38 thoughts on “An Appeal from the Heart”

  1. You are so right to make this point. I get Facebook posts from a Carmelite monastery, and yesterday they posted a photo of the sisters hard at tree-cutting, wearing their work overalls.
    There were some frightful comments from two separate, shadowy “organisations”, both appearing to be militant, ultra-conservative Catholic groups, berating the Sisters because they were not wearing the full habit. The tone of both was vaguely threatening. I am certain that neither group could have the Church’s sanction or approval but the similarity to extreme right-wing groups like ‘Templars International’ struck me very forcibly.
    Social media has been stirred up so much recently and some very nasty stuff is coming up from the depths. We all need to help its waters settle down again, and think before we post.

    • Oh yes, I waded into the acrimony over the Ware Carmel’s work habit — it is very similar to ours — on the side of the angels, of course. We have been taken to task for less, but I was thinking more of a current row on Twitter that really is disgraceful in the way it is being conducted. If only we could see what we are doing!

  2. I must be following the wrong people?

    I haven’t encountered so much bad temper and abuse that you describe, perhaps I avoid it by only following those in my own comfort zone.

    But I am not going to search for such behaviour, as I don’t understand the need to act in that way. Perhaps I lead a sheltered life, but I feel safer for doing so.

    I am sorry that you are encountering such conduct, and I hope that it isn’t mine.

    • You are fortunate. Anyone who follows ‘Catholic Twitter’, especially if they happen to be American or an observer of the ‘traditionalist’ v. ‘progressive’ wings of the Church will know what I mean. One of the current rows is so full of uncharity that it makes me think the devil has no need to do any tempting, we are doing his work for him already.

  3. Amen, dear Sister Catherine. What would Jesus do (WWJD) is a simple question and reflection we miserable sinners should pursue before responding to any situation. Bit like counting to ten to diffuse our feelings. I am as guilty as anyone for not being as humane with others as l could have been in the past. Following your wisdom has given me calm, patience and peace in my life and for that l am grateful beyond everything to you and God.
    May the good Lord bless and care for you and keep you with us without pain or distress for a very long time. Peace, love and joy be with you now and always.

  4. Great blog. I’m going to continue to ‘love others’. It may not bring them round to a different way of living but if nothing else the confusion on their faces makes for future hope. have a prayerful Lent. It is logical to listen to His voice.

  5. Thank you for these much needed words, Sister. Once again Marcus Rashford has shown great dignity in the way he has responded to racist comments aimed at him. I find the only way to deal with such abuse on social media is to withdraw from that particular correspondence. To try to respond courteously and rationally only serves to ramp up the abuse. Thank you once again for your clarity.
    Peace be with you.

    • It’s difficult, isn’t it? I always pray before going on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I’ll try to argue a point, but if I feel I’m being led down an unprofitable channel, I’ll stop, as politely as I can. Life is too short for pointless wrangles, especially ill-tempered ones.

  6. Indeed! In the last couple of weeks I have been called an offence against God because I’m an Anglican, and a lying moron because I tried to explain how vaccines work. I did not get upset about either of these insults but some people could find such comments very hard to read.

  7. Dear Sister,
    Thank you for your post. Being in the media, one expects a level of “trolling”, etc…and quickly grows thick skin. What I didn’t expect, however, was the spirit of Judas from within the side supposedly fighting for Truth.
    This past year, unfortunately, I have experienced the most horrific libel from a woman within the Catholic media world that destroyed friendships and professional collaboration—libel that was proven to be so, but those who propagated it seemed convinced in their pride not to repent of.

    I believe this is an example of the source of such ugliness and division within the Church: blind hubris in thinking WE can save Her by activism, idealism and rhetoric.

    Pray for those of us who find ourselves on the front lines, in many ways—that pride doesn’t have the last word. That reconciliation for the sake of the Truth will always win over for those who live in the Faith. That the Lord will conquer our hearts once again.

    May God bless you, Sister!

  8. Anyone less like a ‘well meaning sheep’ than you, Dame Catherine, I find hard to imagine!

    And, indeed, in recent years, the nastiness on S M has increased.

    Many who instigate it (my American Attorney friend tells me) are frequently based in Russia, and others are drawn in, getting a thrill from their worst impulses being legitimised. And that gives a green light to others to copy and demonstrate what brave keyboard warriors they are.

    On a few occasions these perpetrators have appeared in court (both Adult and Family) and when the social enquiry reports are before the justices, almost to a man – and it is mostly, but not always, men, we read that they are very damaged people indeed from dysfunctional bullying families with drug and alcohol problems, mostly loners with poor or no social skills, and if they are educated at all, they are often on the ASD spectrum with no ability to empathise with others.

    It doesn’t excuse the dreadful behaviour but it does help, if you are on the receiving end, to realise just how damaged these people are.

    Sadly, they won’t be reading this. Those of us who do, will examine our consciences and perhaps think twice about a sharp response; but they aren’t (I hope and pray ) the sort who would be a vicious as some that most of us have the misfortune to be victim of, or to have encountered across the net.

