Saturday, 14 July 2012

Go raibh míle maith agat to half a million readers

Over half a million readers ... but who and where? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I have never been very fluent in the Irish language. But there are two sayings in Irish that show the profuse and generous spirit that is inbuilt into the language.

One is the traditional way of saying thank you: Go raibh míle maith agat. It translates not simply as Thank you, but “May you have a thousand good things.”

Another is the phrase for welcoming someone, whether stranger or friend: “Céad míle fáilte.” It means not just welcome, but “One hundred thousand welcomes.”

This blog has passed a milestone late this evening [14 July 2012], with over half a million visitors. A half million welcomes to each and every one of you, and five hundred thousand thank yous to each of you for visiting this blog, using its resources and making yourself at home.

I have been on blogger since 10 November 2007. But there were only 13 postings that year. By 2008, it was 183, 272 in 2009, 322 in 2010, and 449 in 2011.

Some of my postings have been reposted on other blogs and sites in Skerries, Lichfield and Greece, I have been invited to guest write for other blogs, and I have found myself part of new communities finding new ways of communicating.

Initially I resisted having a counter. I wanted to make my sermons, lecture notes and notes for Bible studies and tutorial groups accessible to students, and to give a wider circulation to the monthly columns I write in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel and Ossory). But I also wanted to give a longer shelf life to occasional papers in journals such as the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, Search, Koinonia and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and occasional features in publications and newspapers, including The Irish Times, the Church of Ireland Gazette, Skerries News and the Athens News.

Eventually, as sarcoidosis began to take a cruel grip on my lungs and my breathing, I started to write too about my health and my beach walks, including beach walks in Skerries, country walks, my thoughts on architecture, especially the work of Pugin, return visits to Wexford, and also found myself writing about travel in Ireland and England, and to a variety of countries, especially Greece and Turkey. There were accounts too of my frequent return visits to Lichfield and my regular participation in summer schools with the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

I have never been terribly concerned about how many people have read any of these postings. If one student missed a lecture and found it here, or one person did not understand what I was trying to say in a sermon and came back here to read it, then it was worth posting it here.

I still resisted having a counter because I want to write to a very different set of priorities than popularity. This is a different style of writing and if I wanted to write for a mass circulation tabloid newspaper then circulation figures might have been interesting. But I feared a counter might change my style of writing. Now that I have got over that, I am very humbled that over half a million people would even consider what I am writing. That is more feedback than I ever got for a newspaper feature or a chapter in a book.

Half a million. But where are you from? And what do you read?

The statistics provided by Blogger show that the top readership figures are in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Russia, Greece, Australia, Canada, India and the Philippines.

Many of you find this blog through Facebook, and in recent weeks a large number of you were referred through the Athens News website.

And what are you reading?

The most popular reading has been three postings on the Transfiguration, which between them have attracted almost 20,000 visitors:

The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010) with almost 14,500 visitors;

Looking at the Transfiguration through icons (23 February 2011) with over 4,000 visitors; and

The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons (9 April 2011), with almost 1,200 visitors.

The next single most-read posting is one on the thoughts of Julian of Norwich:

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well (5 September 2008), with over 6,100 visitors.

About 8,000 people have visited two postings on the Raising of Lazarus:

The grave of Lazarus (3 April 2010), almost 5,200 visitors.

The Raising of Lazarus, John 11: 1-45 (30 March 2011), almost 2,800 visitors.

These were Easter themes one year after another, so I was not surprised that almost 1,200 people also visited Waiting at the tomb on Holy Saturday (1) (23 April 2011).

Liturgy, Icons, Orthodox spirituality and Celtic spirituality also proved interesting for thousands of readers.

One lecture alone, Liturgy 6: Baptism and Eucharist (1) from the early church to the Reformers (4 November 2010), has had almost 2,500 visitors.

The most popular lecture on Icons, The Cretan School of Icons and its contribution to Western art (27 June 2009) has had almost 3,000 visitors so far, An introduction to Orthodoxy  (25 November 2009) has had over 2,000 visitors, and a similar lecture, Orthodox Spirituality: an introduction, (15 March 2010) has had 1,200 visitors.

Two versions of a lecture on Celtic Spirituality have had about 2,000 visitors: Introducing Celtic Spirituality (7 February 2010), almost 1,600 visitors; and Introducing Celtic Spirituality (21 November 2011), with over 400 visitors.

This blog also seems to be providing you with resources for the seasons of the Church Calendar. I was overwhelmed with the number of readers for my postings on poetry last Advent, Lent and Easter. Indeed, anything I post on TS Eliot attracts a large number of readers. Spirituality for Advent: waiting for Christ in all his majesty (29 November 2010), has already had almost 1,400 visitors, and Who is Jesus? A Lenten Talk (23 March 2011), a Lenten talk in Skerries last year, has had over 1,000 visitors.

I am never quite sure of my writing abilities. Perhaps I should take heart from the number of people who have read Developing writing skills (18 September 2010), which has attracted over 2,200 visitors.

I shall keep writing. But please keep on providing feedback and criticism, both negative and positive.

And each time you visit this blog I hope you find “céad míle fáilte, one hundred thousand welcomes.”

Go raibh míle maith agat, may you have a thousand good things.