Next time I
will ask for
Ispent last Tuesday afternoon recording an Advent meditation for EWTN. EWTN is, of course, Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network, beamed to 140 countries via satellite or the internet from Alabama. This December there are four Advent meditations coming to you from the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Farm Street "in London's fashionable Mayfair", as I put it in my introduction to camera. I had forgotten how beautiful Farm Street church is, although I personally think St James's, Spanish Place, probably just has the edge as the most beautiful Catholic church in London. Both have an atmosphere of deep devotion. This atmosphere helped, somehow, with the artificiality of recording a meditation for Gaudete Sunday on a Tuesday in October and preaching to an empty church. As it was supposed to be the Third Sunday of Advent we duly changed the tabernacle veil and lectern fall to rosecoloured hangings. I have to say that under the television lights the effect seemed to me less rose than rather pale and salmon-pasty. I expect people will be able to adjust their sets.
In deference to my inexperience I had been promised that we would have the whole afternoon to shoot the meditation and I was assured that we could stop and start and do lots of takes. As it transpired, we didn't have time for that at all, and the whole thing was done in just two half takes of 15 minutes each. As a result I wasn't as happy with it as I would have been with a chance to have a second go at some bits of it. I strongly suspect that if I watch it the feeling will be like the one you get when you first hear yourself on tape a "that's never me" sort of reaction. I anticipate the Last Judgment will be something similar, only of a rather more terrifying intensity: the stripping away of all one's illusions about oneself, a shocking sight of how one really is which is nothing like the self one has imagined for so long.
I had worked hard on the text of my meditation, but I am not sure that I wasn't concentrating too hard on the readings for the Third Sunday, and that it wasn't too much of a sermon. I have a feeling that the medium required something with more of a fireside chat sort of feeling to it. I didn't realise it was all to be shot in close-up, which does rather change the dynamic of how you deliver a meditation it has to be conversational rather than rhetorical. I am afraid at heart I am a disciple of F R Leavis who insists that there needs to be a stylistic correlation between ideas and their expression. A warm, conversational style, therefore, is not necessarily suited to the expression of ideas about the martyrdom of John the Baptist or St James talking about the Day of the Lord.
With a camera pointed at my face the whole time I had to work very hard not to rely on my text too much. and half an hour is a long time to speak for and stay coherent, at least I find so. I can see why politicians and newsreaders have autocues. I will insist on one next time, I think. Anyway, it is, as they say, in the can, so there's no point fretting over it.
As chance would have it, Radio 4's Sunday Worship came from our Catholic secondary school a couple of weeks ago, and I was involved in a small way with that as well. I quite often have one ear tuned to the programme on a Sunday morning but I have never really appreciated before that it is almost always live. I somehow always just assumed it was recorded.
So it meant an early start on Sunday morning; the choir and the readers were all in place by about 7.15 for a broadcast which goes out at 8.10 to about two million people. The presence of a congregation mostly made up of parents of the boy s in the choir made it a fatless artificial and nerve-racking experience than having to. stare into the lens of a camera. and I rather enjoyed it, It reminded me of the old days of doing short "Thought for the Day" type meditations for Vatican Radio when I was a student in Rome. In the event, the programme's theme living with ancer seems to have touched many people, judging by the e-mails and calls the school has received. I myself have had two e-mails from, people with whom I was at school who heard the broadc ast .
The broadcast was over by a quarter to nine, and the music staff, the boys and I all dispersed quickly to DUI different churches for another lcind of Sunday worshuip: from the wonders of mass media to the wonders of the Mass, the sacrifice which reaches to the ends of the earth and time and includes all our hopes and son-tows within the immeasurable frequency of its love.