That Sinking Feeling

It’s very foggy outside this morning, but that is as nothing to the gloom inside. The turmoil over Brexit, the divisions in the Church, even the fact that I failed to bake some promised brownies yesterday, all contribute to a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach. I can solve the problem of the uncooked brownies, but what about the others? Can you or I do anything about them?

The trouble with Brexit is that we all have our own ideas, and because the Referendum from which the present turmoil stems required simply a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and the Government of the day failed to make clear whether the referendum was to be merely advisory or legislatively binding, we have had two years of acrimonious bickering, with everyone claiming that their interpretation of the result and what they would like to see represents the will of the people. Rarely has the ‘will of the people’ been invoked so often in British politics, and with so little regard for consequences. I have made no secret of the fact that I think the decision to end our membership of the E.U. is bad for Britain, for Europe as a whole, and for the world in general; and I have based my arguments on exactly the same facts and figures as many of those advocating leaving, but with this difference. I am distrustful of ‘economic’ arguments deployed by people with little or no understanding of economics (don’t start me on the misuse of the ranking of world economies, for example) or of assumptions that have no basis in fact (£350 million a week extra for the NHS, for instance, promised by the Leave campaign). The problem for me is that my irritation with those kinds of argument may detract from what I consider to be the most important. I see the unity of Europe as the best protection we have against war and civil unrest, the best guarantee of mutual flourishing and benefit. I can keep saying that, to anyone who will listen, but can I actually do anything about it? The answer, alas, is ‘no’. You and I, unless we are politicians or civil servants, can only watch what is unfolding, pray, and wonder how it will end.

So, what about the divisions in the Church? There again, I have no desire to add to the cacophony of voices screaming for attention and claiming to represent true Catholicism, but I admit to being very, very concerned. The Hierarchy has mishandled the abuse crisis: I think we can all admit that; but there are many other matters which have not been dealt with in the way we might have expected. Hopes have been dashed; areas of doubt have been opened up, and there is a kind of free-for-all that ignores one of the fundamental tenets of Catholicism — the Church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, the Body of Christ, not some merely human institution. We cling to the Church, believing her to be what she always has been, but a niggle remains. Can we do anything? Again, we can protest about this or that, we can visit the Dicasteries in Rome to make our point, but we end up recognizing that we are just one among more than a billion, ultimately no more likely to have heard the Holy Spirit aright than anyone else.

The two examples I have cited, the dilemma over Brexit and the divisions in the Church, are examples of the kind of helplessness we may feel in the face of something that matters enormously to us but which appears to be entirely beyond our control. It isn’t easy to live with that kind of helplessness, but there are a couple of points to note.

First, we live in a democracy, an imperfect democracy, but thankfully one in which the rule of law still functions. We cannot take our freedom to express our opinions for granted, however. Already the law circumscribes what we may say or do (think, ‘hate’ crime, etc), and Social Media effectively circumscribe it yet further (think trolling, etc). We need to be on guard against the whittling away of such freedoms, especially at the present time. It has occasionally crossed my mind that the kind of debacle I foresee over Brexit could lead to major civil unrest and something like dictatorship — which nobody wants and nobody believes will happen, until it does. Gloomy? Yes. But it has reminded me to weigh my words, to listen carefully to those with whom I disagree, and to resolve that, insofar as in me lies, I will do my best to make whatever the outcome is workable. In other words, the current political impasse has reinforced my sense of being a citizen and of being engaged with society.

Second, with regard to the Church, I can only urge patience and prayer. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s prophecy that the Church of the future is likely to be very small strikes me as being accurate — but I do not share the certainty of those who believe that they, and they alone, will be that Church. The Holy Spirit has a way of surprising us all. Our job, if I may put it like that, is to wait patiently on the Lord, living virtuously, trusting him. That is to reaffirm our membership of the Church, our faith and our determination to do what is right, whatever it costs. In  other words, it is to renew the promises we made at our baptism and refuse to allow the powers of darkness to overwhelm us.

So, you see, my interior fog has one or two rays of light and warmth to pierce it. They may not be rays of light or warmth to you. We must each find our own but always, I would suggest, aware that we can never fall lower than God’s mercy. We are graven on the palms of his hands, we are the apple of his eye, and his are the everlasting arms beneath us.


