Holy/dead time

Saturday 26 September 2015 – Homeport: Falmouth Harbor – Pope Saint Paul VI birth anniversary (1897)

The heading of this column, dear readers, if read incorrectly, could mislead you.  Far be it from me to cause confusion. To clarify, I added a slash between words. I’m not referencing time set aside for prayer in remembrance of the Holy Dead. No. No. I’m writing instead about “dead time”. We in the broadcasting industry use this expression to indicate the time in which someone is inactive while we are trying to film live action. Dead time can be costly when you’re paying top dollar in broadcasting fees.

Monsignor Steve Avila, who oversees the weekly television Mass, knows this term well. What happens if, while the cameras are rolling, the priest celebrant just sits there in his chair for five minutes of silent meditation? Silence is a necessary part of the celebration of Holy Mass, of course, but in the media we call it “dead time”. In the case of a televised Mass, one could say it is holy dead time. It still gets cut out.

 Pope Francis is back in Rome following his five-day visit to the United States. He landed in Washington, DC, on 22 September. Besides Washington, he also visited New York City and Philadelphia. During the pastoral visit of Pope Francis, both the secular and religious media covered his activities extensively.

Now, the thing is, when you have all this live filming going on, you need at least one person (preferably more) willing and able to give a running commentary. In the case of the papal visit, the task of the commentator was to talk incessantly about what the Pope was doing and why he was doing it – and just about anything else concerning the Papacy. Above all, any commentator must be able to babble on unceasingly without ever taking a breath. Those of us in the trade call it “vamping”. Dead time is unacceptable. Nor should ignorance of the subject prevent us commentators from pontificating on the matter at hand – or, actually, any other matter that comes into our head.

I’m glad I was not asked to be a commentator during the papal visit. I lack the wherewithal. Chit-chat is not my forte. Small talk is a real challenge for me. It takes an enormous amount of energy on my part.

On the outside chance that I would be asked by some television network to give a running commentary during the papal visit (which, thankfully, I was not), I prepared in advance a list of irrelevant facts I could inject during dead time. You know me, dear readers. My motto is “Semper Paratus” (always prepared), the marching song of the Coast Guard. “