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Inside NCR

There’s still writing room in the bottle

Do you hear that sound? (I’m doing my best to be dramatic here.) It’s us hurtling toward that fuzzy, inaccurate, overhyped, under-understood but nevertheless resounding moment when we pass over from this millennium to the next. If we sleep through it this time, we won’t deserve to be around for the next time.

At NCR we thought practically everyone would be itching to recognize the occasion, so we ventured to scratch the itch by inviting an outpouring of wisdom, poetry, reminiscence and prophecy from our readers and others. Messages in a Bottle, in short.

Words such as stupendous, amazing and even exciting would be overstating the reaction to date. At the end of a sometimes exciting but often-stressful old millennium, perhaps we are weary.

Yet I believe that before those millennial bells ring out, folks will be aching to say something meaningful or lasting. We know we’re significant on earth, or we want to be significant, and we want to leave some footprint. So I figure the inspiration will hit people, oh, around early December, and they’ll wish they had a message in our bottle, and it will be too late.

But let it not be said that NCR refused to go the extra mile. We are pushing back the deadline for contributions by a week to Nov. 22.

The bottle of Message in a Bottle started out as a fancy phrase. Then we decided to get real and put the historic Dec. 31, 1999-Jan. 7, 2000, issue in an actual bottle. This raised several questions, such as where to find a suitable bottle and then how to dispose of it. We appealed for suggestions and received no response. This, let me rush to add, is not a complaint, just a report.

We thought someone might have a schooner or a private helicopter to drop the bottle at sea. Or something more imaginative. So we wrote to NASA to see if they would take the bottle, with NCR inside, into orbit or beyond, to be found, some millennium soon, by the citizens of a nearby galaxy. No answer yet. Other suggestions included spiriting it into the Vatican on the grounds that it would go undisturbed for centuries beneath the dust in certain curial dicasteries not noted for speedy discovery.

Send submissions by e-mail to ncrbottle@aol.com or to 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111. We may have to edit entries for length or repetition or other reasons. Short contributions are encouraged, whether poetry, essay, story, photo or other creative mode of farewell to old times and hail to the new.

As this week’s cover notes, Vatican II was the big event of the century for Catholics. Many long-time NCR readers will look with nostalgia on that cover picture by renowned artist Franklin McMahon. It depicts a moment of hope and anticipation, as the world looked on with curiosity.

Anthony Padovano’s cover story puts the council in perspective. The scenario he presents is of Christians kicking and screaming in the face of Christianity’s finest hour for centuries. He challenges the church to carry the council untarnished into the new millennium.

NCR publisher Tom Fox, fresh back from Rome and the European Synod, laments how little Vatican II’s promise has been fulfilled. His Perspective (see story) underlines how the Synod of Bishops, created in the wake of the council as means of fostering collegiality, has turned out to be a vast waste of time designed to reach pre-ordained conclusions. It is, Fox argues, time to shut the synods down.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, November 12, 1999