Getting a Grip the Benedictine Way

I like the fact that we finish reading St Benedict’s fourth step of humility on the feastday of Blessed Columba Marmion (if you don’t know about him, look him up; better still, try reading him). Marmion was one of the greatest Benedictines of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but he was far from being a universal favourite. Indeed, on his profession day, his abbot allegedly dismissed him saying, ‘I am very sorry you have been professed.’ I can’t imagine anything more cruel on such an occasion, but Marmion bore it humbly and gently; and that is the point.

All of us have to deal with contradiction in our lives, if not downright injustice. Most of us usually manage to do so without resorting to fisticuffs, though we may have to admit to a yelp of pain or cry of fury. At national or international level, the resort to fisticuffs sometimes comes quite early, but it is usually preceded by some name-calling and self-conscious parading of innocence. You do not need me to cite instances in the news at present. The trouble is, unresolved disputes, attempts to make others pay, inflicting humiliation all leave a toxic legacy. It is a truism to assert that the seeds of World War II were sown in the humiliation inflicted on Germany after World War I. We can look at what is happening in Europe today, or across the Atlantic to the pronouncements emanating from the White House, and shiver. The world as we know it is changing faster than ever: the promotion of ‘me first’ ideologies and the stifling of dissent and the free expression of opinion that does not correspond to current norms (e.g. the exclusion of Life and similar pro-life agencies from U.K. Freshers’ fairs. while allowing pro-abortion societies) should give even the most ostrich-like of us a moment’s pause.

So, what has Benedict to say? I don’t want to repeat all I’ve said in earlier posts on the subject (e.g., but I think the final sentence of the fourth step of humility is worth repeating. ‘With the apostle Paul they bear with false brethren and bless those that curse them.’ RB 7.43) That is not humility of the Uriah Heep kind; it is not opting out of conflict or confrontation by downplaying our own values or principles. Rather, it is to engage at the deepest possible level but to do so with restraint and courtesy, refusing to demonise our opponent or make negative assumptions about them. It is quite incredibly hard to do when our temper is roused or we feel an injustice keenly. That reminder about blessing, however, is very much to the point. If we can bless someone; if we can ask God for nothing but good for them and do so without half an eye on ourselves and how good we are being, we are allowing grace an opportunity to transform the situation.

Benedict’s fourth step of humility leaves no room for complacency or self-congratulation. It is searing in its demands. His way of getting a grip on ourselves and on situations that could easily get out of hand is definitely not for wimps. Perhaps that is why it is not popular. The easy way out, the ‘might is right’ formula, will always be seductive; but it may not lead to happiness or well-being.


Prisoners of the Past?

The debate about Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for appointment to the U.S.A. Supreme Court has raised questions of wider application, i.e. this post is not about Mr Kavanaugh or his fitness or otherwise for the office for which he is under consideration, it is about how far ‘the child is father of the man.’ In other words, how far back do we go in anyone’s past to assure ourselves of their fitness for office now, and what are the crimes/sins/offences that we judge to be inadmissible?

For example, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received a lot of criticism in some quarters because at the age of sixteen he belonged to a Nazi youth organisation. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history would know that it would have been very difficult for him not to belong, and nothing in his subsequent life suggests that he subscribed to Nazi ideology, yet that has not stopped the criticisms. I daresay most of us can look back on the things we said or did when we were teenagers and shudder, without taking into account the political or economic circumstances of the day. But what about when we are older, when we are in our twenties, say? It begins to be less easy to dismiss criticisms of our beliefs or behaviour, and of course, the media have their favourite forms of wrongdoing to castigate. The politicians who smoked pot in their youth, the philanderers, the British Nationalist/Communist Party activists, those who joined weird and whacky cults, we have our suspicions of them all, and the media delight in feeding our suspicions.

Christians believe in the possibility of conversion and the reality of forgiveness, but that does not stop us being hard-headed about the risks associated with certain kinds of behaviour. Someone who takes drugs, for example, or regularly drinks him- or her-self into a stupour is not the person most of us would want to have a finger on the nuclear button. Nor would we want someone with a sense of sexual entitlement to have the power to force himself on another. The trouble is, we have to weigh up what we know of the person we see now with what is disclosed about his/her past and exercise some very delicate judgement.

