Back to Earth

I’m writing this from several thousand feet over the State of Georgia, on my way back to DC after the 2015 Catholic New Media Celebration (CNMC). No, I am not sporting a cape and tights as I do so. While this will not be a particularly lengthy post, it is an important one for me, in that it marks my return to regular blogging following the past two months of hiatus. And before continuing I want to once again thank all of my readers for their gracious expressions of kindness following the death of my Mother.

There will be some fairly substantial changes afoot here in the coming months. I cannot yet provide a timetable, but I would ask that you keep your eyes peeled so that, as the saying goes, you will not find yourselves caught asleep at the switch. These changes should allow those of you who appreciate reading my fitful scribblings to do so in a better-framed context. My goal is to build upon the last substantial changes I made two years ago, in order to make the perusal of my writing a more user-friendly experience with respect to content, design, and accessibility.

For those of you who have never attended, I should explain that the CNMC is the perfect venue for a media producer looking to step up his game or tweak what he is already producing. It was refreshing to be encouraged to examine my content with a more critical – if not to say jaundiced, á la (Florence) King – eye. Even if, as it turned out, some of the presenters happened to make digs at me during their presentations. You know who you are (Greg Willits and Maria Johnson), and you’re going on a list.

While there was a great deal to process coming out of this CNMC, both personally and professionally, perhaps the most important takeaway was the notion that it’s time to pick up and start again where I had left off: a bit sadder, but hopefully also a bit wiser than I was before I stopped. I hope that your gracious patronage and engagement, gentle reader, will continue as it has lo these (nearly 7) years now. God bless you!

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Somewhere Over Georgia

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Saying Goodbye to Catholic Weekend

It is never easy to make this sort of announcement, but one must do one’s best.

Over the past two years it has been a great honor and privilege for me to work with some truly wonderful people over at the Star Quest Production Network (“SQPN”) on the “Catholic Weekend” show.  For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with it, Catholic Weekend is a videocast/podcast, where a group of Catholic friends get together via Google Hangout and talk about all sorts of topics: the news of the day, what is going on in their lives, etc.  Many times there are also interesting guests who join the show to discuss their own latest adventures and projects.  There is much laughter and teasing, but there is also a lot of love and good will.

However, I recently told my co-hosts and our CEO Father Roderick Vonhögen that I need to step down from co-hosting the show.  This was not an easy decision, but one which was made through careful consideration.  Much as I enjoy hanging out with these great people every week, I need to find some more free time in my own life to figure out where I am heading, on a number of fronts, and took the decision that this was the most practical way for me to do so.  Stepping down from the regular Saturday morning coffee klatch is saddening, quite frankly, but it will allow me a block of time I would not otherwise have, for matters that need my attention.

I want to thank Father Roderick, Jeff Nielsen, and Maria Johnson of SQPN in particular, for agreeing to take a chance on me as an unknown broadcast quantity.  When I joined the show I had no experience of broadcasting whatsoever, having only done public speaking as a lawyer in a courtroom, or as a lector at church.  Whatever abilities I have gained with respect to being able to speak off-the-cuff to an audience, with no prepared opening statement or reading from the Book of Sirach before me, are due in large part to their example and influence.  And the opportunity to address a large group of people at the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston a few months ago was really a privilege and eye-opening for me, not only in terms of personal experience, but also for seeing what wonderful, good people are associated with SQPN.

I must also thank my co-hosts Steve Nelson, Angela Sealana, and Sarah Vabulas for their friendship, support, and humor during my time at Catholic Weekend.  They have been more like siblings than co-workers to me, and I shall miss working with them, as one misses a sibling who moves across the country, not knowing when you will see each other next.  Thank you also to our fearless and patient producers over the past two years, initially Inge Loots and later Lyn Francisco, who were a tremendous help in getting the show going out in one piece, whatever trainwrecks may befall us along the way.  They took the time to make sure that any links I wanted to put in the show notes, in order to support people and things I care about, were accurate and there for our listeners to reference.

