My 500th Blog Post

This is my 500th post on iBenedictines. (I never counted the posts on its predecessor, Colophon, but WordPress keeps an automatic reckoning.) On the whole, I think separating the blog from the community web site at www.benedictinenuns.org.uk (www.benedictinenuns.net if you are using a smartphone) was a good idea. The blog is more personal than it used to be, and it is not fair to saddle the community with responsibility for the opinions of one nun. On the other hand, the past eighteen months have been so crammed with off-screen activity as we tried to secure a more permanent home that many of our ideas for ‘enriching user experience’ (computer gobbleydegook for improving online services) have had to be put on hold. Even now, after nearly five months at Howton Grove Priory, we are still unpacking the library and have only just begun getting the monastic garden into shape. Just when our new websites will see the light of day, I’m not sure. For a small community like ours, which has to earn its living as well as maintaining the full round of monastic observance, admin can be quite a burden — as anyone who has incorporated a charitable trust will tell you! (We hope soon to close the charitable trust so we have only one charity to worry about, while we continue to do the audio books for the blind with the help of our brilliant team of volunteers in Oxfordshire.)

None of this, however, is really central to our online concerns. We are simply Benedictine nuns who believe in the beauty and holiness of the vocation we have been given and want to share what we can of our monastic life with others. iBenedictines has become an important element of the sharing because the posts reflect the life of the community. That is why it is necessary we should observe some of the small courtesies of the cloister when we argue with one another in the comments section. I’ve noticed that sometimes there are misunderstandings caused by reading too quickly or making assumptions the words do not justify. Monasteries are traditionally homes of ‘slow reading’. Maybe over the next 500 posts we can all try to bring something of this to the questions we discuss and reflect on together, not just here but elsewhere on the web. The polarisation of Christian opinion is something that should concern us all. I don’t subscribe to the view that Christians in the U.K. are being persecuted, but I do think that the legitimate place of religion in public discourse is no longer assured — and we have no one but ourselves to blame for that, have we?

In the meantime, my apologies to all those I have offended; my thanks to all those who have persevered in reading me; and my prayers for everyone who lights on these pages.

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21 thoughts on “My 500th Blog Post”

  1. Thanks so much for finding the time to blog. I read as many as I can in my busy life but you do cause me to stop and think – slow reading – so very necessary in this busy world. Thank you sister

  2. You are too generous Sr Catherine in believing there is no persecution against “Christians” in England. I placed “Christians” in inverted commas because, as joke, some say Catholics are not Christians- but Catholics are Christians and Catholics in Britain are certainly still persecuted by other “Christians”. Catholic priests are penalized to the hilt, they cannot go outside their Church yard with a cassock, so what does that tell you about processions being limited? Again Catholic priests do not get a wage in England as priests in other countries do. Catholic churches have no bells that ring because that is forbidden… there are dozens other laws that penalize Catholics in Britain but I can’t find a list anywhere since it is diplomatically well hidden, however, any Catholic priest can recite these restrictions to you by heart. Sad, but true.

    • Eva, I find it hard to believe that Catholic Churches are not permitted to ring their bells. From childhood in Kent, Holy Innocents Church in Orpington had bells which were rung to call people to services and during services for the Sanctus etc.

      I have just googled this and Westminster Cathedral has a peal of Bells, which were rung for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and as well for the Olympics. Other Catholic Churches around the country have bells and ring them?

      As for priests not wearing a cassock outside a church yard. Many do, and I have seen processions outside on the streets around Catholic Churches, as well as many Anglican Churches. Our local Anglican Church, even though of Evangelical persuasion, has a number of processions each year.

      I am of course aware of historic discrimination against Catholics in certain public appointments, dating back to the Act of Union and the Act of Settlement, but these are gradually being dismantled. Many were dismantled after Catholic Emancipation in the 19th Century.

      I would be interested in hearing more about the sort of situation you describe, because it’s news to me, and will be to many other Anglicans.

      • UK Viewer, I remember our parish priest, of Irish origin, Canon Joseph Donne, telling me that since they weren’t allowed to put a steeple with bells and a Cross on top of the church he put a big statue of Our Lady there instead. The church Saint Mary’s the Mount in Walsall is still there today, (you can see it here http://evaulian-thebestoftheworst.blogspot.it/2012/11/340-catholics-in-england-are-still.html ) with no bells because they could not ring them anyway if they had them. Of course we had May processions in honour of Our Lady but it was always an edgy kind of affair because anyone could come and put the poor priest under arrest, not only for walking around the vicarage with all his vestments on but also for organizing an unauthorized demonstration!
        I find it impressive that “they” have allowed the bells of Westminster Cathedral ring for the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee but not for the birth of Christ, his death and Resurrection.

