The Right Word Just in Time
James E. Adams, Founding Editor
WHEN EACH NEW ISSUE of Living Faith arrived from the printer and pallet-loads of copies began filling the warehouse aisles, I would scamper down to open a few bundles, inspect the cover and flip through the pages for defects. Then I’d grab an armful of copies to hand out to colleagues.
As I stood waist-deep in Living Faith copies in the warehouse, it often occurred to me how presumptuous it was to have commissioned, edited and prepared 92 reflections months in advance in the confident expectation that these predated messages would ring true and be helpful for prayer to hundreds of thousands of readers.
Who did we think we were, presuming to offer a few words to help a reader pray while trying to cope with a death, recovering from a serious health crisis? Even more, who did we think we were to presume to offer words to help readers pray at most times when they were not faced with crises but with their dull and seemingly boring daily routines? My pastor once remarked that most can meet the challenges of a crisis, but many falter under the slowly grinding wheel of routine.
If that wasn’t presumptuous enough, remember that most Living Faith reflections were the writers' personal sentiments about Scripture, prayer and their Catholic faith. We made no claims of special inspiration, theological expertise or ecclesiastical authority (other than an imprimatur). We just did our best to share a vignette from our faith journeys clearly and concisely on every day of the year in about 200 words.
So it was always gratifying, if always a little surprising, every time we got feedback from readers thanking us for precisely the spiritual boost they needed on the very day they needed it the most. Was this just-the-right-word at just-the-right-time magic? Hardly.
We were providing the prepared text, while readers, aided by the Holy Spirit, were providing the rich context of their grace-filled spiritual lives. St. Augustine once noted that the Holy Spirit never heard a bad homily. A slight overstatement perhaps, but the basic point is sound. Inspiration is not just in the writing and the speaking of words, but in the reading and the hearing of words when read or heard.
In this sense surely it is not too presumptuous to give the Holy Spirit credit for playing a key role in the modest success of Living Faith's first 100 issues. Thanks to the Holy Spirit and faithful readers, a good Living Faith reflection is both timely and timeless.