So, Who Shot Whom Today?

The Thirty-Fourth Saturday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.

Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Daniel 7: 15-27.
• Daniel 3: 82-87 (in place of the psalm).
• Luke 21: 34-36.

The Fourth Class Feria of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.

Lessons from the common, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:

• Ecclesiasticus 24: 14-16.
Benedícta et venerábilis es …*
• Luke 11: 27-28.

The Twenty-Sixth Saturday after Pentecost; the Feast of the Holy Venerable Martyr Stephen the Younger; and, the Feast of the Holy Martyr Irenarchus.

Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:

• Galatians 5: 22—6: 2.
• Luke 10: 19-21.

8:17 AM 11/28/2015 — As you know, whenever it's a Saturday and there's no saint for the day, we always observe the Saturday Memorial of the Mother of God here at the Shrine, and that opportunity couldn't have come at a more propitious time, as there's so much we have to place in the lap of our Blessed Mother. Father Paul made me laugh yesterday: I had steamed us some fish for dinner and, after dinner, he usually goes to watch the news; and, last night he gets up from the table and says, “Well, time to go see who shot whom today.” And isn't it the truth? Every time we turn on the TV someone is shooting someone, or police are searching for someone, or large numbers of people are protesting that the police shot somebody. How long will it be before yesterday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood death chamber will be blamed on anyone who believes that abortion is murder?
     It's very easy to watch the news and become upset or depressed or angry or all of the above, and to think that the world is simply coming apart at the seams; but is it really? I actually had a conversation not long ago with someone who was complaining about how upset he was about everything that he was seeing in the news, and I don’t think he was expecting the advice I gave him, because my advice to him was to switch it off. It’s like that old joke where the man goes in to see his doctor and he says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” And the doctor replies, “Then, don’t do that.” If watching the news upsets us, why is the advice to simply turn it off not acceptable to us? Because we’re afraid that if we do, we’re going to miss something; or, maybe its because we've convinced ourselves that, if we don't keep ourselves informed, that means we're apathetic and don't care.
     But what is it exactly we think we’re going to miss, and what do we think we can do about it? Some of you may be old enough to remember when television news first started. TV networks first began broadcasting news in the late 1950s; before then, you got your news either from the paper or from the newsreel at the movie theater. For almost twenty years, the CBS Evening News consisted of Edward R. Murrow reading headlines from the papers for fifteen minutes, without commercials, followed immediately by that week's episode of "Milton Berle." There were no pictures, no reporters "on the scene," no experts to tell us what it all meant; and it was over in a quarter of an hour. Was that because there was much less going on than there is now?
     Before he died, Murrow was very candid about the debate that went on at the time as to whether this new thing called "Television Journalism" should become commercial. The networks that broadcast news reports did so gratis; there was no revenue generated by it. Some—including Murrow—thought it would be a mistake for news to attempt to make money because it would corrupt it's objectivity. The decision to advertize on news broadcasts extended the time needed from fifteen minutes to a half hour; and, suddenly, finding ways to make people watch your channel instead of the other guy's became important. Hence, live reports from the scene, expert commentary, human interest ("Here's a neighbor who will tells us what a nice quiet man the ax murderer was," or "How do you feel about your children being eaten by a python?"), and, eventually whole shows devoted to commentary, none of which contributed in any way to the transmission of essential and needed information, but hopefully made the whole thing more riveting than than the other channel.
     When twenty-four hour cable news channels first appeared some twenty years ago, the idea wasn't that anyone would watch the news for twenty-four hours; the idea was that people could catch ten or fifteen minutes of essential news when they had time to watch it, instead of having to schedule their day around some broadcast, not that anyone would actually watch the news for twenty-four hours.
     Journalism is not a public service; it’s a business. It makes its money by selling advertising, but advertising doesn’t make any money unless a lot of people are watching. So, the talking head spouting news at you has a commercial interest in doing everything he can to make sure your eyes and ears are glued on him and his channel as often and as long as possible. So, no matter what is actually happening in the world—or not happening as the case may be—he’s got to find a way to make sure you think the world is falling apart, and you’d better darn well watch it or you’re gonna miss it. If he’s got footage of some explosion or battle, he’ll play it for you over and over again, each time embellishing it with even more intense descriptions of the carnage; then he’ll truck out the ubiquitous panel of experts and analysts and retired generals who will each tell you how this is, indeed, the most important and critical thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe. If there's some sort of standoff with some gunman, or there's a manhunt going on, if you so much as leave to go to the kitchen and get a Coke, you’ll be sorry because you’ll miss the end of the world. Maintaining our spiritual equilibrium and tending to our interior life is difficult enough in today's world; allowing ourselves to become saturated with information overload in the form of this kind of mercenary propaganda makes it practically impossible.
     My point is simply this: world events are not unfolding any faster than they have in the past, there are no more frequent tragedies than there were in the past, and the world is not falling apart at the seams. If it seems that way, that’s because the events of the day are being packaged and repackaged in an ever increasing sensationalistic way for the purpose of doing exactly what they're doing: causing us to park our rear ends in front of the TV, getting us all hot and bothered over events about which we can do nothing; nothing, or course, except pray, which we should be doing every day anyway. So, the advice of the doctor in the joke is actually quite sound: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” “Then, don’t do that.”
     “Father, I get upset when I watch the news.” “Then, don’t watch the news.” I can guarantee that, if the world comes to an end, you’re not going to miss it because you weren’t watching the news. Every day we ask the Mother of God to “turn Thine eyes of mercy towards us” as we suffer in this “valley of tears”; and, what is it we ask Her to do whenever we pray the Hail, Holy Queen? We ask Her to “show unto us the Blessed Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.” We shall see Him in just a few moments in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; and, there, right before us, we will have the answer to everything going on in the world that upsets us.

* The Gradual is non-Scriptural: "Blessed and venerable are you, O Virgin Mary, who, with unsullied virginity, were found to be the Mother of the Savior. O Virgin, Mother of God, He Whom the whole world does not contain, becoming man, shut Himself in your womb. Alleluia, alleluia. After childbirth you remained a pure virgin, O Mother of God, intercede for us. Alleluia."