The Catholic media world is a funny little niche, full of quirky, talented individuals. This week, the Australasian Catholic Press Association is meeting in Hobart. This gathering brings together media people from Australia and New Zealand, Fiji and Hong Kong.
Last night, I was talking with one of the editors about our various travel arrangements to Hobart. We exchanged stories of how, in the midst of deadlines, we rush for planes, respond to our email on our blackberries and iPhones, and try to keep our publishing schedules.
My editor colleague spoke of frantically calling a taxi to get to the airport to arrive at this conference. This caused me to reflect on the busyness of life, the struggle to maintain a personal life, and the priorities we set for ourselves as media professionals. Yet we remain media professionals striving in some way along the Christian walk.
A friend of mine recently left a meeting in Sydney. She found herself with a quiet moment and planned to browse the shops on the way to the airport. But as she left the building and closed the gate behind her, she noticed an elderly man struggling up the hill. He was pushing a large trolley laden with suitcases, and was exhausted, bent over at almost a right angle.
Instead of walking by, she decided to go and see if he needed a hand. An hour and a half and some good conversation later, she and the man had walked the 200 metres to his tiny two room home where he lived on his own. As they reached his home, it became obvious that he would need medical attention, so she stayed with him until the ambos arrived.
As she arrived at the airport, my friend heard the ominous sound of a final page: “Your flight is awaiting an immediate departure, please go to gate 17”. She sprinted to the gate, but arrived just as the doors had closed and was forced to buy another ticket for the next flight.
Although this episode may have cost her somewhat, it probably also brought her some consolation. I’m sure we would all like to think we’d do the same if faced with that situation.
Yet, how often do we walk past the homeless woman in the street on the way to a meeting chatting on our phones? How often do we hear and write the stories about our modern day saints, but struggle to live out our own Christian vocations? How do we keep careful discernment as part of this process of publishing in a hungry, media saturated world? Where do we draw the line at too many meetings, too many fancy dinners? At what point do we make the call to miss a deadline for a greater good?
Sometimes, as a worker in the vineyard of the Catholic media, I wonder if, in my work, I am truly living out the call to live for the greater glory of God? Might it be better to be doing something else, something more hands on? Many times I wonder if I should return to Latin America and work there.
But then, I think of people like Dorothy Day…journalist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Between early morning breadlines, houses of hospitality, and tireless service to the poorest of the poor in the US, she also managed to edit, prolifically, the Catholic Worker publication – and also write for publications such as the National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal.
So, like Dorothy, can my Catholic Media Colleagues and I live out a saintly vocation in our work? Can we reach personal holiness in such a pressure-cooker environment? Indeed these days of technology seem to make us busier rather than simplifying our lives.
Yet having said all of this, more and more I see this call to sainthood in the media as possible. These challenges, and reflecting on them, will probably also make for much better copy for our respective publications.
Beth Doherty is media officer for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
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