    • I wonder, Eva, did you get a chance to watch the BBC (I think it was the Beeb as opposed to ITV) trilogy of programmes on Catholocism? Catholics: Priests, was one, Catholics: Children another, and the third dealt with women. I missed the last one. However, my point being that they followed everyday Catholics, Seminarians and Priests in England, for a lengthy period of time, documenting the lives that we lead. And the Parish Priest in the Children one was seen outside his years with a Cassock, and the bells most certainly rang in both. This didn’t raise any eyebrows with me, as for the three years I lived on the mainland, that was what I knew and experienced. I can’t honestly say I ever noticed persecution of Catholics over any other denomination of Christian. Even in Wales, where lower Church denominations seem to be predominant. The only reference I have heard to problems, comes from a Welsh Priest I know, who says families of converts in to the Church sometimes muttered objections – but that was on a personal level, and no doubt happens all over (to people of all faiths!) – it is not something that is legislated for/against.

      As an Irish Catholic, living in Northern Ireland, I don’t know how/if the UK law affects us differently, but we certainly have bells, Cassocks outside of Church (when wanted) and so on and so forth. There have been many sectarian problems here in the past, and a few individuals might want to return us to that, but for the most part, Catholics – religious and lay – have exactly the same treatment as Protestants, other faiths and non believers. Any problems that do occur are on a personal/individual level, and not from the government, or any legislatory bodies.

      I’m not saying there wasn’t persecution in the past – in both the mainland, N.Ireland, and Ireland – but that is certainly not this Catholic’s experience these days – Thank God! I do however, agree fully with Sr Catherine, that “the legitimate place of religion in public discourse is no longer assured” – and that as well as being to blame, we are the only people who can fix the problem.

      And, Sr Catherine, my heartiest congratulations on this milestone – it amazes me that you have time to blog at all! I look forward to reading the next 500, and wish you every blessing, and as one of my Sisters would say – “health to write”. I may not always comment, but I always get a lot from reading, and re-reading, and considering, your posts – probably the days when I don’t comment, are the days when I get the most, by reading all the more! 😉

      Blessings, Danielle

      • So Danielle, Catholic bells ring, priests walk around in their Cassocks, processions abound… With all that ammunition in stock, I shouldn’t marvel that no one would try to stop them!!!

        • I’m sorry Eva, I don’t quite pick up your meaning.

          It’s true that the UK doesn’t have as many processions as continental Europe – but neither does Ireland. And nor do other Christian denominations in either country, nor, indeed, any faith groups. But that is surely more to do with cultural personality, than (legal, governmental or otherwise) persecution of individual groups. Likewise, Cassocks are not frequently worn in the outside world – but that is not necessarily due to predjudice or prohibition – rather the fact that most Priests appear to prefer a simple suit and dog-collar – as do Anglican Vicars.

          I was thinking about your assertion of laws against aspects of Catholicism in England, and wondering – such laws, if still in existence, would these days contravene numerous equality laws, both at UK level, and at European. I’m not denying that such laws were in existence in the past – but there’s nothing to suggest they’re still in existence now. And I know for a fact that the Monsignor responsible for our Church’s refurbishment, in the 90s, made certain to have a Cross on top (it makes the Church slightly taller than the Anglican Cathedral opposite) and bells in the Steeple. While we may be the Church in Ireland, we still come under UK law, just as England does.

          Blessings to you,
          Danielle

          • Danielle, as I have explained in my blog, as children we had May processions and whatever else we could do but we had to be careful since this was not lawful for Catholics to do, as explained by our Cannon Dunne, who being of Irish origin felt these restrictions more that the English priests perhaps. We loved these processions, our headmaster spent months preparing them- getting the train bearers, the maid of honour and strewers dresses (hand made by a parishioner)- This has nothing to do with culture, the British just as anyone else love getting together to celebrate- remember Kate and William’s wedding? And if you are still not convinced here’s a link to last year’s Marian’s Procession in Manchester- the description of the people is touching- but only Catholic bobbies turned up for security, and only on a voluntary basis… People in Britain would only be too willing to show their love for their faith in public… but “officially” it is not allowed and it is time someone took those stupid laws away because Catholics have every right to practise their religion in public and not doing so because someone is being condescending about it. Check on it!!!

