WAS it an omen? Was it a warning? Was it another form of lightning striking York Minster? These questions arose after the stone cross on our eight storey building fell into the car park below the other morning, missing the editor of some years standing. The cross had been standing for 85 years, looking down on Lambs Passage, the original setting for J Priestly's Angel Pavement, and the Catholic Herald of 100 years standing.
Of this only independent Catholic newspaper in Britain, Cardinal George Basil Hume, OSB, Archbishop of Westminster, has said: "It pushes and prods and makes life uncomfortable for people like me, and that must be a good thing."
Was it a prod? Was it a good thing for the editor that the cross fell as if struck by lightning and missed him?
It concentrates the mind wonderfully to contemplate the shattered remains of a large and weathered stone cross. A glance from the rear window of the editorial office, across Whitbreads Brewery and the Barbican, confirms that the Ball and the Cross still stands firm and golden atop Wren's splendid dome of St Paul's. This is reassuring, affirming that the
Faith is as strong as when Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote his apocalyptic novel, The Ball and the Cross in 1909. So God's in His heaven, and all's right with the world.
But the fall of the cross provokes the question, how stands the Catholic Herald, as we approach Advent this year? And the answer? It stands tall among quality journals, but it could stand taller.
And how can you, dear and esteemed reader help? Well, one very practical way would be for each loyal reader to find just one more regular reader.
If each of our 30,000 or so readers would make the comparatively simple effort of producing one additional reader, we would double our circulation overnight. This doubling of our circulation would enhance our advertising revenue, and also enable us to increase our number of pages, and our range of famous name contributors joining the ranks of Eamonn Andrews, John Ryan, Bruce Kent, Frank Field, Gerard Noel, Delia Smith and others. There are a number of ways of procuring a new reader. In addition to persuading your friend, or neighbour, to simply place a regular order for a weekly copy with the local newsagent, or parish priest, you might consider, dear reader, persuading somebody to take out a gift subscription to a missionary in the Third World.
Nearer home, a parent or uncle or godparent might consider taking out an annual subscription for an undergraguate niece or nephew attending a university, or sixth form college. Bear in mind that the average age of our editorial staff is well under 30 years of age, and their writings are constantly beamed at their peers, and age group, as well as that broad constituency which makes up the readership of the Catholic Herald.
Why not a subscription for example, for a nun in a convent, or to celebrate a marriage, or marriage anniversary? Please think about it, and then act.
The order with the local newsagent is the simplest solution.
We are not in the habit of asking our readers for help, so it is not the easiest or the most pleasant thing to do. Anyway, dear reader, thank you for all your loyal and very considerable support, even though at times we may try your patience.
We feel close to you, and we also feel that our young and dedicated editorial staff share with you the same values. Because of this closeness between writers and readers we feel that it is just that bit easier for us to ask for that one extra reader.
In some ways, it would seem to us that the work of a Catholic newspaper is, perhaps, like a votive candle shining in the darkness. Pray, that the flickering light of our small candle continues to burn brightly and steadily, beckoning wandering men and women and young people towards Christ, who is our home.
Share with us in this enthusiasm of the Faith, which that journalist of all journalists, Hilaire Belloc, expressed when he wrote in his "Ballade To Our Lady of Czestochowa": "This is the Faith I have held and hold.
And this is that in which 1 mean to die".
Terence Sheehy Editor