One of the good things to have come out of the #MeToo movement is the increased openness with which people are acknowledging abuse suffered in the past. One of the not so good things has been a noticeable tendency to vilify those coming forward with their stories. There is a parallel with what is happening in the Catholic Church. The sheer awfulness of the suffering endured by so many is finally being admitted yet, at the same time, there has been a kind of counter-movement by some to minimize the suffering inflicted or apportion blame in such a way that ‘it touches us not. Our withers are unwrung.’ It leaves the rest of us wondering where truth and justice lie.

I myself have a divided mind about how far back in anyone’s past we should go for evidence of unfitness for office, but it is not a question I can ignore any more than you can. In the end, I suppose we have to be pragmatic. If X was a virulent anti-Semite in their youth, have we evidence of a change of heart? If Y was a sexual predator, has their behaviour changed with marriage and family? The one exception I think I would make is that paedophiles and psychopaths do not seem able to change, so I would be very wary indeed of knowingly placing them in situations where they could do harm. None of us wishes anyone to be a prisoner of their past. Equally, none of us wants to have on our conscience suffering we could have prevented.


September in the Marches

Concorde Pears in Bro Duncan's Memorial Orchard
Concorde Pears in Bro Duncan’s Memorial Orchard

Living in the country as we do, the changing seasons are a perpetual source of delight, though I must admit to modified rapture when muck-spreading is on the agenda and the wind is in the wrong direction! Here in the Marches we do not suffer much light pollution, so the night skies are dark and brilliant with stars when not clouded over. During the day, the same skies are filled with a piercing blue, broken here and there by a drift of cloud. Even the Black Mountains seem to lose their severity in the September sunshine. The monastery garden has its own complement of wonders. Just now the apple and pear trees are thick with fruit. Even the young trees in Bro Duncan PBGV’s Memorial Orchard are laden, their young boughs bending under the weight they bear, making me wonder whether I rubbed off enough fruitlets earlier in the year.

It is a privilege to live close to nature, but as those exposed to Typhoon Mangkhut or Hurricane Florence know only too well, nature is not tame or predictable in the way we should like. So today, as we glory in the September sunshine spilling its radiance over a quiet corner of the English countryside, our prayers are with those experiencing a very different kind of day, for their protection and comfort.


Sportsmanship and Beyond

No one could accuse me of being ‘sporty’. I can enjoy watching cricket or tennis, but the only games I have taken part in with any real pleasure are croquet, which requires low cunning and dogged persistence, and badminton, which, being fast and furious, usually ended fairly quickly in my defeat. I was, however, brought up in the tradition of being ‘sporting’. With the possible exception of croquet, therefore, (see above), it was impressed upon me at an early age that one must always play fair, accept the umpire’s decision, and applaud one’s victorious opponent as one quit the field. I wonder where some of those old courtesies and rituals have gone. I have no opinion on the Serena Williams v. Naomi Osaka match, for example, other than being horrified by the crowd’s booing of Osaka and Williams’ coldness towards her. The infighting tearing the Conservative party apart has much the same effect on me, as do the Labour party’s endless shiftings on the subject of anti-semitism. It seems our politicians are only interested in securing personal advantage — and don’t mind how they achieve it. The Church is no better and often, in fact, far worse. It all looks rather gloomy. With the decline of sportsmanship has gone a decline in general standards of behaviour. All too often it’s ‘me, me, me’.

There is, however, a ray of light piercing the gloom. The media may concentrate on the unsportsmanlike shenanigans of politicians and celebrities, but we all know lots of ordinary, decent people whose kindness and care for others is manifested daily. Their deeds will never make the headlines, but theirs are the cups of cold water given in Christ’s name or out of sheer human concern that transform life for so many and, goodness, don’t we need them! The Save the Children Fund has estimated that extreme hunger could kill 600,000 children in war zones this year. There have been over a thousand instances of humanitarian aid being blocked by those fighting one another in Syria, Yemen, etc. But I suspect that ordinary, decent people will go on trying to alleviate such situations. They will give aid, brave dangerous areas and refuse to give in. They are not being sporting, they are going far beyond that. If only our politicians and celebrities would take note!


