Friday, November 21, 2008

Pooling Wisdom

The much-needed catch-up is comin' along, gang... but before we head into the slowdown of Thanksgiving Week and the "watchful waiting" of a new liturgical year, your narrator's got a few things on his mind -- this time, though, for your input and consultation.

First, as 2008's left us all with no shortage of things to mull over, nominations are open (and, yep, eagerly awaited) for these pages' traditional Churchman of the Year.

In a nutshell, the Churchman -- who, to be clear, need not be a man... nor ordained/professed... nor even a sole individual -- highlights one of two things: the year's top newsmaker on the beat or a key figure in a storyline whose import rose markedly over the twelve months just past. Of course, last year's honoree was a little bit of both... and as he now prepares to become the Stateside church's lead spokesman on its top issue, it could be said that -- for once -- the choice was probably onto something.

In cycles past, the title's been split up and given both to a global figure and an American one, too; given the way this year's shaken out, that'll probably be the case again. Regardless, it all begins with you, so drop me a line with your choice and a brief rationale as to why s/he stands out. (And, for the record, nominations are not votes.) Per custom, the Year in Review package will appear at the Octave's tail-end; if anyone could use a guide to recall the events of '08, the archives (down the right sidebar) are ready and waiting.

Second, it may not have seemed like it of late, but it's fair to say this year's top story on the US church-beat was April's papal visit. Yet while those magic five days here in the East might be long gone from the front-pages, the moment was never intended to be a mere flash in the pan or a fleeting feel-good experience, but a catalyst of grace. Ergo, in that light, the PopeTrip is well-worth revisiting as the year winds down... and, with it, a question (or several) for this readership: What was its fruit -- for you? Did you come away different? Renewed? Moved to do something you didn't do, or even hadn't thought of doing, before? (If so, what?) In other words, how has it impacted your journey (or, alternatively, has it at all)?

One didn't have to be in DC or New York to be moved by the moment, so, again, any impressions on these would be greatly appreciated -- provided the response suffices, these will be a running feature through December.

And, lastly, in light of this Pauline Year's emphasis on proclamation -- and, indeed, that very useful suggestion for a "Year of Preaching" as its follow-up -- next weekend's New Year will see something new here, too: a running feature that hopefully some find useful... namely, the "Word of the Week."

Sure, B16's Angelus talks have been posted fairly often 'round these parts over the years... these days, however, you can find those anywhere, and it's time to shine a light on the far too often unsung riches in the trenches. As none of us can be transcribing in real-time at 30,000 parishes simultaneously, though, I'm really gonna need help on this one to get it off the ground... and I'm hoping that assist isn't too much to ask of those among us licitly permitted to preach.

The gold standard for the exercise: a text (15-20 minutes max.) that brings the best mix of two qualities -- namely, substance and salience.

Guiding principles? In brief, soaring oratory accomplishes nothing unless ordinary folks can use it in their daily lives; a laundry-list of reproaches tends to do even less... just like, at the opposite extreme, the happy-clappy "Aren't we all so wonderful?" stuff.

Bottom line: I'm looking for a mix of Word and witness that's able to both draw a people in and send 'em forth charged and uplifted. To set the Ambo, as it were, the Advent lineup is already taken care of, but open call for submissions begins with Christmas, when one'll be posted for each of the day's four Masses (Vigil, Midnight, Dawn and Day).

On an additional note, it's my hope to go as deep as possible into the trenches with these -- from the academy and the inner cities to the rural outposts, the heartland of these shores to points far afield; left and right, high and low, rich and poor... because if there's one thing of which all of us can never have enough reminding, it's that while niches abound, at the end of the day this is one church, and each of our nooks and tribes can learn more than a little from the rest.

Granted, there's a difference between the written and spoken word. But regardless of medium, a good preach is a good preach. And, come Advent's end, pulpiteers, we'll all be waiting on one. From you. Every week.

(Can't wait to see the result.)

And with that, back to the mail-mines. In the meantime, though, I pray these things aren't too much to ask -- and, as always, feel free to ream me about any or all of 'em -- but I just keep on realizing ever more that in terms of quality and impact, no one of us can do something as well as all of us together... sometimes, it just takes an idea to get the ball rolling and a willing hand to take care of the legwork.

In a nutshell, at its best, that's what church is, and that just so happens to be the story of these pages and whatever little they've achieved these last almost four years, to boot. Ergo, thanks again to everyone who's been along for the ride -- both the side-track one here, and the way bigger, more important one in the great Out There.

Thanksgiving seems to start ever earlier with time, so to everyone making a head start for the road over the weekend, safe travels and a restful week. And to all the rest of us, a Happy Friday and a great weekend.