What We Don’t Blog About and What it Says About Us

Blogging, we are told, reveals what interests us and the kind of people we are. What we say and how we say it captures our essential essence. Le style est l’homme même indeed. But I wonder whether what we don’t say is just as revealing. The austere format of this blog suits me, but I know it puts some readers off. Perhaps, secretly, I don’t want the kind of readers who prefer visual imagery and catchy formats; so while I protest that I like the ‘monastic’ simplicity of the layout, I am actually trying to ensure that I only attract readers who are in sympathy with me? O devious Dame, if so!

You will find that I very rarely comment on what is going on in other churches. There has been no word from me on the subject of women in the episcopate or the doctrinal formulations of the Reformed or Protestant Churches, for example. That is not because I have no opinion, but because I do not want to be drawn into controversies I can never fully understand from the inside. I would need to be an Anglican or a Methodist or a Baptist to engage at any real depth. It is easy to see why. I may have read a fair amount of Anglican/Methodist/Baptist theology, but I have never lived as an Anglican/Methodist/Baptist so there is a gap between my theoretical understanding and my lived experience. Turn that back to front, and you may see why occasionally I am irritated by members of other churches making statements about the one to which I belong. It is not that I think they have no right to do so; it is just that I am not convinced they are always as well qualified to do so as I (note the ego!) think they should be.

I rarely comment on marriage or family life and have largely side-stepped the debate on same-sex marriage, yet I know that for many readers, they are questions of fundamental importance. My reticence stems from an awareness of my limitations. Why should I comment on that which is beyond me and about which others are infinitely better informed? Turn that around, and you may understand why I sometimes smile over comments that tell me how I ought to understand/live the monastic life. Many comments are helpful and make me examine my own practice, but there are a few that take us to cloud-cuckoo land!

I know I have many American readers, from both north and south, but I am very hesitant about commenting on U.S. politics. I have views, certainly, but I am not equal to the sheer intensity of American responses. The hatred of President Obama expressed by people I know to be good and kind leaves me speechless. I just don’t understand it — just as I don’t understand the apparent unwillingness to do anything about gun crime or the brinkmanship that has led to the latest shutdown of government. Turn that around, and as a European, I find the American tendency to think that what is good for Americans must be good for everyone else quite troubling.

Today you might have expected me to blog about St Thérèse of Lisieux, as I have done in the past; but I haven’t, because there are aspects of her life I find difficult. She was a great woman as well as a great saint, with more of steel in her than little flower, I think, but she plunges us into the stuffy world of the nineteenth century bourgeoisie, and I find that unattractive. I cannot relate to it in any meaningful way. In fact, I have never been drawn to Carmelite spirituality, much as I honour and hold dear those who are. I think that illustrates one final point about what we don’t blog about. No matter what we leave out, what we choose not to write about, someone, somewhere will have something to say that is worth reading, on precisely the subjects about which we ourselves are inadequate.

So, pray on — and blog on!

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23 thoughts on “What We Don’t Blog About and What it Says About Us”

    • The austerity of the blog suits me fine. Oh, but the introduction of the Amazon widget suggesting that those of us who ponder here may like to purchase ‘The Nun’s Story’ with Audrey Hepburn just makes me smile. Smile in a good cause, too.

    • The austere format of this site suits me just fine. Oh, but the introduction of the not at all austere Amazon widget has really brought a smile as I imagine the contributors here rushing off to purchase Audrey Hepburn and The Nun’s Story. It’s a smile in a good cause too.

  1. Just a thought and a genuine question: do we sometimes need comment from outside our circle to help us to see what is going on? We can be blind to things too near to us.

    • Thanks, Maria. I was concentrating on only one aspect of the question in the above post, but I would HOPE that the whole of this blog, and the dialogue in the comments section, as well as what I say explicitly above about, for example, the value I find in comments on monastic life from outsiders, would tell you that I believe ‘outsider’ comments are to be welcomed. However, when making comments as an outsider, one does need to be aware of one’s own limitations. I suppose it’s a question of humility and prudence coming into play.

  2. Thanks Sister Catherine. I avoid commenting on certain topics publically for the same two reasons: lack of detailed knowledge on the topic, and an unwillingness to enter unnecessary controversy. Sometimes, however, those from ‘outside’ can bring a clarity to a particular issue simply because they are removed from it. But humility better be the tone when such opinions are given!

  3. Thanks for clearly capturing the essence of being non-judgmental. Especially as it’s written by one of the least ‘stuffy’ people on the planet.

  4. Having had the pleasure and the honour of personal acquaintance with Digitalnun for years, I don’t recall ever disagreeing with her as much as I do with one particular sentence in the above blogpost, namely the final sentence of its penultimate paragraph, beginning “Turn that around”. For one thing, with the greatest respect (and that is NOT shorthand for its opposite!), the tendency to think that what’s good for us must be so for everyone else is by no means peculiar to America – some of our American cousins may sometimes be more vocal about it, but that’s a rather different matter. For another, criticism of the States declaredly “as a European” does not, I’m afraid, seem to me to be either constructive or accurate (it posits some sort of generic transatlantic divide, whereas Digitalnun herself will know the extent of my personal connections with that country, to take just one example). One of numerous reservations I have, specifically as a Christian, about the EU and our membership of it is that its supporters too often make a point of drawing dividing lines separating it from the US and other countries. I’m afraid I’m unable to see that as reflecting the mind of Christ.

