March 13, 2013
Mass or Mass Media?
Choosing Worship Over Air Time
CNN reporter Miguel Marquez with Catholic University students.
It was 7:45 p.m. Rome time. We had just sat down to dinner at a highly recommended restaurant. Dear friends from CUA were in town. The cell rang. I exited and walked outside to the street. We were right near the Pantheon, so I decided to walk the 50 feet to be in that piazza as I replied.
It was a producer from CNN. I did not recognize her name. I had done six interviews that day and was just off set from the Catholic Channel. Would I be available tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. (Rome time) she asked? They were going live for all the papal events and wanted me to comment on the Mass and the conclave. Then she said, “We will be on set and also ask you to walk up the street leading to the Vatican.” I asked, will we be commenting on the Mass? She said, not really.
The Mass was the occasion, but they wanted other footage. I said that I appreciated the offer but I was not her man. I needed either to be at the Mass or commenting on the Mass live. No more pieces they might use otherwise when the Mass was being celebrated. She said she understood. I am not sure.
I returned and ordered a simple pasta with cheese and pepper, and a veal saltimbocca. A lovely meal.
On the walk home (I always try to walk in Rome), I thought about the CNN request. I was candid. Then again what New Yorker is not candid! And I suspected my answer was not the one she expected. Oh, well. I returned to the lobby of the hotel of the folks who own the apartment, where I am staying (and which has no Wi-Fi!). Did emails and walked home. Day is done.
As planned, I went to the Mass for the election of a pontiff with two cardinals’ secretaries, Monsignor Steve Lopes of San Francisco, Cardinal William Levada’s secretary, and Monsignor Adam Parker, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien’s secretary. Because I was with them, I entered by the side entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. We met and greeted lots of folks and found our way to our chairs.
|Monsignors Irwin and Adam Parker.|
|Monsignors Steve Lopes and Irwin.|
It turns out that much earlier yesterday morning the secretaries had checked their bosses into the Santa Marta guest house in the Vatican. Cardinals upstairs, secretaries and luggage downstairs. (Downton Abbey?). It turns out that after Mass today some cardinals will not find some things they had packed in their luggage, including cell phones and iPads. Seems much more rigorous than TSA regulations at American airports. No Vatican leaks this time!
After Mass, I walked with monsignors Steve and Adam into the square. I thought to myself — these guys are like students on a snow day. Bosses locked up. The cat will play? Tonight they are hosting all the priest secretaries of the American cardinals for dinner. Why not? A snow day, indeed.
I walked back to the apartment. On the way I admit that I thought I may have lost the chance to comment any further about the conclave. I decided Mass over mass media.
I stopped by a favorite restaurant to say hello, not to eat. Since I rarely wear my monsignor’s cassock, I thought I would get a picture with the owner and his sister while wearing it. The photo would be for my files since I don’t do Facebook. There are three grades of monsignors.
High end is prothonary apostolic. Scarlet buttons, magenta sash, and on occasion a zucchetto (yarmulke) of black and red stripes. Second grade is domestic prelates. Scarlet buttons on a black cassock and magenta sash, also a magenta cassock for state occasions. (Mine is in my D.C. apartment closet!). And the third grade is papal chamberlains. Magenta buttons and magenta sash on black cassock. No red cassock. Sometimes called monjuniors!
Outside the restaurant was Raymond Arroyo from EWTN doing a radio interview with folks back home. We spoke and he introduced me to a pastor from New Orleans. He, in turn, introduced me to parishioner, Mary Matalin! I blurted out, “How do you and James stay married?” Probably not the best intro! She was a wonderful conversationalist and very gracious. (James Carville is home with the two children.)
I walked to the hotel for free Wi-Fi. In an email, another CNN producer confirmed that the Anderson Cooper folks wanted me on and that my request for an early-evening taping was OK. “Live” would have meant 1 a.m. Rome time. Not this boy.
All in a day’s work. I was glad that I was able to do both and not have to choose Mass or mass media.
But if I had to, there really would be no choice!