April 17, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Our duty is ‘to serve the truth and the common good’

Shirley Vogler MeisterEach year after Lent ends and we celebrate the miracle of the Risen Christ, I feel relieved but also rejuvenated.

During Lent, I ponder and pray and read more than usual, hoping for the proverbial “light” to flood my mind with clarity and wisdom. This year, that came late in Lent while I was reading an Emily Dickinson poem:

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant
“Success in Circuit lies
“Too bright for our infirm Delight
“The Truth’s superb surprise
“As Lightning to the Children eased
“With explanation kind
“The truth must dazzle gradually
“Or every man be blind.”

I’ve read this poem often, with various interpretations. This time, truth came gradually, but finally and firmly formed and wonderfully welcomed.

Recently, I have pondered whether to once again write for the secular rather than the religious press—as I once did.

In fact, years ago at a writing seminar, the keynote speaker was William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well.

He emphasized that the writer is best when he can bring Christian principles into the secular press, but not ostentatiously. I felt smug and validated because that’s exactly what I was doing for non-religious publications.

Recently, during a Lenten meditation after reading the Dickinson poem, I realized, “That was then; now is now.”

When I began writing for the Catholic press, including The Criterion, I learned that I never had to “tell it slant.” I could write about “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost/Spirit” with no complaints from readers. I could openly express my faith and my feelings without censorship.

Then I looked closely at secular magazines and papers, and realized that, indeed, “Success in Circuit lies.”

I don’t want to take the circuitous route to the truth, nor do I want to write that way. I find more honesty in the Catholic press than the secular, where shades of gray are too often written as the truth.

When reading The Criterion, I am edified and uplifted just as I am when reading other Catholic papers or magazines. I also find reporters for the Catholic press are more accurate when it comes to the life within our parishes.

According to a recent statement from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, “Journalists have a duty to serve the truth and the common good, not just the crowd, not just the shareholder … not just their own personal convictions … . Good reporting has social and moral gravity.”

Sometimes, the truth dazzles gradually, as Dickinson observed. My goal is not to “dazzle,” but to be faithful—as indicated in the title of my column.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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