    • But, Julian, I am no more criticizing the U.S.A. than I am defending the E.U. (membership of which is not what I mean by the word ‘European’). I am citing something of which I, too, have some practical experience: the different ways in which Americans and Europeans (i.e people who live in Europe, which includes the UK and its citizens) express themselves and the attitudes that lie behind them. We disagree, I know, that American enthusiasm for democracy as understood in the U.S. leads to what I regards as some dangerous conclusions regarding the Middle East; but the fact that I have reservations about that doesn’t stop me liking and valuing all my American friends, as I’m sure (hope?) many will testify. The fact that I use reticence in commenting on American politics as an illustration of the point I am making throughout the post doesn’t mean I confine anything I say in that paragraph to the U.S. only. I could just as easily have written of some of the differences between England and Spain, but I do not have as many Spanish readers as I do American. However, as you can see from the length of this note, if I were to hedge every sentence around with qualifications and explanations, I would never be done . However, I do accept that I have not yet attained to the mind of Christ on this or any other subject, but that is a grace I pray for daily. I hope this will help clarify my use of words and my intentions even if I haven’t succeeded in expressing myself very well.

      • Duly noted, Catherine. I hesitated for some time before clicking on “Submit” for a variety of reasons, but ultimately paid you what I hope you may regard as the compliment of not self-censoring on matters which I consider of prime importance and on which I would almost always comment in other settings. Just to add: I actually doubt we would disagree that much on American, indeed Western, policy in the Middle East. What we will have to agree to differ about is the concept of Americans *in general* and Europeans *in general* diverging in their attitudes and the way in which they express those attitudes (I’m simply too chary of sweeping judgments about that many different individuals, whatever passports they may individually hold) but, having thus agreed, I’ll hold my further peace on that topic.

        As for the mind of Christ, I rather suspect any of us who think they have attained it haven’t, more or less by definition. The ongoing attempt to do so, though, does seem to me necessarily to involve forming views on whether such-and-such a view/attitude/behaviour would probably be encompassed within it. By that yardstick I have every bit as much trouble with what I encounter on this side of the Atlantic as I do further West. Jesus’ injunction that we judge not, lest we ourselves be judged, sometimes seems to me to be too readily abandoned where America and Americans are concerned, and that is something about which I do tend to speak out.

        Pax vobiscum!

  5. Speaking as one who knows that her genuine questions of interest about a faith practise that is different to hers can sometimes seem rude/obtrusive/ill-informed etc I think that humility is the right attitude. But I know that this isn’t always perceived as such if something has startled me or I am feeling confused about what is going on. Trying to apologise or explain sometimes seems to make things worse!

    • Perhaps I should recast my last sentence: pray on, blog on, ask on and comment on! I know what you mean about explanations and apologies sometimes to make things worse, but I think on here people are, or aim to be, very open to one another. I’m often touched (= moved by) by the trust and honesty shown in the comments section.

  6. Thank you Dame Catherine for an honest appraisal and explaining the reasons for the nature and style of your blog. I find the austere look quite comfortable and I don’t know if it would be improved by lots of graphics etc, it’s the content that draws me here, rather than pictures and gimmicks.

    I blog sporadically, I actually learn more from participation in others blogs than my own. Which is perhaps a valid as running a busy blog of my own, the content of which would be pretty mundane.

  7. As an erstwhile resident of Dilwyn near Weobley and a regular attendee at Belmont Abbey I am interested to have come across your Blog through that of my PP here in Australia. I shall now be looking forward often to see what you will be blogging about now that I know what it is that you will not be blogging about!!
    As a young man, I am now 82, I spent a year as an Assumptionist novice and that understanding of monastic life has been a most useful prop ever since.
    Theologically prayer seems to be the most difficult of subjects for me at this time and I would certainly like to read your take on it.

    • Thank you, Tony. If you click on the word ‘prayer’ in the ‘tag cloud’ in the sidebar on the right, it will reveal several posts I’ve written on the subject of prayer. I hope you find that a good starting point for my take on things.

  8. As someone who is now a fairly serious blogger, much of your post rang bells with me. I certainly tend to keep well away from what happens outside my own Society: my co-blogger does the Anglican and Roman Catholic stuff. On the other hand, I’m unashamed in my commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 and I reckon it would reduce the value of my contribution to our blog if I stopped commenting on cases involving Article 9 ECHR.

    I reckon that in such circumstances all one can do is to make it as clear as possible where one is coming from and leave one’s readers to draw their own conclusions. But whether or not to comment on a particular case is sometimes a very difficult judgment-call.

    • As you know, Frank, I am a great admirer of your blog, but whereas you give very thoughtful and helpful round-ups of legal opinion, etc, I tend to write solely about what interests me—and my thoughts are as likely to have been suggested by what I had for breakfast as what is going on in the world around me. I’m all comment, so to say, while you and your co-blogger provide much more substantive fare. That said, I think I’m wise to keep off subjects that would probably lead to public wrangles, if only because I wouldn’t have the time to argue a case. Please continue to go on doing what you do so well. We are all in your debt.

  9. I think you are wise for refraining from the topics that you do. I am an Anglican, and when the whole women in episcopate synod thing blew up, I was surprised by how hurtful I found the reaction of some of my free church brothers. They just didn’t seem to understand. (And the Anglican Church can be hard to understand, I’ll warrant!)

    I thought I would properly check out my fellow Best Blogger Nomineees and have been delighted by your blog from what I’ve read so far. I am finding myself increasingly drawn into books on the rule of St Benedict, so I suspect that I shall be back here before too long…

    Lovely to properly make your acquaintance.

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