Distilling Advent Down to Newsfeed Size (A Necessary Art)

Colleague Tim Brunk and I were separately contacted by Catholic News Service staffer Carol Zimmerman to provide information and commentary on the Advent season. For my part, I spoke with Carol on the phone for nearly an hour, while Tim provided input via email (a third person consulted was Paulist Father Larry Rice).

To date, Ms. Zimmerman has published two articles from what I can safely assume was a significant amount of historical, liturgical, and theological input: “Catholic liturgies avoid Christmas decorations, carols in Advent” and “Advent: liturgical season with two parts and tools to help.”

Having done many of these sorts of interviews with a range of media reporters, I find myself intrigued by what a given writer (undoubtedly with her/his editor) chooses to include in the highly limited column-inches or minutes (often, seconds!) at her/his disposal. The questions reporters ask about Christian liturgy and sacraments, I find, provide this academic liturgical theologian vital feedback on what the wider population (Christian and, often, wider) find of interest and importance.



  1. Ha! Here’s another one. I was interviewed last year for “The ‘Splainer” for Religion News Service. Certainly they were trying to reach a broad base (and not only Catholics).
    I have to admit that it’s good to see that people keep writing articles on the seasons, even if they are pitched for such a general audience. It’s a public service. We cannot assume that even church goers know the reasons why we celebrate Advent!

  2. But the purple used in Advent is not the same purple used for Lent. Years ago, it was suggested that the Advent purple be more of a blue-violet tone, and the Lent purple be am ore red-violet. Just as there are different shades of green for the various stages of Ordinal Time, so there are different purples for Advent and Lent.

    1. That suggestion has no basis in the governing ritual books, but if a formal distinction were to be adopted, the suggestion is the reverse of what would be a better argued case in terms of the very long historical development of dyes and vestment colors.


      That said, a cleric has choice over what to use among the “violet” vestments in the sacristy for a given celebration. It’s that there’s no governing rule other than it be violet.

  3. These articles written for a general audience surely are a good thing when they provide a window to the general reader of the insights of experts such as those quoted in these examples.

    I will say as one who, from time to time in my career, has tried to leverage the media to promote corporate stuff, that getting a reporter and her editors to reflect the point of view I’m trying to convey is an art, one I haven’t mastered. What I see coming out of the process isn’t always what I thought I had provided by way of input. Reporters and editors bring their own points of view, one that is undoubtedly influenced by their understanding of their readers and what they believe their readers want to know, and what they produce tends to get filtered through that point of view.

    I don’t claim that what Bruce Morrill, Tim Brunk and Rita Ferrone have been doing by way of interviews about Advent is the same as my corporate shilling, but the filtering by the intermediary media editorial structure may be a common element.

    We now see the occupant of the White House using Twitter to try to circumvent that reportorial / editorial judgment. As most of us probably learn of his tweets through media reports, I am not sure that it succeeds.

  4. Tangential but perhaps instructive to contemplate:

    Within one month’s time, divers infotainment producers and advertisers* will make hammer home – John the Baptist would be envious! – the Good News that American civil culture** will begin its annual Advent of Preparation for the Coming of Summer by quasi-religious rituals of abstinence, mortification of the flesh and Good Works:


    * Said producers will also be sure to include adverts from processed food providers to offer penitents some temporary alleviation of anxiety this annual ritual triggers. This is the real purpose of the ritual.

    ** Well, from my nearly 30 years of participating in health clubs/YMCAs of divers sorts, it’s much more the female half that shows up promptly upon the heels of The Holidaze, with the male half not necessarily showing up in force until its local football team is out of the playoffs or Super Bowl. Which, in places with significant winter weather, makes February the most congested month of the year for inside exercise until the snow/ice melts enough to get those preparing for early spring road races/marathons (Boston for my neck of the woods,and I live in an area favored for training by local runners) back out onto the roads.

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