And finally I must thank the listeners, who stuck around over the past two years to hear what I might have to say.  A number have also become friends through social media, which means we will still be in touch, even though I am no longer on the show.  And of course, SQPN is a network which encourages the use of new media to make these kinds of connections, so there will be plenty of opportunities to both enjoy their programming and share feedback together in the future.

As to that future, I am not sure what I will do next, but then this is precisely why I need some time for reflection over at the Fortress of Solitude.  It will be odd actually *listening* to Catholic Weekend again, which is something I have not downloaded since I joined the show.  It will also be odd not to be sitting there, laughing with these folks on-air about a well-placed joke, or some silly technical snafu, a/k/a “The Betty Rubble Incident”.

Yet I wish them well, as I know from their very kind messages of support to me that they wish me well also.  As a community of believers, we are never truly separated from one another if we try to live in Christian love.  For His example of love, which guides SQPN and the efforts of those who work on Catholic Weekend, is typified by its constancy and perseverance, no matter what happens.  I have seen it, first-hand, in the people I have worked with on the Catholic Weekend show. And that love is something which I will be taking away with me as I go.  God bless you, kids.

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Some Good Things for Your Friday

Just a few clippings and items of note:

– Last evening’s Christmas Poetry party at the Catholic Information Center here in the Nation’s Capital, co-sponsored by the Thomas More Society of America, was a terrific success: great turnout, great food, and a great selection of poems.  If you were not able to attend and find yourself in the Washington area next December, make sure to put this event on your calendar.  I was asked to present a poem for the evening, and read a humorous piece by an anonymous author known as “The Lawyer’s Night Before Christmas” which was well-received.  My thanks again to the CIC and the Thomas More Society for a terrific evening.

– On a related note, I would draw the reader’s attention to a new section of the CIC website, known as CIC Kids, run by my dear friend Miss Margaret Perry of Ten Thousand Places.  CIC Kids selects and reviews some of the best children’s books available today, in a wide variety of genres from picture books to tales of adventure to well-loved classics.  As an example, take a look at the picks for the Top 10 Children’s Books of 2013.  Whether you have kids yourself, work with children, or just want to give the little ones of your acquaintance good things to read, this is a terrific resource for sifting through the enormous number of choices in children’s books to find worthwhile reading material.

– Tomorrow on the Catholic Weekend show our special guests will be Father Benedict Croell, O.P., who is the Vocations Director for the Eastern Province of the Dominicans, and author Elizabeth Scalia, a.k.a. “The Anchoress”, Managing Editor of the Catholic portal at Patheos.  Among other topics we will be discussing religious orders, since many people both Catholic and non-Catholic do not understand exactly what they are, and how being a member of an order fits into the Christian life.  Join us beginning around 10am Eastern for the recording of the show over on the Catholic Weekend channel on the SQPN site, where you can not only watch us live, but participate in the chat room with other viewers of the show.  If you cannot join us for the live recording, episodes are edited usually later the same day, and then made available to download on iTunes or directly on the SQPN site.

– Finally, another reason to visit Washington albeit in the more near term arises as part of the Year of Italian Culture here in the U.S.  Now through March 16, 2014, the National Gallery of Art here in Washington has arranged with the Capitoline Museum in Rome to exhibit one of the most famous statues from antiquity, the 1st-2nd Century A.D. Roman marble sculpture known as “The Dying Gaul”.  The sculpture is thought to be a copy of a lost Greek bronze from around 230 B.C., and was rediscovered in Rome in the 1600’s.  It subsequently had a tremendous influence on both sculptors and painters, and copies of it were made for museums and private collections all over Europe.  Not content with a copy, Napoleon briefly stole it and placed it in the Louvre, but it was later returned to the Capitoline after his fall from power.  This is the first time the statue has left Italy for two centuries, so if you find yourself in D.C. in the coming months, make a point of going to see it.

Detail of "The Dying Gaul" by Unknown Sculptor (1st-2nd Century A.D.) Capitoline Museum, Rome

Detail of “The Dying Gaul” by Unknown Sculptor (1st-2nd Century A.D.)
Capitoline Museum, Rome