On October 7, 1974, Monsignor Barry R. L. Connerton and I stood on the steps of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence. The Most Reverend Kenneth Angell had just been ordained as auxiliary bishop of Providence by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau. Monsignor Connerton, then assistant editor of the then-Providence Visitor, suggested that I should write a weekly column for the diocesan newspaper. I had written innumerable Letters to Editor to both the Providence Visitor and the Providence Journal.
Sunday sales, picture snapping at Church ceremonies, religious garb and Catholic Charismatics are among the topics that readily come to mind. Monsignor Connerton and I parted that day without a final decision on the invitation. Later that month, Monsignor Connerton telephoned and asked me to write four columns for the approaching season of Advent, 1974. The columns were dutifully submitted to the Visitor office and then were passed on by Monsignor Connerton to Monsignor John Cox, scholarly philosophy professor from our seminary days. Monsignor Cox’s analysis noted that my opening paragraphs were imaginative and colorful but then my writings drifted off into concepts, theories and principles. (As that sentence just did.) “The Quiet Corner,” a label chosen by Monsignor Connerton, was billed as a weekly commentary on the Sunday Scripture readings. This Biblical objective has been generally observed but often enough the column has been used to publish family anecdotes, travelogues, obituaries, Church commentary and personal piques. Thus “The Quiet Corner” became a fixture in the local diocesan newspaper and, as of this coming First Sunday of Advent, will have been featured in every printing of “The Providence Visitor” and now “The Rhode Island Catholic” for the past forty years!
The composing and submitting of “The Quiet Corner” is itself a graphic commentary on the technological advances of the past half-century. In 1974, each column was punched out on a portable typewriter with eraser and White-Out at hand. As erasures and corrections multiplied, a fresh piece of paper would be rolled into the typewriter and amended paragraphs re-written. Biblical commentaries, the Catholic Encyclopedia, favorite authors and a newspaper were always near for reference. A completed column would be pulled from the typewriter, folded into a business size envelope and then slipped under the door of the Visitor office on Broad Street, Providence, as I made my way home to Woonsocket for a day off. The Visitor staff would then re-type the article, affix a title and ready it for publication. Catholic Rhode Islanders awaited the arrival of the diocesan weekly in the Friday mail.
Now, forty years later, I sit at my Dell personal computer and bring up a blank page on the screen. Then I go to the web site of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, find the Sunday readings on their liturgical calendar, and transfer those reading to my blank page. Sometimes a thought is already on my mind that I attempt to find reinforced by the Sunday Scriptures; sometimes I let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Once I begin to type, Spell-check will correct all my spelling and grammatical errors. If I want a quote from the Bible or a papal document or a selected author, I simply “Google” a few pertinent words and lo!, the exact quote is there for my use. Once the article is completed, I transfer my musings to Outlook Email, click the address of the R.I. Catholic, press “Send” and the column is delivered to the R.I. Catholic office in seconds. The office in turn transfers the column into their publication format and the process is complete. Catholic Rhode Islanders, impatient for the mail, can now immediately view the “Quite Corner” on their home computer or even on their hand-held cell phone.
The technological advances in the publishing world are indicative of the astounding advances made in the world of medicine, transportation, entertainment, education and the building trades. Daily life in 2014 is astoundingly more connected and more convenient than a single generation ago. Alas, the goodness revealed in America’s technological development has been sadly compromised by the nation’s moral laxity. Traditional family life, from pre-birth through marriage to old age, has been greatly dishonored over the past forty years. Until the American people restore family stability, technological achievement will remain a mocking boast.