There is the Mass, and then, there is something you watch on the “tee-vee.” (Or, “computer screens,” for the sticklers.) Let me draw an analogy. There is being in the riot at Seattle, say; and then, there is watching it on the news. True, the latter of these activities is safer, and you may make yourself quite comfy in front of your home entertainment centre. And then, at your leisure, do the Facebook post, in which you may express your moralizing rage. (Coolly, for best effect.)

When I was a “journalist” — God help me, but it was an increasingly long time ago — my understanding was that the job involved getting into the riot. Andy Ngo may be the only journalist left, unless we count “talking heads” and “scribblers.” Well-informed, at first hand, on events in such towns as Seattle and Portland — where the bourgeoisie now enjoy their “summer of love” — he has been beaten up a few times. For journalism was meant to be a dangerous sport, quite unlike ping-pong.

Alas, and already in Vietnam, I discovered that only the photographers looked directly on the face of battle. This is because they were getting paid for the pics — in cash, but sometimes in prizes. The people who wrote the (frequently misleading) captions were safe in a bar, back in Saigon, or more likely, in the editorial suites of New York. It interested me that the photographers were often rightwing crazies. Whereas, the scribblers were, generally, leftists to a man, or in those days, the very occasional woman. I liked to get my information from photographers, whenever possible, but the scribblers did not. In possession of a fully-formed “narrative” from New York, they had already written their stories.

Am I exaggerating? Less than usual. My caricature points to a flaw in the meejah — cowardice, ignorance, arrogance, and malice, stirred into a rather potent brew. Then we had “editors,” to do the distillation.

But getting back to church services, and especially the Catholic ones to which I am partial, I would say you had to be there. That the Mass is different in kind from a riot, or a war zone, I’d be the first to admit. Done properly, it is extremely ordered, and after remembering such aperçus as, “suffer the little children” — the Gospel line and not the horror title by Stephen King — our participation is not crucial. Except for us.

As sundry religious scribblers have observed, the spiritual front-line runs through every human heart; so that we are all present for it, even while we are running away. But it is a fine point of Christian honour that we acknowledge Christ is also there — as it were, in the centre of the battle. Or like the best sorts of journalists — and we are actually soldiers — we should be there, too, with eyes and ears fully open.

Rather than watching with our Pringles, at home on tee-vee.


JUST RETURNED from Mass up here, in the Great White North, to an email from my Chief Buncombe Correspondent, reporting the latest from North Carolina. That was: “Purell dispensers with gold plastic cap and pump handle, for liturgical use.” … It turns out I hadn’t seen everything. … Was myself distracted by the thought: What else could they do? For their obstacles aren’t working. Catlicks turn out to be smarter than lab rats — again, taking the Left by surprise.