‘Ordinary’ People Doing Extraordinary Things

This morning we were thrilled to learn that one of our oblates is to receive a City of Sanctuary award for her work with refugees. I don’t (yet) have permission to name her, and as she is very modest and self-deprecating I shall not presume, but she is a wonderful example of how ‘ordinary’ people — ordinary in their own estimation, that is — can do extraordinary things. We tend to think of the extraordinary in terms of Guinness-Book-of-Records-style achievements The kind of work being celebrated by the City of Sanctuary organization is less spectacular but requires no less patience and perseverance than performing daredevil feats. To be truly concerned for one’s neighbour, to battle officialdom and bureaucracy on behalf of another, to be a friend to the stranger and alien, and to do so without losing heart or giving up, these are great qualities. More than that, they are inspiring qualities. This morning we rejoice in the knowledge that one of our oblates has taught us all something invaluable and in doing so has made the world a better place. Thank you, and thank God.


The Poor and Needy

Historically, the feast of St Laurence (or Lawrence) which we celebrate today poses a number of questions. He is thought to have come from Toledo and was one of the seven deacons of Rome, martyred on 10 August 258, just a few days after Pope St Sixtus II and his companions. Within a very short time, celebration of his martyrdom had become much more popular than that of Pope Sixtus, and by the fourth century he was clearly among the Church’s favourite saints. We remember him today chiefly for the antiphons of Vespers of his feast, with their touch of black humour as the saint, lying on the grid-iron, tells his torturers to turn him over, as he is done on this side now, his being named alongside Sixtus in the Roman canon, and for the story that, when asked to produce the treasures of the Church, he brought forward the poor. Perhaps that is why he is so popular: he is the archetypal deacon, concerned with serving the poor, one who sees them not as objects of pity but as individuals who bestow riches on others.

Sometimes in Britain today the language we use about the poor and needy is the language of ‘otherness’. We give help, but the way in which we do so is tinged with awkwardness. The State is failing in its duty, we say, as we note that children are going to school without breakfast or those in employment are having to make use of Food Banks to ensure that their families are fed adequately. We become angry, but the rhetoric of indignation often betrays us. No one likes being done good to; no one likes being thought of as different. Do we actually recognize that while the poor need help, we who try to give it are ourselves the needy?

When Jesus tells his disciples, ‘The poor you have always with you,’ (Matt. 26.11)  I don’t think he was necessarily making a comment about the ineradicable nature of poverty and inequality, although it is frequently interpreted as such. I think it more likely he was emphasizing two modes of presence among us: uniquely in his flesh, and now among those who are open to receive him, who put up no barriers, the poor. We who are rich enough in this world’s gifts can only echo the Beatitudes and try to be poor in spirit. I suspect the really poor may have their own views on that, but it is a starting-point.

Today, when there are so many forms of poverty in the world, let us try to be alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and share what we have with others. If it makes us uncomfortable to reflect that they have a right to what we share, well and good. We shall have begin to think as St Laurence thought and seen where true treasure lies, where we may find Christ our Lord.

Community Retreat 2018
The community’s annual retreat begins tonight and ends on the morning of Saturday, 18 August. Please keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.


What’s the Point of It All?

Almost by accident (I use Google Alerts), I found myself mentioned in a recent Church Times article about the use of Social Media, mainly by Anglican clergy and academics. Along with the Church Mouse, Digitalnun seemed to be consigned to a list of ‘old has beens’ which made me smile. It reminded me of Wired back in the early 2000s prophesying the end of blogging. What I think the article and several of a similar nature have made clear, however, is that attitudes are changing. We are more aware of the limitations and pitfalls of any kind of internet engagement, and without a coherent idea of why we are here and what we hope to achieve (if anything), it is all ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’ — especially in Social Media.

As a community we would say we know why we engage with people via the internet but we are also conscious that what we have done in the past may no longer be relevant. For the last few years we have concentrated on blogging and Social Media interaction, mainly because our Broadband is unreliable and we are not very good at visual images and videos. I still think there is value in such interaction, but the chances of having a good discussion on Twitter or Facebook, the two platforms beloved of the older user, are probably fewer than in the past because we are all tending to react rather than reflect; and trolls rear their ugly heads in some surprising quarters.

