey. But over and above 'em all, the first is that, in every e.mail, every gift, in every kind word and every face, in all of them -- in each of you -- I know I've seen the Lord... and I can only hope I find myself closer to Him now than the day when, 16 years ago this week, the pilgrimage began, because that's what it's all about.

God knows I couldn't have planned any of this, and I know even less of what's next. Whatever it may bring, thanks for keeping me company along the way.