        • Eva – having to reply to your earlier comment as the reply button has gone from your more recent two. Thank you for the link.

          I am so sorry that your experience when you were younger was so negative. As a young woman who was brought up in the late “troubles” as a “half and half” child, I am no stranger to problems relating to religion, and I sense a deep anger and hurt in all your comments.

          Is it not a positive sign that the Marian Procession has resumed, “officially” – as the article says. And it shows signs of growing each year – and that’s fantastic. I confess, I read the line about the security being provided by Catholic Police Officers who volunteered for the work as a very positive thing – it suggests they were given the option of volunteering (and clearly, took it) before being ordered to do it. (one can still volunteer to work a particular shift – ie, be paid, but choose to do it.) Without knowing a police officer involved, it would be hard to know the exact reasoning. But it shows those Catholic police officers have such a passion for their faith, and want to show it publicly – and feel safe to do so. In my locality, in Northern Ireland, we are still suffering from the brutal murder of a Catholic police officer, by Republican dissidents (who, no doubt, claim to be Catholic – but that’s another story). Catholic police officers here would be right to be wary of advertising their faith – not because the government, or Protestants, want to prohibit Catholocism – but because a small number of “Catholics” feel it is unacceptable for anyone of the same faith as them (in their eyes) to work for the UK government.

          I see your point about William and Kate – but aren’t you forgetting Pope Benedict XVI’s visit? That was celebrated hugely, all over the UK. I see those two events as being more comparable than the comparison between an annual (or hopefully more than once a year) procession and a once off Royal Wedding.

          But His Holiness’ visit shows that people in the UK are more than willing to show their faith, and turn out, and celebrate it. As does the recent visit of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux, not to mention the yearly pilgrimage on foot to Lindisfarne, and various other events (InVocation comes to mind).

          I think it is partly culture – processions and related traditional devotions were kept quiet for so long, that by now, the younger generations are less aware of them, and less involved in them, and the older generations still feel that hurt and anger, and so nothing is arranged – until Christian Life arranged that Marian procession. Now that the older generation sees it can be done again, and the younger generation learns of this part of Church devotional culture, it may actually become a more common thing again – hopefully unrestricted by any past laws or bad feelings – on any side.

          St Patrick’s processions here were once seen to be as divisive as Orange marches – these days, they are joyous, inclusive events attended by a wide section of society. Please God that continues.

          Blessings to you,
          Danielle

  3. I always enjoy your blogs and frequently come away with a new insight. You have a unique ‘voice’ and never seem to stray from it, even in bracing tweets addressed to a certain BroDuncan. Yours is a valuable contribution to the online world that I hunt for if I have missed it. When things are difficult it is really good to know that my life is underpinned and supported by your prayer, especially when it spins out of control. Thank you.

    • I suggest the Protestant community should make their voice heard loud and clear in defence of their rights- but not the Catholics who have no say in the matter since even on that one Sunday no Catholic bell is rung!

    • As the Community has grown and changed (maybe not numerically yet) we have grown too.

      “ad multos Annos” Ibenedictines!

      @Alexander Double Gins are good!

  4. Thank you for the kindness and generosity of sharing a little of the monastic life, of engaging important discussion here, and of challenging your readers, at least this one, to think, ponder, and read more carefully. It has been a wonderfully engaging first 500 blog posts! My life as a Catholic Christian has been enriched thereby.

  5. I’m sorry I was offline yesterday.

    I’m grateful for, and touched by, the generous remarks, but I am APPALLED by the off-topic argument being conducted in the comments section. The way in which some points are being argued is entirely antithetical to everything this blog stands for. As a bit of a historian myself, I must point out that (1) prejudice is not to be equated with persecution and (2) inaccurate references to statutes which have been repealed (e.g. it was once an offence for Catholics to wear clerical dress in the public highway, although I can’t think of any prosecution bought under its terms for at least a century and a half; the statute itself was repealed a few years ago, I can’t remember exactly when) are are not to be relied on.

    I am closing the comments on this post, and I would ask those who use this blog to advance their own agenda to observe the courtesy for which I asked in the post itself.

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