Overhauling our websites recently (publication still a little way off because of the complications of Cor Orans), I came to the conclusion that we need to revisit some of the things that we adopted early on but then gave up. For example, we more or less ceased podcasting when D. Teresa died in 2010, but podcasting is now growing exponentially and we are thinking about resuming on a regular basis. It is definitely a favourite with the under 35s and sits well with our interest in serving the needs of the blind and visually impaired. There is a catch, however: the traffic trundling past on the A465. Can we find a quiet place to record? The ear is a delicate instrument and picks up all kinds of sounds. We do not want to inflict aural agony on the listener, so we need to think about it.

The big question, of course, is whether this activity is really doing what we hope it is doing. We have always seen it as an expression of our monastic hospitality. It begins in prayer and leads back to prayer, and we hope that en route, as it were, it brings the reader/tweeter/friend into contact with the living God, even if he/she would not necessarily think of it in those terms. There are many people who have no contact with a monastery, or whose contact is at the most superficial level. By bringing the monastery into cyberspace, we hope that we can deepen that monastic experience and make it more available to others. That is where you come in.

What we would like to ask you is what you would like to gain from our websites and interaction on Social Media. Please don’t ask for lots of photos of nuns in olde-worlde habits or the live-streaming of the Divine Office. We are a small community and there are others who can supply such ‘needs’ more easily than we can. What we are asking you to do, I suppose, is to think about why you bother to read this blog, visit our websites, or interact with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn. You can help us plan for the future, and we would be immensely grateful.


Manners Makyth Man

One thing Mr Trump’s visit to the UK has undoubtedly done — reminded us of the importance of good manners. The media have had a lovely time recording every awkwardness, every outburst, every snub on Mr Trump’s part as well as the protests, the ‘Trump baby’ balloon tethered above Parliament Square, and the angry comments of those who are unhappy that he is on an official visit to these islands. We British wondered among ourselves how the Queen would cope with it all, knowing perfectly well that her good manners and a lifetime of being diplomatic would enable her to deal with whatever happened; as indeed they did.

Good manners, that set others at ease and smooth over difficulties, are often derided as being ‘insincere’ or even ‘hypocritical’, but I question whether that is true. Most of us don’t actually want to live in a society that is inherently brutal, where power is the only quality that is valued. St Benedict was aware of the tensions that can arise in any group, especially where backgrounds are dissimilar and age differences can magnify the differences. The Rule of St Benedict, therefore, has rituals of courtesy that are designed to contribute to the well-being of the community. No one is allowed to use the bare name in addressing another; so there can be no setting up of divisions, no talking de haut en bas. In the silence of the cloister we acknowledge one another by a mutual bow of the head: a gracious acknowledgement of Christ’s presence in our brother or sister. The order in which we do things is determined not by age or status before we came to the monastery but by the date of our entrance — literally when we came through the door. Older members of the community are to be treated with reverence; younger members with kindness; all are to have special care for the sick and make allowances for their sometimes capricious behaviour. And when we fail, as we often do, there is the beautiful ritual of the Chapter of Faults, where we apologize to each other for our failures without seeking to justify or minimize our behaviour.

I often examine my conscience with regard to my own manners. I am aware that I am not as well-mannered as I was; that, despite all the helps monastic life gives me, there are times when I am curt or insensitive or just plain horrible. Unfortunately, I also register when other people are rude or deliberately unkind, too. It may well be that you are the same. Perhaps, therefore, there is a resolution we could all make: to try to be, if not courteous, at least polite to one another — to try to be tolerant, less anxious to assert our own right to speak and act as we please, more concerned with allowing everyone to flourish. Manners makyth man, yes, and woman, too.


Monastic Prophets

The one thing we all know about prophets is that they tend to be unpopular, especially among their own. Unfortunately, it does not follow that if we are unpopular we are prophets, though many have made that mistake. After the Second Vatican Council, it became common to talk about the ‘prophetic witness’ of monasticism and much of my early monastic life seems to have been spent listening to men in sandals speaking eloquently about the renunciations we undertake, the sacred space of the monastery buildings, and the unique communion we enjoy as members of a monastic community. Even at the time, part of me was registering something not quite right about it all. Dom David Knowles, of happy memory, combined real scholarship and exquisite prose with cheerful acknowledgement of the fact that he inserted a ‘purple page’ among every three or four that he wrote. He knew that words have power to move us, quite independent of the facts or opinions they express. He was, in some ways, a ‘failed’ monastic prophet himself, who had urged a simpler and purer way of life on his own community and been rejected. That rejection, and Dom David’s reaction to it, led to many years of estrangement and, I suspect, a profound loneliness out of which he created something immensely valuable, the prophetic witness he was meant to give, not the one he thought he was to give. I find it helpful to remember that when thinking about monastic prophets in general, but can we go a little deeper? How can monasticism be prophetic?

