He cruises down Oil Well Road, sunshades on his eyes, mouth set in a straight line, waves of scraggly oaks rolling past him, scanning the horizon for the Ave Maria turnoff, a 4,000-watt generator hunkered under the floor and a 45-foot microwave antenna on the roof.
Pity this reporter.
Earlier this day, the pope resigned, and his editors had instantly geared themselves for the hunt of that great white whale of journalism, the one they are always convinced lurks under the seas of every story, whether it be an influx of zebra snails in Madagascar’s seaports, or a virus affecting honeybees in Culbertson, Texas -- the local angle.
Yes, pity him. While Scott Pelley of CBS gets to fly the 5,000 miles to Rome on an expense account, this poor guy must journey to Ave Maria with a jelly donut because his editors have decided that if you can’t make it to St. Peter’s Square, Ave Maria is next best. Coming to rest amid a small flotilla of similar trucks, his microwave antenna floats up like a mast, while videographers surge out in search of passersby.
What is netted are such insightful remarks as this: “Yeah, I was really surprised to hear that the Pope is resigning.” Eventually the news trucks lower their antennas, and I reflect it was a long way to travel for comments like that, when, after all, they might have done as well at a local Catholic church after daily mass.
At the Ave Herald, the news site for our town, our sights were mostly focused on the Ave Maria University (AMU) students who were studying theology near Rome, and who were making repeated visits to St. Peter’s Square during the conclave. AMU junior Alexandra Clark reported that hundreds of young people were gathering in prayer daily, and, “The media are enthralled by this great witness of faith and flash their cameras all around us.”
Alas, relatively few shots of that enthralling witness make it to the major newspapers, but two young men in St. Peter’s Square — who seem to be giving an impression of those legendary Canadian dimwits, the McKenzie brothers — actually get on TV. “Like, we came because we heard everyone is here, you know?” leaving little doubt they would have been just as likely to show up for a talking woodchuck, but the media gravely query them about various issues facing the church as if these fellows were noted theologians.
“HABE-a-moose papam,” a CBS network news reporter finally intones, mangling pronunciation of the Latin phrase, “We have a pope,” although she’s had a month to learn it. Meanwhile, in Ave Maria, the reporters return to tell viewers what an Argentinian pope means to the people of Southwest Florida.
“Is that a mass being held inside the oratory?” one reporter asks, and when she is told no, it’s a prayer service, begins her report by saying, “Inside this oratory, they are holding a mass.”
Sadly, our original reporter, the one with the shades and the jelly donut, is so occupied scooping up one banal comment after another that he never notices the young lady from the Diocese of Buenos Aires chattering excitedly a few yards off a person with actual firsthand knowledge of Cardinal Bergoglio. By the time I can catch his attention, I see she is gone. Off he heads back to his station, unaware of the great white whale that was so close at hand here in Ave Maria, the local angle that got away.
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For other stories about Ave Maria, check out the Ave Herald (www.aveherald.com) which Patricia publishes along with her husband, David Shnaider.