    • The organised nastiness and the toxic groups are something else again! I was just writing for people who might listen and think — readers of this blog, for instance — (and thank you for not thinking of me as a sheep in the bleating sense!).

    • Good morning, MiceElf
      I read your post with interest.
      While I agree with much of what you say, I feel that I must point out that many people on the autistic spectrum have no problems with emotional empathy. There seems to be a widely held misunderstanding that autism necessarily involves an inability to empathise with others. It is not true.
      Those of us who have autistic friends and /or family members would be happy to confirm this!

      • You are right. And I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that all people in the autistic spectrum are not able to empathise. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear. But some are not and those are the ones we have encountered on occasion in court.

  9. Thank you for this most welcome insight & comment .. I’ve always felt responding with Christian love can diffuse anger but being relatively new to Twitter I’ve realised a gracious exit to the dialogue is sometimes the best way.. it saddens me that anger is often the response to a different opinion .. I was open to hearing voices from different worlds but find increasingly I’m leaning towards folk I’m more comfortable with

    • Try sticking with it. I’ve often said that if we retreat into an echo chamber, social media will never get better. Sometimes we just have to withdraw from an argument, but I have known cases where there has been a new insight and respect between people.

  10. Thank you, Sister. I live just outside Washington, DC. I remind myself that God is in control. “The battle belongs to Me”. Sometimes it’s hard to remember as our Country goes up in flames, but I try as well as praying. I can always count on you to bring the voice of reason back and point us to what is truly important. God bless you, Sister, and your community.

    • We have many friends in the USA (including you, of course!) and it has been painful to see the suffering your country has been going through, especially these last few weeks. We continue to pray.

  11. The internet and social media can be a wonderful, enriching thing, but it is also a force for much ill and it almost seems to allow building up individual views and conspiracy theories which can now replicate so much more swiftly than in previous days. It is a real worry.
    And yes, religious bulletin boards are most certainly not immune, I came away from one thinking that there would be more charity in a debate between Spurs and Arsenal supporters.
    I suppose we have to try and start from ourselves, do not send that bad tempered post/email (which I have certainly done myself), think twice and try and treat your virtual audience as you would wish to be treated yourself.

  12. Thank you for your kind words. This is more important than some may think.

    I have to admit, I am very disappointed in not only the attitude some posters have, but what seems to be near-worship of a certain “politician.” Yet, if you do not agree with them, you are an evil person. It is very distressing to say the least.

  13. Your simple reminder that life is short is such a powerful truth for us all to ponder – if I knew today were my last I might choose more wisely what to do or not to do, what to say or not to say. Thank you for being an authentic Christian voice, sister.

  14. Ten years ago, when I was converting to Catholicism, I was keen to learn about what it meant to be Catholic. Sadly social media was a shocking introduction to just how vitriolic and unchristian some Catholics could be to one another. It didn’t quite put me off but I wonder how many are turned away by this behaviour. It’s
    a shame that those indulging in insults and hatred don’t ask themselves if their comments draw or repel enquirers, do they show the love of God? Of course we all frequently fail this test, but by constantly asking the question hopefully we rein in our worst instincts of self indulgence.

    • I agree. I have sometimes challenged people whose comments are particularly hateful how they think they are reflecting the love and goodness of God, but it can be awkward because it can make one sound ‘holier than thou’. I think it’s a case of doing the best one can oneself, and leaving the rest to God. I knwow I make mistakes, don’t always get the tone right, etc, but praying before going online helps to ensure that my intentions, at least, are good.

  15. I am so sorry that you have encounter such abuse Sister C .I am afraid that many people use the digital platform with a sense of anonymity to vent their anger and repressed emotions . I am an Anglican and have signed Archbishop Welby’s digital charter on behalf of myself and my church ( I co-manage our Facebook page ) .This commits me ,and others who sign ,to seek to be measured , polite ,and courteous in our responses. It certainly helps me knowing that I am accountable both to the charter ,and to my Heavenly Father .

    • I wasn’t speaking so much of abuse directed at me/us as the tone of many posts I have observed. Some people try to shrug off teh negativity by reference to manipulation by others (which certainly exists) but we must each take personal responsibility for what we do. Archbishop Welby’s Digital Charter is a very good idea.

  16. For years, when I Cross myself, I think “God be in my head, God be in my heart, God guard my tongue.” The last is hardest to keep.

  17. I am a Canadian who lives on the border and so I have many American friends both Catholic and Protestant. I noticed a huge downturn in civil behaviour on Facebook a few years back, but when the pandemic struck and with the US election upcoming within that same year, it went horribly wrong altogether. I left Facebook in the summer and I have not regretted it. I do not have Twitter thankfully, only Instagram so I can keep up with photos of my grandchildren, but I am very circumspect as to whom I follow or allow to follow me. In my life anyway, social media has run its course for the most part.

    • Oh, and I should mention that it is not just among my US friends. Unfortunately death threats were uttered in social media against our region’s hardworking and forthright head of Public Health. People are just getting very out of control lately and don’t seem to practice common sense, nor even common charity.

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