That mythical being, the average layperson, has a few preconceptions about monasticism. There is the romanticism of the habit, the gothic grandeur of the buildings, and the quaintness of much of the life — monks gliding along endless cloisters, singing beautifully in clouds of incense, and making us grin with their little foibles, their beer and wine-making and the honey from their bees. It is all deliciously other-worldly. When they speak to us of God, we listen, because they are the experts — and we can screen out anything we do not particularly want to hear. The nuns have a slightly harder time of it, because we like them to be hidden (except when we want access or photos on Instagram, of course) and we expect them to be demure and docile and good at listening to us. The problem comes when the monk or nun challenges this cosy view of things and asks some searching questions of the community or of society at large; when, in fact, they do the work of the prophet, seeking to bring us back to our senses and to God. In a way, we expect that of monks, at least of some monks, but of nuns not so much. So, the first problem we face is: are we listening, and are we listening to the right people, the genuine prophets, or only to those who say what we want to hear?

This can get quite complicated when we think about the way in which the Church has become split over ‘traditional’ versus ‘progressive’. We bandy words about and claim that our party is the ‘right’ one, usually because it is more numerous. A couple of years ago, when Pope Francis issued his Apostolic Constitution, Vultum Dei Quaerere, I wrote a short post on how to judge a monastery (see here). I expressed some doubts about using numbers as the sole, or even the main, criterion of authenticity or viability, in more secular terms, success. It seemed to me then, and even more now that Cor Orans has given definite form and scope to the Constitution, that looking only at the numbers is akin to applying the prosperity gospel to monastic life. The more you have, the more God has blessed you. That doesn’t seem very prophetic to me and begs the question, what is it that the Church has a right to demand from those of us who live the monastic life? How can we be prophets for our times?

The answer I gave in my earlier post is still the one I would give today — holiness  is the first and most important witness any of us can give — but I think I would want to expand on that a little. There is a great deal in our lives that is truly counter-cultural, and though I love the habit we wear as a sign of our continuity with the Benedictines of the past, and have no scruples about the pursuit of beauty in our liturgy or our buildings, I regard these things as secondary. It is doing the work of the monk that matters; and the work of the monk is largely prayer, silence, chastity, obedience, community and learning. There are several items there that are definitely not popular. Take the romantic gloss off a lifelong commitment to single chastity and you will find many a monk or nun who has experienced a great loneliness even in the midst of community. Obedience is wonderful, until it breaks your heart; and that commitment to prayer, day in, day out, can lead to many a secret battle with one’s own demons, not to mention Brother X or Sister Y, who are impossible. However, it is learning that I should like to dwell on for a moment.

We are often told that the first monks and nuns eschewed learning, not so the Benedictines. Reading slowly, carefully, consistently, always listening for the voice of the Lord, is characteristic of lectio divina, but it is also characteristic of the scholar’s search for truth and the learned person’s quest for understanding. Many people today seem to have lost interest in truth and understanding because it requires effort and because it may confront us with ideas we’d rather not consider or make us give up positions we have long held or find comfortable. It unsettles us, and most of us do not like being unsettled. Enter the Benedictines! We are not preachers or teachers, but we are men and women of prayer and reflection. We may say little, but that little should always be seasoned with salt. It should come from a full mind as well as a full heart. Benedictines have always engaged with the culture of the times and I believe it is even more important that we do so now, when the whole idea of a specifically Christian culture is under siege from all sides.

When historians of the future look back on the twenty-first century, it may be in the monasteries that they will find the prophetic flame, that witness to the transcendence of God and the importance of holiness that we attempt to articulate in our words and, even more, in our deeds. It will never make us popular, and experience suggests that there will be more failures than successes, but, as they say in Spain, ‘Vale la pena.’ It’s worth the bother, because our salvation, and the salvation of the whole world, is at stake.*

* I am here expressing the orthodox Catholic view that, although our Saviour has redeemed us, we each of us have free will, and free will allows us either to accept or reject the salvation offered us.